Daal (Immune Boosting Lentils!)

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This immune-boosting Daal is packed with flavor and boasts some great benefits with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting spices including turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

Overhead image of Daal in a bowl

Daal 

Daal (also spelled Dal, Dahl, or Dhal) is often known simply as lentils, but it actually refers to dried split pulses/legumes that don’t require soaking before cooking. The term is also used for various soups prepared from these split pulses. So, in the context of South Asian food/recipes, any dish or lentil soup prepared using split pulses is also called daal. For example, a creamy lentil soup with black lentils and red kidney beans is called Daal Makhani. Black Eyed Beans are Chawli Daal, Adzuki Beans are Chori Daal, Yellow Pigeon Peas are Toor Daal, and on and on!

So while the term “daal” is used interchangeably for many different pulses, for this recipe it is a spiced Indian red lentil curry.

And wow, is this a powerhouse recipe! Not only is it hearty, warming, and gloriously fragrant, it’s also packed with good-for-you ingredients and immune-boosting spices. It’s the ultimate nutritious comfort food and my go-to the minute I sense a sickness coming on! Step aside creamy chicken noodle soup, we’re relying on this Daal to get rid of the sniffles! It also happens to be naturally gluten-free (always check product packages to confirm), naturally dairy-free, high in plant-based protein, high in fiber, and low in fat and calories.

QUICK TIP

What are pulses? They’re the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Pulses grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes 11 types of pulses: dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cowpeas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches, lupins, and minor pulses that don’t fall into one of the other categories. Source

Process shots: sauté onion in oil; add tomato paste and seasonings; continue to sautée.

Let’s chat lentils

You’ll want to use dried red lentils for this recipe. While any brand works, I do like Bob’s Red Mill® best (not sponsored). There is no need to soak the lentils beforehand —  for this recipe, we sort through them, thoroughly rinse them off, and they’re ready to be cooked! Red/orange lentils are more processed, break down quicker, and thicken really nicely. This Daal, timing-wise and flavor-wise, relies on red lentils so I don’t recommend using a different type of lentils.

Puy lentils (French lentils) take nearly 45-50 minutes to cook through and in this recipe, they would absorb too much liquid before getting tender.

Brown/green lentils also take a bit longer to cook through and have a slightly different flavor profile than we’re going for.

What About canned lentils? Unfortunately, they won’t thicken the liquid the same, so you’d have more of a soup consistency. 

A few tips:

  • Unfortunately, lentils don’t have an indefinite shelf life. As lentils age, they will dry out and take a lot longer (and require more liquid) to properly soften. Check the color — if they are pale, they’re likely fairly old. Fresher dried lentils will cook quicker than older lentils.
  • Even though mechanical sorting is quite good these days, you’ll occasionally find some debris or a stone in the lentils. Take a quick minute to sort through the lentils before rinsing them off. I typically measure them out and then pour the measurement onto a white plate to quickly look through and remove any possible debris.
  • Rinse the lentils right before adding them into the pot; otherwise, they start to thicken and stick together.
  • If you’d like the lentils to have more of a bite to them, err on the side of less cooking time. For ultra-creamy lentils, you may need an extra splash of vegetable stock and more time on the heat.

Process shots of Daal-Add vegetable stock to the pan and stir in lentils; add coconut milk; mix and simmer until tender.

SHORTCUTS

Daal Shortcuts

This recipe is aimed at being quick and easy. It’s also fairly hands-off once you’ve got everything in the pot! Here are a few shortcuts to speed up the process:

  • Quick garlic and ginger. We love Dorot’s® garlic and ginger cubes. They have crushed garlic and crushed ginger that you can keep handy in the freezer and pop into this (and other) recipes when needed. (Check if your local store carries them; they’re typically found with frozen veggies in the grocery store). Another option is to use refrigerated garlic paste and refrigerated minced garlic. 
  • Pre-diced onions. Most grocery stores sell diced yellow onions in the produce section of the store. Alternatively, frozen diced onions are often found by the other frozen veggies and can be used in Daal. Or, use a food processor to quickly chop an onion.

Daal Serving Suggestions

We love Daal on a bed of basmati rice! Some roasted broccoli or roasted green beans would make nice sides.

