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Sri Lankan Red lentil dal

red lentil dal in a bowl
Easy red lentil dal curry flavored with coconut milk, curry leaves and spices. A vegan, gluten free and high protein meal.
3.87 from 37 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Sri Lankan
Servings 4



  • 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.
Keyword curry, easy, healthy, quick
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