How to Cook Red Lentil Dahl Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Cook Red Lentil Dahl

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Dahl, also spelled Daal, Dal or Dhal, is a traditional dish eaten in the Indian subcontinent. It is suitable for vegetarians, tasty and can be made from a variety of pulses as well as red lentils1.


  • 500g dried red lentils
  • 1 1/2 large onions (or two medium ones)
  • 6-7 large cloves of garlic
  • Some ginger (about half the size of a golf ball)
  • Cumin seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Black mustard seeds3
  • 1 Star anise
  • Fresh coriander
  • Salt
  • Olive oil4
  • Pepper


  1. Finely chop or grate the ginger and crush the garlic, then lightly fry in a small amount of oil. This should be done in your largest pan, as this recipe makes a lot of dahl.

  2. Once the ginger and garlic has started to cook a bit, add one teaspoon of each of the seeds (slightly crushed) and continue to heat slowly. While these seeds are cooking, quickly chop the onions finely.

  3. Next, allow the mustard seeds to start to pop. Add the onion and soften slowly, taking care to make sure all of the onions get cooked. Make sure you don't caramelise them.

  4. When the onions are cooked, add the lentils and cover with water and add the star anise with lots of salt and pepper. Also optionally and to taste, you can add chili powder or sauce. Slowly cook up the mix adding water when required (tip, it is worth keeping a kettle full of boiled water for this part). Allow to cook for about 20 minutes.

  5. As soon as it has been cooking for 20 minutes, the lentils should be soft and starting to dissolve. At this point it is helpful to fish out the star anise and either blend the mixture with a hand blender or mash it using a potato masher5, until it has a soft creamy consistency6.

  6. Next get some fresh coriander (about half the amount you get in a medium sized fresh bunch from a supermarket) and mix into the mixture cooking for about another two or three minutes.

Serving Suggestion

Dahl can be eaten on its own as a healthy and filling dish and is great for people trying to lose weight.

Alternatively, fry some chicken pieces in garam masala, and cook some spinach, mix these into the dahl and serve with pilau rice.

1Such as green, brown, puy or white lentils, or others such as chick peas. 'Dahl' is Hindi for 'pulse.'2It is worth noting that these spices can be altered to taste - bay leaves, cinnamon and asafoetida are some alternatives.3Normal mustard seeds will suffice if black ones are unavailable.4This can be changed to taste, it has been suggested that sesame oil gives a more authentic taste.5By adding salt, this process is more likely to happen organically.6The eventual consistency will depend on how much water is added, this can be altered to whatever your taste is.

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