This vegan red lentil dal is packed with fiber- and protein-rich lentils, anti-inflammatory spices, and hearty vegetables.
As odd as it may sound, this recipe was inspired by my beloved spice rack. You see, I’d always dreamt of having that Pinterest-perfect spice rack prominently displayed in my kitchen – because historically, my spice storage has been an afterthought.
They were either haphazardly packed into a too-small cabinet, or stored in a too-big drawer, with the bottles rattling around each time I opened or shut it. Not ideal…
When we moved into our current apartment, I decided to invest in this area of my kitchen life. I bought wooden shelves from Ikea, these glass jars on Amazon, and this fuschia mini masking tape for labeling. (I get my spices in bulk from Atlantic Spice Company). And now, whenever I walk past the shelves, my inner Marie Kondo’s joy is very much sparked.
When I finally got everything labeled and organized, I realized that – thanks to various work projects over the years – I’d amassed a sizable collection of spices… and only actively used about three of them.
I started thinking of ways to experiment with the rest and the first recipe that sprang to mind was red lentil dal (sometimes dahl or daal) – an Indian lentil soup that uses lots of spices.
(“Dal” refers to lentils themselves, as well as to lentil-based dishes. There are lots of different dals in South Asia but I’m not gonna pretend to know much about them since I’m far from an expert on Indian food.)
Health Benefits of Red Lentil Dal
In Ayurveda (the ancient Indian holistic wellness system), dal is considered detoxifying and balancing – something we could all benefit from after the holiday season.
The spices – typically coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seeds, turmeric, chilies, and ginger – are thought to fire up the digestive system, making lentils easy to digest. This “digestive fire” is also thought to help with toxin elimination. And ginger and turmeric, in particular, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which help prevent illness.
Lastly, red lentils are rich in protein and fiber. Not only does that make them filling, but fiber is essential for gut health – and gut health is essential for immunity.
Red lentils cook super quickly – in just about 20 minutes. They break down almost entirely, resulting in a rich, creamy texture without having to add any cream/coconut milk.
A classic red lentil dal is made by simmering red lentils (“masoor dal”) by themselves, then finishing the soup with a variety of spices that were “bloomed” (warmed until fragrant) in hot oil.
I prefer to bloom the spices in the pot first and then simmer the lentils with the spices. This is just easier, and it saves me from having to clean an extra skillet. Another tweak is that I add vegetables to my dal, which makes it a more complete meal, in my opinion.
The long list of spices here is key. They create a well-rounded, earthy, incredibly fragrant soup. I recommend investing in all of them because if Indian food is your thing, I suspect you’re gonna want to make this more than once.
But! Don’t let the lack of certain spices deter you from making this soup. Just compensate with more of whichever ones you do have for the ones you don’t have.
This soup is perfect for batch-cooking for the week (and it freezes well, too). Eat it by itself or with brown basmati rice or flatbreads.Print
This easy vegan red lentil dal (Indian lentil soup) is packed with fiber- and protein-rich lentils, anti-inflammatory spices, and hearty vegetables.
- 2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil, like avocado, canola, or refined coconut
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed well
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 generous handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Cilantro, for serving
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, carrot, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add all the spices from the garlic though the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Add the broth, lentils, and turmeric. Cover tightly with a lid and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are completely broken down and the stew is thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Lastly, add the spinach and cook just until it’s wilted, about 1 minute.
- Turn the heat off and season with the lemon juice and about 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste). Serve with cilantro.
- Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe
- Calories: 250
- Fat: 5.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 35.9 g
- Fiber: 16.6 g
- Protein: 14.4 g
Keywords: red lentils, dal, indian, vegan, ayurveda