As far as toppings, below are our favorites:

  • Fresh lemon zest and juice — Lemon adds a nice freshness and welcome acidity.
  • Cilantro — This adds a nice and citrusy vibrancy. If you aren’t a fan of cilantro, it’s fine without it!
  • Toasted coconut flakes — If you love coconut, you’ll love the subtle sweetness and crunch coconut adds.
  • Raita — We’re obsessed with this creamy condiment and it whips together quickly. Check out the quick tip below for our raita recipe.

QUICK TIP

Quick cucumber raita: Add the following ingredients to a medium-sized bowl: 1/2 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt (we love Greek Gods®), 1/2 cup finely chopped English or Persian cucumber, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 2 teaspoons chopped green onions, and 1/4 teaspoon each: cumin, coriander, and fine sea salt. Stir until combined and then refrigerate. Stir before adding to the Daal.

Up-close overhead image of Daal over rice

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Daal

5 from 4 votes
This immune-boosting Daal is packed with flavor and boasts some great benefits with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper.
Print Recipe

Daal

5 from 4 votes
This immune-boosting Daal is packed with flavor and boasts some great benefits with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Healthy, Indian, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword daal, dal
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 2 -3 servings
Calories 871kcal
Cost $6.23

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion (1 medium onion)
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon each: turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, yellow curry powder
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 1 cup red lentils Note 1
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable stock (we love Swanson)
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk Note 2
  • For serving: cooked basmati rice (Note 3)
  • Optional: 1 large lemon, fresh cilantro, toasted coconut flakes, 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, raita (Note 4)

Instructions

  • AROMATICS: Add melted coconut oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add in diced onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until golden, 6-8 minutes. Add in the garlic, ginger, tomato paste, seasonings, and salt & pepper to taste (I add 1 tsp fine sea salt & 1/2 tsp pepper). Add the optional 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper here if you like some heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant and tomato paste begins to darken, 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat or add a tiny splash of water if needed -- nothing should be burning; we are looking for everything to get very fragrant.
  • SIMMER: Pour in the vegetable stock and scrape the bottom of the pan. Rinse lentils in a fine-mesh sieve under cold water until water runs clear. Add lentils and the coconut milk. Stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot until lentils are tender to desired preference, 25-35 minutes (Note 5).
  • FINISHING: Remove from heat. Add in 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice (if using). Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed. Serve over rice garnished with fresh cilantro and toasted coconut flakes if desired. Enjoy immediately!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Red lentils: You’ll want to use dried red lentils for this recipe-- we don't recommend any other kind. Quickly sort through the lentils for any debris or rocks, thoroughly rinse them off, and they're ready to be cooked! Rinse right before adding to the pot or they will start to thicken and stick together. Fresher dried lentils will cook quicker than older lentils.
Note 2: Coconut milk: Look for shelf-stable, unrefrigerated cans of coconut milk. You’ll find canned coconut milk on the international aisle, with Latin or Asian products. I personally use Thai Kitchen® or Imperial Dragon®I highly recommend using full-fat coconut milk for the best flavor and texture. Lite coconut milk doesn’t thicken as nicely and won’t result in the rich full flavor that regular coconut milk provides. 
Note 3: Rice: Here's the quickest/easiest way to get perfect basmati rice (must use basmati for this to work!)
  • Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil.
  • Once the water is at a rolling boil, generously salt the water and add in uncooked rice.
  • Cook without, reducing the heat, for 6 minutes (Taste test to ensure it is tender.) and then drain and fluff with a fork. Easy!
Note 4: Raita: While not necessary, if you'd like a creamy sauce to go alongside, we'd recommend this quick cucumber raita: Add the following ingredients to a medium-sized bowl: 1/2 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt (we love Greek Gods®), 1/2 cup finely chopped English or Persian cucumber, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 2 teaspoons chopped green onions, 1/4 teaspoon each: cumin, coriander, and fine sea salt. Stir until combined and then refrigerate. Stir before adding to the Daal.
Note 5: Cooking Time: If you’d like the lentils to have more of a bite to them, err on the side of less time. For ultra-creamy and soft lentils, you may need an extra splash of vegetable stock and more time on the heat.
Nutrition information does not include rice or other optional ingredients.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 871kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 49g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 396mg | Potassium: 1584mg | Fiber: 30g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 406IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 117mg | Iron: 14mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have been looking for good healthy vegetarian meals to include in our dinner rotation and this fits the bill! This was delicious, both my husband and I enjoyed it very much. Thanks Chelsea!

  2. This was so delicious! I diced some carrots and threw them in with the onions and added microwaved frozen peas at the end. I loved how yummy and nutritious this is. Thank you!

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