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.
Our family loves 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 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.
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.
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.
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 then 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 you 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.
Here are some other of my super fast recipes that are “go to's” when I'm short on time.
Ways to Serve Curry Lentils
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.
It would be fabulous over gluten-free pasta or spiralized veggie noodles too.
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 real winner and great money saver too. You can add it to so many dishes, including this one. Just trade the turmeric and cumin for the curry.
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 Tbsp 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 Tbsp to make this qualify as an “E.”
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.
Easy Indian Lentils
- 3-4 Tbsp coconut oil (or other healthy fat)
- 1 onion, diced (or 2 Tbsp minced onion)
- 8 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
- 28 oz chicken broth (3 1/2 cups) (my Homemade Vegetable Broth is a good vegan option)
- 28 oz diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- 2 1/2 cups lentils (rinsed) (read How to De-Gas Beans)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp pepper (optional. I left it out due to my youngest not liking spicy foods)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil (or 2-3 Tbsp dried basil)
- salt (to taste - I use about 2 tsp)
- 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.
Wonderful, fast, savory Indian cuisine in no time!
I'd love to hear what you think about these lentils!