Easy Indian Lentil Curry Recipe

Looking for a tasty, frugal meal that's a snap to make? One taste of these Easy Indian Lentils and you'll be surprised at how satisfying and delicious lentils can be.

Indian lentil and cauliflower rice on a black plate with black fork

This savory lentil dahl recipe is a vegan stew that is rich, hearty, and delicious, but also super simple and inexpensive to make.

Our family loves curry.

Anything curry.

In fact, though we like experimenting with cuisine from all cultures, I would say that Indian is one of our favorites.

Now, before I go on, let me say that this lentil recipe isn't an intense, hot and spicy curry - so don't run away if you think that you are not a curry fan.

Really--you don't know what you are missing.

Most people who don't like curry don't like it due to its being spicy. This dish is not that, and in fact, it feels like a real comfort food to me. In fact, there is another recipe on my site that actually does feature curry and that is in fact my most requested recipe--Pakistani Kima.

Think you don't like curry? You really should try BOTH of these recipes (these Indian Lentils and the Pakistani Kima).

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Lentils in colander for Indian Lentils

Easy Indian Food

So you love Indian food like I do, right? However, we all know that making Indian cuisine can be quite time consuming. So when I can get the taste of Indian spices in a fast, one pot meal, then I get the best of both worlds.

I can have my cake curry and eat it too.

'Cause these days, who has a lot of time to spend in the kitchen working on seemingly endless elaborate steps? I have many other things that need to be done.

Like photo albums. Those need to be done. Please don't ask how many years behind I am. I need to start a support group for moms with empty photo albums :-). Care to join me?

Anyhow, back to the recipe.

Adding broth to pan of onion and garlic for Indian Lentil Recipe

This recipe is adapted from a dish simply called "Red Lentils" by Southern Living.

It's a pretty "Blah" name for a truly amazing dish.

It's quick on its own, but really lickety-split in my pressure cooker. If you don't have one of these yet, put it on your Christmas list now.

I know, I should get better at planning meals, but it sure is nice to not have any idea what you are going to have for dinner at 5:30 and have dinner on the table at 6:15.

Well, with this recipe, you can get it done. You can literally have an amazingly delicious meal on the table--without resorting to packages filled with preservatives and who knows what else.

Cooking onion and garlic in a pan for Indian Lentils

Done. In a fast 30 minutes on the stove top, or 9 minutes in the pressure cooker.

Mom is happy that she didn't resort to serving boxed cereal (that might have paint thinner in it??) and toast, and the family is happy because they aren't having popcorn, carrot sticks, and hard-boiled eggs (or sardines for my egg-allergic son) again because mom forgot to plan :-).

Yes, I know, you all are wondering why we don't just order a pizza, right? We're all gluten-free and oldest is also deathly allergic to dairy, so that's why....

What is Indian Dahl

Daal (which can also be spelled Dal/Dahl/Dhal) is a stew of lentils, cooked with delectable spices. Many dahls are made with red lentils, that interestingly turn yellow when cooked, and they are served with Naan. Naan is a popular soft Indian flatbread that you will have had if you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant.

They taste amazing together.

Our family is gluten-free, so traditional Naan isn't ever on our table, but I plan on developing a gluten-free or grain-free Naan, and in the meantime, as mentioned below, the flax bread on my blog tastes great with this. You could even wrap these Indian Lentils in these Buckwheat Pancakes as well.

Indian Lentils in pan with wooden serving spoon

Here are some other of my super fast recipes that are "go to's" when I'm short on time.

- Easy Baked Chicken Nuggets
- Super Savory Hummus
- Fast & Yummy Bean Dip
- GF Chili Mac (and other super fast meals)

Indian Lentils in pan with wooden serving spoon

Ways to Serve Curry Lentils

  1. Rice

    This dish tastes great served over rice (which, by the way, I can cook in 20 minutes flat in my pressure cooker. Woo-hoo!) I always use brown rice due to its higher nutritive qualities. There is some concern about arsenic in brown rice so source carefully or eat white rice if you prefer.

2. Pasta

It would be fabulous over gluten-free pasta or spiralized veggie noodles too.

3. Naan

Naan is the perfect accompaniment for this Indian Lentil recipe. If you're avoiding gluten, you can make or purchase a gluten-free naan or make this Focaccia Flax Bread for a gluten-free flatbread option.

4. Cauliflower Rice

Cauli rice is the perfect low carb / grain-free option and is what is pictured in the images on this post.

