This Easy one-pot Red Lentil and Kale Dahl is incredibly budget-friendly and packed with wholesome delicious plant-based ingredients. Lentil dahl is ideal for busy families who need wholesome, flavour-packed, budget-saving meat-free, vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based meals cooked quickly with little fuss. This delicious dahl recipe is also perfect for gluten-free diets as well as those following a no-oil diet.
Red Lentil and Kale Dahl can be served as a side-dish along with a larger Indian inspired meal or enjoyed on its own with some tasty rice, naan, or roti bread, or even with some creamy mashed or baked potatoes.
What is a dahl?
Dahl is an Indian dish which originates thousands of years ago in the Indus Valley Civilization. A dahl can be prepared with any split pulse but most commonly lentils and split peas are used. It can be confusing as dahl refers to the actual pulse used to prepare the dish dahl, as well as the name of the cooked dahl meal.
Dahl can also be written as dal, daal, or dalh and in Sanskrit it translates to mean 'split'
Ancient Indian scriptures, including the "Rigveda" (one of the oldest known Indian texts), contain references to the consumption of dal. Over time, various types of dals became staple parts of the diet across the Indian subcontinent, given the agrarian nature of the societies. Their high protein content made them especially valuable in vegetarian Indian communities.
Red split lentils
The beauty of red split lentils is that they do not require soaking in water, before cooking, so are perfect for quick and easy veggie meals. However we have always found it very beneficial to pre-soak split pulses such as yellow split peas as they can take an age to soften up especially if they are from an older bag.
There are many varieties and recipes for dahl depending on which Indian region or particular cook is preparing the dahl, but in essence dahl is split pulses cooked with spices, and flavoured with ginger, garlic and onion, into a thick stew or soup like texture.
Tadka dahl topping
Traditionally, to garnish a cooked dahl, a selection of spices, as well as fresh ingredients such as onions, garlic and chilli, are tempered [cooked] in oil, and then after the dahl has cooked, the hot spices and oil are drizzled over. This can provide a nice flavour boost to an otherwise simple dahl.
Easy Red Lentil and Kale Dahl garnished with red chilli flakes and fresh coriander [cilantro]. Make up a big pot of home-cooked Dahl, store it in the refrigerator where it will just become even more delicious as it sits, and then for easy lunches or dinners serve a scoop of Dahl over toasted bread, with a warm naan or flatbread, or as a baked potato filling.
How to prepare red lentil and kale dahl
This is such a great budget-friendly recipe and it is also versatile so if you don't have fresh onions, garlic, or ginger available but you do have the dried counterparts or perhaps a ginger-garlic paste, or even frozen varieties, then do sub those in.
First, add the chopped onion, sliced garlic, grated ginger, bay leaf, curry powder and turmeric into a pot or pan.
Stir through the dried red split lentils.
Add the kale and give it a good stir.
Pour in the vegetable broth or stock, and season with a little salt and black pepper.
Pop a lid askew over the pot and bring to a simmer.
Cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently.
The dahl will be nice and thick once cooked. Extra vegetable stock, or perhaps some canned coconut milk, can be stirred through if a more soupy dahl is preferred.
Squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the dahl, along with a half teaspoon of sugar and about 4 tablespoons of fresh coriander [cilantro].
Serve each portion with extra coriander and a sprinkle of red chilli or paprika flakes, if liked.
Recipe Notes and FAQ's
Store within the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Or freeze for 2-3 months.
Pop the dahl into a non-stick pan and gently reheat until simmering. Heat through for a few minutes or until piping hot. A little extra stock, broth, water or some coconut milk, can be added just to loosen up the dahl while it reheats, as it may have become very thick as its stored.
Yes. Lentil dahl is perfect for gluten-free diets as lentils are naturally gluten-free. However, do select a gluten-free vegetable stock and check that your curry powder does not contain any gluten ingredients, such as wheat flour which may be added as a thickener.
Yes of course. As this is an oil-free dahl recipe we do not cook the garlic, ginger, and onions in oil, instead everything is added to the pot as this also saves time. However, if you would prefer to sauté the ingredients first then do so and if you have coconut oil to hand this would be a good choice. Although, any oil or perhaps vegan butter will do fine.
