Comforting Dal

Posted on: November 29, 2022. Updated on: July 11, 2023.

by Carolina Gelen

4.3 / 5. from 45

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If you’re looking for a warming, comforting meal, it doesn’t get much better than dal. Simmering hot lentils cooked with flavorful spices and aromatics, this recipe comes together in one pot and it’s so easy to make. This is my take on the classic Indian dish:

Comforting Dal

4.3 / 5. from 45

Click to vote

Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 90 minutes
Total: 120 minutes


  • 1 cup or 250 g whole red lentils
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 knob of ginger, minced
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 14 oz or 400 g canned whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 3 to 4 dried chilis of choices
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Fresh cilantro for serving
  • Oil or ghee
  • Kosher salt


  1. Bring a few cups of water (enough to cover the lentils with water) to a boil. Add the lentils to a medium bowl. Rinse the lentils under cold water until the water runs clear, similar process to washing rice. Remove the excess water from the bowl. Pour boiling hot water over the lentils to cover them and set aside.
  2. Add a dollop of ghee or a glug of oil to a medium (3 to 4 qt or liter) heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the ginger and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Reduce the heat to medium low.
  3. Roughly crush the cumin, coriander, fennel and fenugreek in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a knife. Add the crushed spices, turmeric, and cayenne to the pot and cook until fragrant and toasty, for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the crushed canned tomatoes to the pot. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Strain the lentils. Add in the soaked lentils, vegetable stock, water, cinnamon sticks, dried chilis, a big pinch of salt and cover the pot with a lid. Let everything come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the lentils for 60 to 90 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils have softened. Add more water if the mixture needs more liquid or if the lentils need more time to cook. Taste, and season with more salt if needed.
  5. For the tadka, add a dollop of ghee or a glug of oil to a small pan, add in the whole spices and chilies of your choice. Sizzle until fragrant, being careful not to burn the spices. Top the dal with the sizzling hot spices and freshly chopped cilantro.

Carolina Gelen

I speak 5 languages, but my favorite way to communicate is through the universal language of food. I translate food to be more approachable and accessible for the everyday cook. I didn't grow up with a lot, so I’ve always loved thrifting and finding a good sale. That also shapes my approach to cooking: I try to make most of my recipes as affordable as possible, and that is what my SCRAPS newsletter is about. Every two weeks I will send an exclusive recipe to your inbox. Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and website.

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18 thoughts on "Comforting Dal"

  1. Eduardo RODARTE AGUILERA says:

    Big fan of this, looks delicious.

  2. Eduardo RODARTE AGUILERA says:

    Big fan of this

  3. Fooddoula says:

    Any chance you can share your recipe for naan? It looked glorious and I have a freshly made Chana Masala in the fridge.

    1. Carolina says:

      Hi Madeline,

      Here is a link to my versatile flatbread recipe. I also have a coconut naan recipe on my instagram linked here I havent added to my website yet.


  4. rose ratcliffe says:

    will try this tomorrow
    thank you

  5. Niamh says:

    Hi Karolina! This looks delicious and I am going to give it a go. However, I was wondering, if you don’t have a cinnamon stick, can you use ground cinnamon instead, and if so, how much?
    I made your mushroom stew earlier in the week – so comforting!

    1. Niamh says:

      Please excuse my typo – Carolina! I’ve a friend who spells it differently… Sorry!

    2. Carolina says:

      Hi Niamh,

      Thank you for sharing with me that you made the mushroom stew earlier this week. It is honestly my favorite thing knowing someone enjoyed making one of my recipes! About the Dal recipe, you can add regular ground cinnamon and I would add to taste. When you do remember that a little ground cinnamon goes a long way :). Enjoy!


  6. Jacy says:

    Just made this and it was so warm and comforting! I added a little extra curry powder and cinnamon and it made it extra flavorful. Thanks!

    1. Carolina says:

      Hi Jacy,

      So happy to hear you tried it! I bet the additional curry and cinnamon was a delicious addition 🙂

  7. Stacie says:

    This is one of the best dals I have made – you want to eat more and more of it.

  8. Brooke says:

    Should this be Whole or crushed tomatoes?

  9. Adam says:

    Can you please post the ingredients in the comments? For some reason they are not loading on my phone or computer now. I used this recipe a month or two ago and loved it!

    1. Carolina says:

      Hi Adam,
      Sorry the website has had issues but I got it back up and sent you an email with the recipe. Im so happy to hear you enjoyed it.


  10. Heidi Banks says:

    Looks very delicious will definitely try it!

  11. Deborah Johnston says:

    Please add me to your newsletter.
    You are an equisite cook.

  12. Thurid Mohr says:

    Hi Carolina, if you wait to add salt until the end of the cooking process, lentils will soften much quicker😘 it’s a physics thing…