Vegan red lentil dhal

Vegan red lentil dhal

vegan red lentil dhal portion

I hesitated to do a dhal recipe for the blog for a little while, because while this well known Indian staple tastes magical, it’s really hard to convey this in photographs and it so happens that visuals are my main way to communicate to you that a recipe is worth bothering with.

You can make dhal with pretty much any type of lentils you want, but I chose to use split red lentils as they do not require presoaking and cook really quickly, which is a massive bonus as far as a mid-week dinner is concerned.

If you are worried that doing away with a presoak won’t get rid of phytic acid, let me remind you of Dr. Greger’s video (which I already mentioned in my post on amaranth), where he explains that combining phytic acid rich foods with onion and garlic neutralises its negative side-effects.

So this puppy is quick to make, really filling, chock-a-block full of plant protein and very versatile, so feel free to adjust the spicing or the selection of spices to your own liking. It tastes even better the day after it has been made, it re-heats well (just add a good splash of water) and freezes well so it’s one of those emergency dishes that is good to batch cook and stick into your freezer for the busy days ahead.

vegan red lentil dhal

10 min
20 min
10 min
20 min
  • 2-3 tbsp / 30-45 ml oil (I used rice bran)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 3 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground chilli
  • approx. ¾ tsp coarse salt, adjust to taste
  • 270 g / 1½ cups red split lentils, rinsed well
  • 200 g / 7 oz chopped tomatoes (I used half a 400 g / 14 oz can)
  • 2-3 tbsp cashews
  • 240 ml / 1 cup coconut milk
  • fresh coriander, to serve


  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 10 dried curry leaves
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced (optional)
  1. Heat up 1 tbsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pot or pan. Once the oil heats up, add sliced onions, garlic and ginger. Sauté, giving them a stir from time to time, until the onions turn translucent.
  2. Decrease the flame to low and mix all the ground spices into the onion mixture. Allow them to fry gently for a minute or so.
  3. Tip rinsed lentils and chopped tomatoes into the pot and top with about a 240 ml / 1 cup of water. Allow the lentils to simmer on a low heat until all the water has been absorbed. Check on it frequently so that the bottom does not burn.
  4. Check the lentils for doneness and top up with a bit more water if the lentils are still tough. The exact amount of water depends on what texture of dhal you prefer – it can be drier and full of texture or more soupy according to personal preference. If you prefer the latter you’ll need more water.
  5. While the lentils are cooking, pan roast the cashews on a dry pan (no need for oil) until slightly browned on both sides, making sure you agitate them a fair bit as they burn easily.
  6. Once the water gets absorbed and you are happy with the texture of your dhal, add coconut milk, bit by bit, allowing each portion to be absorbed by the lentils.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. Serve warm with tempered spices, a swirl of vegan yogurt, fresh coriander and roasted cashews.


  1. Heat up the remaining 1-2 tbsp of oil in a small frying pan (I used the same pan I toasted the cashews on).
  2. Once the oil gets hot, add mustard seeds, curry leaves and chilli slices (if using).
  3. Allow them to fry quickly, agitating the pan (by stirring or swivelling it off the heat) frequently until some of the mustard seeds have popped.
5 g
25 g
14 g
21 g
55 g
*per serving
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2 reviews, 10 comments
It’s is an easy and satisfying recipe! Love all the spices in this dish! Thank you for a fantastic and fast recipe.
    Thanks Lana, I'm really happy to hear that! x Ania
Just a little comment to say thank you for this incredible recipe 😍 I make this weekly and it’s my favourite!
    Thank you, Nikki, that's so thoughtful! I am very happy to hear that you like it enough to have it every week! xx Ania
It's crazy all this talk about phytic acid, yet out of the 1000 articles/blog posts mentioning phytates, you are the first one I have come across who mentions garlic/onion as a mineral enhancer! Thanks so much for putting the science out there and linking to Dr. Greger, I never knew about this information before and it's great to have in one's knowledge base on nutrition. :)
Back to the recipe -- YUM!! This was so good and quick to make for a lazy weekday lunch. I halved the spices and ommited the chili so that I could share with my 2 year old, and it turned out so delicious and fulfilling. We ate it mixed with shredded spinach and a good dose of lime juice (vit C decreases oxalates in spinach ;)). This one will definitely be on frequent rotation in our kitchen! Thank you!
    Thanks, Kara! I'm pleased to hear that you enjoyed it! Yes, I also found that there is so much talk about negative effects of phytic acid on human body that I was getting a bit worried about the amount of phytic-acid rich foods I was consuming regularly, until I found Dr Greger. His videos are brilliant!
Thomas Perez:
How are the "tempering ingredients" used in the dhal?
    Hi Thomas,
    You top or stir them into the dhal before serving. I tried to explain it by saying: Serve warm with tempered spices. Sorry if it's not clear, I will amend the wording a bit. Hope that helps! Ania
      Thomas Perez:
      Ania, Thank you, I am looking forward to making it.. tom
        Hope you'll enjoy it! Ania
Tracey Emery:
HI Ania,
You mentioned, regarding presoaking "combining phytic acid rich foods with onion and garlic neutralizes its negative side-effects". I am intolerant of onion and therefore don't use it. I can tolerate some garlic though. Would you suggest a little garlic in this dish is enough to counteract the negative effects or would a pre-soak be advised? I'm new to this so wasn't aware of negative effects!
Thank you for your help and your recipes.
    Hi Tracey,
    As many things in nature, phytic-acid that is present in pulses, nuts and some pseudo-grains too is good for you (it's a powerful cancer preventing compound), but it also has drawbacks, it binds to minerals in our food (like iron and zinc) and hinders their absorption. Soaking gets rid of phytic acid completely, which is not a good thing as far as I understand, so I would suggest that yes, combining lentils with garlic would be preferable. I recommend Dr Greger's video I linked to from my post as he explains it all very well and I'm merely paraphrasing his words. Hope that helps! Ania
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