5. Add Ins

Next time I plan to add seasoned chicken pieces to this dish. Specifically, I think that sauteing small chunks of chicken in coconut oil and my Homemade All-Purpose Seasoning would be a wonderful addition.

My Chat Masala spice mix tastes great on this. We have this on our table at all times and put it on everything. Except - ahem - desserts :-).

If you are like us and you just LOVE curry dishes, see my recipe for Sweet Curry Powder - DIY - it is a real winner and a great money saver too. You can add it to so many dishes, including this one. Just trade the turmeric and cumin for the curry.

Enjoy!

Indian Lentils in wooden serving spoon above plate of Cauliflower Rice

Benefits of Lentils

Lentils are not only an inexpensive meal, they are full of nutrition as well.

Lentils are low in calories, rich in fiber and protein, as well as in iron and folate. Of courses, their iron source is non heme, which isn't as well absorbed as the heme counterpart, but you can add vitamin C (like the tomatoes in this dish) to help with iron absorption.

Additionally, lentils are also full of polyphenols which are overall viewed to be very beneficial for health. (source)

Recipe Notes for Indian Lentils

  • Onion options
    Instead of fresh onion, you can use 2 tablespoons minced onion plus a bit of water to reconstitute.
  • Broth options
    Here is a great place to buy bone broth. You can also find the same brand on Amazon.
  • Lentil Options
    Although this recipe was originally meant as a red lentil dish, you can use any kind of lentils and the main photos were taken of the dish made with traditional lentils. The glycemic index of red lentils is a higher so brown is a better choice if you're watching carb intake. The lentils in the following photo are red lentils. Note that red lentils turn yellow when cooked.
  • Basil options
    You can use fresh or dried basil, but fresh will yield a more dramatic flavor and presentation. If you choose to grow your own herbs, this post on the how to preserve herbs shows what to do with your bumper crop.
  • THM option
    Those on the Trim Healthy Mama plan should reduce the coconut oil to 2 tablespoons to make this qualify as an "E."
Indian Lentils on plate with Cauliflower Rice - next to serving bowl and 2 forks

The cook time in the recipe card is how long it will take if you do not own a pressure cooker. If you do own one, the cook time will be around 15 minutes less, but you will have a wait time of about 10 minutes since the pressure needs to go down.

Cauliflower rice topped with Indian lentil on a black plate with a black spoon

Easy Indian Lentils

This Indian Lentil Recipe is ready in a flash and is a rich, hearty, and delicious frugal meal that everyone will love.


5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Vegan
Keyword: indian lentils
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 49 minutes
Wait Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 52 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Melt oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.
  • Add onion and garlic. Saute 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
  • Add broth and next 5 ingredients.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.

If Using Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot

  • Add lentils and bring to a boil.
  • Place the lid on the cooker and bring up to high pressure. Cook for 9 minutes on high (you may need a few more minutes since the tomatoes counteract the cooking of the lentils slightly. Conversely, you could add the tomatoes after cooking the beans and then let the resulting dish cook for a bit).
  • Let pressure come down naturally. Remove lid carefully.
  • Stir in basil and salt to taste.

If Using Regular Pot

  • Add lentils, and then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. (Red lentils will cook quicker than brown or green.)
  • Stir in basil and salt to taste.

Notes

You might be wondering, "Hey where is the curry powder?!" in these Indian Curry Lentils. Good question!
Curry isn't one spice. It's a blend of spices. So-instead of the turmeric, cumin, and pepper, you could substitute 2 1/2 teaspoons of curry powder. This homemade curry powder is a great mild version that we love on just about anything.

Nutrition

Carbohydrates: 34.4g | Protein: 15.1g | Fat: 5.3g | Saturated Fat: 3.8g | Sodium: 276mg | Potassium: 755mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 3.8g | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 4.3mg | Net Carbs: 18g

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is merely an approximation. Optional ingredients are not included and when there is an alternative, the primary ingredient is typically used. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site. Erythritol carbs are not included in carb counts since they have been shown not to impact blood sugar. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber.

The above nutrition facts are estimates only. Please read my Nutrition Disclaimer here.

Voila!

Wonderful, fast, savory Indian cuisine in no time!

I'd love to hear what you think about these lentils!

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115 Comments

    1. You can do any pressure cooker recipe in a pot. It will just take longer. Hope you like it - we haven't had this in forever and we love it.

