Golden Red Lentil Dal with Cilantro-Speckled Basmati

Golden Red Lentil Dal with Cilantro-Speckled Basmati
Preparation time
10 mins
Cooking time
30 mins
4 people

This easy, flavorful curry is a great one to whip up during the workweek, and leftovers only get better the next day. Light coconut milk makes this curry so luxuriously rich and decadent-tasting, while still feeling quite light and energizing. It definitely won’t weigh you down, but I can promise it’ll warm and comfort you on a chilly day.

While it’s lovely all on its own (enjoyed like a rich, thick stew), I love it even more spooned overtop my cilantro-speckled basmati rice with toasted pepita seeds, sliced green onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. The amount of broth called for yields for a very thick consistency; if you’d like it thinner and more “soup-like” feel free to thin it out with a bit more broth (if so, you might need to also increase the spices and seasonings as the extra broth will dilute the flavours).

This comforting curry recipe is adapted from Super Fresh: Super Natural, Super Vibrant Vegan Recipes by Jennifer Houston and Ruth Tal (2015, Penguin Canada) which is a cookbook featuring the recipes from Fresh (!), one of my favourite vegan restaurants here in Toronto.


Golden Red Lentil Dal with Cilantro-Speckled Basmati



For the curry:

  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
  • 3 large or 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and finely diced carrots (about 23 large)*
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste**
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
  • 1 (14-oz/398ml) can light coconut milk
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, plus more if desired to thin the broth
  • 1/21 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cane sugar (optional)
  • 1 (5-oz) package baby spinach

For the rice:

  • 1 cup dry basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil or vegan butter
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, or as needed
  • 1 cup unpacked fresh cilantro, large stems removed and finely chopped***
  • Fine sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice, to taste

Suggested toppings:

  • Green onions, thinly sliced
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Toasted pepita seeds (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • Squeeze of lime juice, optional


  1. For the curry: Add the oil in a large pot and increase heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Saute over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  2. Stir in the ginger and carrots, and continue sauteing for another few minutes over medium heat.
  3. Add the curry powder, cumin, and turmeric. Stir well. Cook for a minute, until fragrant.
  4. Pick over and rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve. Stir in the entire can of coconut milk, red lentils, broth, and salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered with the lid ajar, for about 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils and carrots are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom. Stir in a touch more broth if you’d like a slightly thinner consistency. After cooking, stir in all of the spinach until wilted. Stir in the black pepper, cayenne (if using), and sugar (if using). Taste and adjust salt, if desired.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Add the rice into a medium pot along with the oil and broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, cover with a lid, and cook for 12-16 minutes, until the rice is soft and tender. Fluff with a fork and stir in the cilantro. Season to taste with salt and lime juice. Keep the lid on until ready to serve.
  6. Add a generous scoop of rice on a plate or bowl and top with a couple ladlefuls of curry. Add your desired toppings and serve immediately. Leftovers will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4-6 days. The curry can also be frozen for up to 4 weeks, possibly longer. For easy freezer-storage, add the cooled curry into a freezer-safe bag, press out the air, and freeze on a flat surface. Thaw overnight in the fridge, or simply leave on the counter until mostly thawed.

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