Family Style Dal


By Emily

Though dal is a great staple dish year-round, it’s especially comforting and warming in cooler weather. Now that Fall is here, dal is in regular rotation in my house as well as Michael’s, so we thought we would share a recipe for it.

This is the version that I have been making most often, and my kids really love it. Guests who have had it with us have also raved about it and asked for the recipe. Best yet, a few friends and family members have told us that they didn’t think they liked lentils until they tried this dal.

Here’s why I love it too:

–It’s full of flavor. The ginger, garlic, onions give it a strong flavor base, the spices add another level, and the optional fresh chili gives it a little kick. Now that my kids are 6 and 9, they can both handle the heat from one fresh chili blended in, and I usually add more chopped fresh chili on top of mine to kick it up a few more notches.

–Everyone can customise their own bowl. Sometimes my kids like theirs with rice and sometimes not, and one tends to like plain yogurt on his whereas the other prefers his without toppings. I’m all about the toppings and like mine with fresh lime, pickled red onions, cilantro, and extra chopped fresh chilies. Because everyone can have their dal their way without me having to cook things separately, this is an easy family meal that we can all agree on.

–It’s very affordable.

–You can make it advance and can make a double batch and freeze some to have on days when you don’t have time to cook. Warning: just one batch may not last as long as you expect it to. My kids tend to ask for thirds of this when I make it, so it’s usually gone in one night. If there are any leftovers, we sometimes have them for breakfast. I really need to start making a double batch every time.

–It’s very high in fiber and plant-based, and the turmeric gives it anti-inflammatory properties. Adding the black pepper aids with the absorption of the curcumin in the turmeric, so be sure not to skip it.

–It’s a good use of the homemade vegetable stock I regularly make using this recipe of ours that we shared earlier on the blog.

The recipe is really easy, especially if you use a food processor for the chopping. Here are the ingredients you will need. As you can see they are simple and don’t cost much at all.

First you chop the onion, ginger, garlic, and chili (if using). Then you sautée them in coconut oil or ghee. Next you add the spices, sauté for another minute, and deglaze the pot with vegetable stock.

Next you blend the tomatoes in the food processor (no need to rinse it out first) and add those to the pot along with the rinsed red lentils and some salt. (If you don’t like tomatoes or don’t have them on hand, you can omit them or use a cup of chopped canned tomatoes.)

After simmering that for about 15 minutes, you add the coconut milk and simmer for about 10-15 minutes more.

The result is very creamy and absolutely delicious.

Then comes the final touches. Serve alongside basmati rice if you like, and add all of your favorite toppings. And if your kids are like my 6 year old, they may prefer theirs with no toppings. It’s still delicious and very healthy to eat it that way too.

Below is the full recipe. We would love to know if you make it and if you are also able to convert any Non-Lentil Lovers into Dal Fans!

Family Style Dal

Serves 6


–1 small onion (or half large)

–A 1 ½ inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled

–3 cloves garlic

–1 small fresh chili, or more to taste (optional)

–2 Tablespoons coconut oil or ghee

–2 teaspoons ground cumin

–1 teaspoon dried ground coriander

–1 teaspoon dried ground turmeric

–½ teaspoon black pepper

–2 ½ cups vegetable broth (see our recipe for Homemade Vegetable Stock or buy pre-prepared)

–2 medium tomatoes (optional, or use 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes)

–1 cup dried red lentils, sorted through, rinsed, and drained

–1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

–½ to 1 can full fat coconut milk, depending on consistency desired

Optional toppings/accompaniments:  basmati rice, cilantro, fresh lime wedges, plain yogurt (dairy or plant-based), chopped chilies, and/or thinly sliced red onion. Adding lime juice and salt to the sliced red onion and letting it sit to marinate while you make the dal gives extra flavor and a beautiful pink color.


  • Put the onion, ginger, garlic, and chili (if using) in the food processor. Pulse until uniformly chopped. (Or mince these all by hand). Don’t bother washing the food processor as you can use it for the tomatoes later.
  • Heat the coconut oil or ghee in a medium sized pot with a heavy bottom. Add the chopped onion, ginger, garlic, and chili mixture and sautee on medium heat for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the dry spices and sautee for 1 minute more, stirring. 
  • Add the vegetable broth to deglaze the pot and stir, scraping any stuck bits of spices off of the bottom.
  • Put the tomatoes in the food processor and liquify them. (Alternatively you can finely chop them by hand). 
  • Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the lentils and salt and bring to a boil. Stir, then turn down the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
  • Add the coconut milk, stir well, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes more. We like to use the full can of coconut milk for a dal that can be eaten like a soup. If you prefer a thicker consistency, try using ½ of a can to start.
  • Taste and adjust for salt if needed.
  • Allow everyone in the family to choose their own toppings/accompaniments. 

For more recipes like this one, see our book Sugarproof, available here or anywhere books are sold.


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