Recipe: Easy Dhal

Last weekend I made a very simple Dahl for my Chinese Nutritional Therapy students, and as there was a high level of interest in this lovely, simple, and tasty dish, I thought I’d post a basic recipe here.

This lightly spiced lentil dish is very versatile. You can serve it with rice or naan bread, or add more water and turn the dahl into a soup to eat on its own. I often make a simple dinner of dahl, rice and steamed green veg (this has the added bonus, for those on a budget, that it costs virtually nothing!)


500g red lentils
1000 – 1200ml water or stock
2tsp mild curry powder or garam masala
1/2tsp turmeric
4 cardamon pods
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick (or a good pinch of ground cinnamon)
1 small sweet red pepper
1 large onion
5 – 6 cloves of garlic
Handful of finely chopped coriander (cilantro) leaf and/or stems
Salt to taste


It couldn’t be easier. Rinse the lentils very well, and then put them in a large saucepan with 1ltr of water/stock. Finely chop the onion, pepper, garlic, and coriander and add to the pan, along with all of the other ingredients.

Put on a low heat, and simmer gently, with the lid on for 90-120mins, until the lentils are well cooked (you’re aiming for them to lose their shape and almost dissolve into the liquid) – stir occasionally, and add more water or stock if necessary. Add salt to taste at the end of cooking.

Locate and remove the cardamon pods, bay leaf and cinnamon stick before serving.


Red lentils are a good nutritious and energetically neutral base. When well cooked like this they are very easy to digest. The onion, garlic and spices add Heat and movement to the dish, making it Warm overall, but not too Heating. The spices also aid digestibility. It is a good protein source, and also helps to clear Dampness. This is an excellent dish for most people, and suits those with a weakened digestive system.

Notes and variations:

There are a million things you could do with this dish. For a start, you could use different stocks instead of water. Stock from a good quality powder or cube is fine for this dish, but be careful of over-salting as they’re often quite salty themselves. Or, a homemade chicken stock adds an entirely different direction.

For this recipe, don’t be tempted to substitute a different kind of lentil or bean. You can make dahl from pretty much any pulse, but the cooking method is different – most beans and lentils require longer cooking and some need pre-soaking.

You can add large chunks of veg of any kind, to turn it into more of lentil based veg curry. For instance, it’s very good with cauliflower.

And finally, the spices can be altered as you choose. This version has no chilli, but you can always add fresh or powdered chilli if you want to heat it up a bit.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!


1 reply
  1. Cathy Genevie
    Cathy Genevie says:

    This dhal sounds great Neil. I haven’t made it yet, but I will soon. I love experimenting with different dhal and curry recipes. Thanks for sharing!

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