A Sri Lankan dal (dhal) curry is easy and quick to make. This is a unique dal flavored with coconut milk, curry leaves and spices. It's vegan, gluten-free and high in protein.
Dal or parippu is a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine. It's such a simple dish but packed with flavour. It can be eaten with rice and curry, roti, naan or with toast; my husband's favorite. It pairs with any carb.
If you are familiar with Indian dal, you'd be surprised to know that this dal is prepared the same way but with different flavors. We use coconut milk and temper with curry leaves.
If you're looking to make Basmati rice to have with your red lentil dal, read my guide on How To Cook The Perfect Basmati Rice. It's so easy you'll be making it every day!
What makes a red lentil dal a great meal
- Red lentils are easy to cook with and they cook in no time. You can make this dal within 30 minutes.
- They can be eaten with almost anything. Rice, roti, naan, toast and even with plain noodles. Dal is my husband's favorite so he'll eat it with anything. But seriously, they are delicious with everything or just plain. I've caught myself eating dal by the spoon while cooking.
- Red lentils are high in protein and low in calories. This curry is vegan and gluten free.
- Red lentils - Masoor dal/daal/dhal
- Ginger, garlic
- Curry leaves
- Coconut Milk
- Spice powders (turmeric, chili, cumin, coriander)
- Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds
How to make
Start by rinsing the lentils. Rinse until the water runs clear.
In a pot combine the dal, water, onion,tomato, spice powders, garlic,salt and bring to boil. Cover and cook until all the water has evaporated and the dal is cooked.
Add coconut milk, extra water and simmer.
We add a tempering to the the dal to bring more flavor. Heat a small non-stick pan and add oil, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, dried chili pieces. Heat until the mustard start to splutter. Add this tempering to the dal.
Tips for cooking dal
- No need to soak the dal. I used to do it but not anymore. Red lentils cook very fast so no soaking needed.
- Rinse the dal thoroughly until the water runs clear.
- If you can't find curry leaves, cook without them. It will still be delicious.
- Add chili flakes to the tempering for extra heat.
- We use about ½ cup of canned full fat coconut milk. Please don't use the lite version.
- If you have leftover coconut milk from the can which you are not using right away, freeze it. I pour them into an ice-cube tray. Or small freezer bags and use the frozen coconut milk cubes in curries.
More Sri Lankan recipes to try
Sri Lankan Red lentil dal
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2.5 cups water divided
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 small tomato chopped
- 1 teaspoon ginger minced
- 3 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 green chili halved
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder/cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup full fat coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 dried chili broken to pieces
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
For the dal
- Rinse the red lentils until the water runs clear.
- Into a pot add red lentils, 1.5 cups of water, chopped onion and tomatoes, green chili, curry leaves, minced ginger, sliced garlic, turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and salt. Bring to boil.
- Turn the heat to medium, cover the pot and cook the lentils until all the water is absorbed and lentils are cooked through. This would take about 15 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and 1 cup of water, stir to combine. Cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Check seasoning and add more salt if needed.
- In a non-stick pan, heat the oil and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, broken dried red chili. Cook until the mustard seeds start to splutter. Add red chili flakes if using.
- Pour the tempering to the cooked dal.
- Serve dal with rice, roti or your preferred carb.
- Leftover dal can kept in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to 3 days.