Coconut Curry Dal

Dal has probably been the most constant thing in my life. Okay, kidding – I love my family and friends too – they’ve been around. But let me tell you, dal has really been a reliable staple in my life since I was young – and it’s pretty difficult if not impossible, to imagine Indian cuisine without the dish. I created this particular recipe because I wanted to make a creamy dal that was hearty, flavorful, spicy, and comforting yet energizing and light. I kept all of your usual suspect spices commonly used in Indian cooking (cue turmeric, cayenne, cumin, and coriander) but decided to omit the cream and butter in lieu of some coconut milk. I love the fact that I was able to sneak some spinach in here, which isn’t sketchy at all seeing as it ends up shrinking to practically nothing anyway (hear that parents? your kids won’t even know). It’s a powerhouse of a meal, especially with the nice dose of plant-based protein from the lentils.

Recipe by Samah Dada


3 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 3-inch piece ginger, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup red split lentils (masoor dal)
1 13.5 oz can full-fat canned coconut milk
1 15.5 oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp tomato paste
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp coriander powder
freshly ground pepper
kosher salt
cilantro, to garnish
naan, flatbread, bread, quinoa, rice, to serve


• Rinse lentils and soak for at least 30 minutes – 1 hour. (this will allow them to cook faster)!
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions, ginger, garlic, and stir-fry until onions are slightly browned and translucent.

• Add salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper. Stir-fry in order to roast the masala until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes.

• Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes until it also becomes fragrant and becomes darker in color. Add the canned diced/crushed tomatoes. Continue to cook until masala spices have infused with the tomatoes. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste.

• Add coconut milk and vegetable broth to the pot. Simmer for a few minutes.

• Now add red lentils. Cover and let simmer for about half an hour, until lentils are soft, and curry is thick. Simmer for as long as you’d like until it reaches the thickness/consistency that you prefer.

• Add spinach into the curry until it wilts and softens. Add lemon juice. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring throughout.

• Serve with naan, flatbread, quinoa, or rice. Enjoy!