  1. I make a similar dish, there are 3 tweaks that are also delicious:
    1. roasted carrots
    2. roasted sweet potato (or butternut squash)
    3. add a bit of canned coconut milk to make it creamier (replace 1/2-1 cup of broth)

  2. Question, you cook it for 30 mins on the stove AND then 9 in the pressure cooker? Was confused if I do both. Thanks!

      1. Sorry i am a newlywed and dont know how to cook ?, should i cook it with everything from the beginning, or can i just cook it with water and add it at the end when i am serving the dish???
        Thanks in advance??

  3. I have been on the search for a good lentil recipe. I have bags of them but never know what to do with them! I know this is a lot to ask-but could you suggest an alternative to the tomatoes? I try to avoid nightshades as much as possible.
    Thanks!

    1. You could leave them out or just add some carrots or zucchini. Really, whatever veggie you like could work - enjoy! I have another good recipe I hope to share as well!

  4. I only have green lentils in the house and need something quick? Can I use the green ones or will it taste weird? Thank you!

  5. Because of different schedules everyone eats at different times. Can this be done in crock-pot?

  6. This is DELICIOUS! And it makes so much. Problem is, it's only me eating it. Have you ever tried freezing it? Don't think I can eat it fast enough, unless I eat it for every meal! Never tried to freeze a lentil dish. Would be great if I could freeze little 1/2 pint jars for lunches at work (like I do with soup.)

    1. I think it would freeze fine. The only issue might be the tomatoes, but there aren't that many. Let me know!

  7. I too just made it and I am eating it. The red lentils probably turn yellow because of the Tumeric. Tumeric turns everything yellow (grin). I love it. I love it even more with Chat Masala - the Adrienne Wonder Spice.

    1. Thanks for the new name for the Chat Masala - I'll be sharing that with my family today! Actually, the red lentils turn yellow no matter what. Not sure why. I tried to find out but my internet search isn't turning up anything. Take care!!

  8. This is on my stove right now and the apartment smells so good! I wouldn't blame the neighbors if they invited themselves over for dinner.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by to share! I am so glad you enjoyed it! Wish I were there to come by. We had a thrown together dinner on a busy evening :-).

  9. I think I'm in love. With this recipe. With this blog. With you for providing such helpful detail! I'm on a newly, heavily restricted diet, so it is a real relief to find you!

    1. Thanks for your kind words! What are your new restrictions? I saw your blog and didn't see any restrictions mentioned so I was wondering what your dietary needs are.

      1. Oh, gosh. It's easier to tell you what I CAN eat. Good quality protein (eggs, legumes, bison, lamb, fish, chicken, turkey - free range, organic, etc), low-glycemic fruits and vegetables with some exceptions, and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil). No dairy, no grains, no sugar, nothing fermented, no nightshade vegetables, nothing processed, ideally nothing frozen or canned... the list goes on and on.

        1. I know how you feel. With the exception of the grains and nightshades and the frozen foods, we are in the same boat. What kind of professional diagnosed you with this? And would you mind sharing the reason for the frozen foods being not allowed? I assume nuts and seeds are OK, right? Have you been using stevia?

          1. It's part of a detox/cleanse regime. Some, but not all, of these foods will come back, such as grains, but likely excluding gluten. The idea behind not using frozen foods (and also not using canned foods) has to do with food becoming depleted of its 'life force' when frozen or canned. I'm not supposed to eat leftovers either! (Can't quite manage that with kids!) The doc is a medical doc trained in Eastern medicine as well, mainly Ayurveda. Nuts and seeds are okay. I can use stevia. Eventually honey will likely be okay in small amounts. I have used agave nectar and brown rice syrup in the past.

            1. I see. I know this all is a path, but when you are feeling up to another option, check out this website. This is who I am working with. From what I can tell, very effective detox. You can, if you like, share on the comments, or send me an email, and let me know what you are struggling with. I am shocked in the difference in me in 10 months. (I get nothing from referrals. I am just hoping to help others).

          2. Adrienne, do you mean THIS website, or were your referring to another web site? Thanks for offering to help. I really appreciate it.

            1. You're welcome. The site doesn't cover all I'd like to share, but it's a starting point. She really is a sharp "cookie" (pun intended - from your site :-)).

  10. I love Indian flavors too, and these look really good! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with Sunday Night Soup Night. I'll be hosting weekly through fall and winter, so I'd love to see you again with your next soup/stock/chowder recipe!

    1. So glad to hear it - any grain will work! I just made a new seasoned millet that I will share when it's perfected - that would be great as well!

  11. This looks really good.... I love lentils, but not a big fan of curry. I love using coconut oil for dishes like this. It gives it the extra flavor I love.

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