Yes, there are many ways to use up leftover dahl. Here are a few ideas:
* Adding extra vegetable broth, stock, or canned coconut milk to leftover dahl can create a dahl soup that is perfect for next days lunch.
* Firmly pack the dahl into a bowl or food-safe tub, smooth out the surface, and chill. The chilled thick dahl can be used as a lentil pate and spread over crackers, Scottish oatcakes, toasted bread, rye bread, bagels, etc.
* Spread the dahl inside a burger bun and use as a flavour boost for a veggie burger meal.
* Once the thick dahl is chilled, form it into patties or veggie burgers by mixing through enough flour to be able to easily pat the patties together. Fry the patties or bake in the oven similar to falafels. These little dahl patties would be great to use for a vegan kebab, stuff a pitta bread with salad, dahl patties, and some sweet chilli sauce.
* Prepare a dahl toastie sandwich by fill your bread, tortilla wrap, etc with leftover chilled dahl and some vegan shredded cheese and thin slices of tomatoes, and toast until the bread is crunchy and golden, and the filling is bubbling and melted.
Yes, Lentils are an amazing choice for a healthy balanced diet as they are low in fat and calories but full of goodness. A portion of red lentil and kale dahl is packed with plant-based nutrition providing about 16g of protein, 19g of fibre, 109 mg calcium, 6mg iron and a good doze of vitamin A! As well as lots of other nutrition such as valuable antioxidants provided from the curry powder and turmeric, lentils and kale. Additionally, enjoying lentil dahl with a wholegrain such as brown rice results in the protein content of the meal being complete.
Yes, if preferred use a different green veggie such as spring greens, cabbage or collard greens. Spinach can also be used but this is best stirred through the dahl at the end of cooking. Other ideas include frozen peas, chopped green beans, broccoli, or flat beans.
Yes, of course, additional ingredients can be added as this recipe is very versatile so feel free to add anything extra that you think would be a tasty fit.
A few ideas:
* Pour in about a half to three quarters of a cup of canned coconut milk after the dahl has been cooked, and gently reheat until it just reaches boiling point. This will add creaminess and extra savoury sweet flavours.
* Or drizzle in some vegan sour cream or plain cream to the cooked dahl, or add a dollop of vegan plain yogurt over each serving.
* Stir though a few teaspoons of garam masala powder through the dahl at the end of cooking.
* Sprinkle a few toasted flaked almonds, peanuts, or cashews over the dahl before serving. Or some sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
* A few tablespoons of mango chutney stirred through the finished dahl adds extra tasty dimensions of sweet and fruitiness.
* Add a 400g [14oz] can of drained kidney beans or chickpeas along with the kale for extra nutrition and texture.
* Roasted veggies can be mixed through the dahl after it has cooked. This is an idea way to bulk out the dahl to get more portions and to use up a vegetable that needs cooking. We love roasted garam masala cauliflower which is so easy to prepare and so good to eat straight off the baking tray as a snack.
To prepare: simply chop cauliflower into florets and mix with a few teaspoons of garam masala powder or similar, sprinkle a little salt and pepper over, adding oil is personal preference and we usually don't but it can help crisp up the cauliflower. Roast the cauliflower on a baking tray for about 20-25 minutes at [160 Fan, 180 C, 356 Fahrenheit, Gas 4.]
Exact cooking times will depend on the size of your florets. Once cooked stir the cauliflower through the dahl. Broccoli or sliced Brussel sprouts are also quite delicious prepared this way. Stir through some extra vegetable stock or some coconut milk if a thinner dahl is preferred.
Rice always pairs very well with dahl, and you can use any type of rice such as a wholegrain or brown variety, basmati, Jasmine, black rice, or long-grain rice. Instead of rice - millet, quinoa, Bulgar wheat, buckwheat, or couscous are always tasty sides.
Other nice sides are naan breads, chapati's, roti's, poppadum's, flatbreads, or those little crispy snacks - Balti mix or Bombay mix.
Also, the dahl can be a side-dish along with say Aloo Gobi [cauliflower and potato curry] or Saag Aloo [potatoes and spinach], or Chana Chaat [spicy chickpeas] or creamy Scrambled Chickpeas which are enriched with Indian flavours.
Yes, a tempered topping, more commonly known as "tadka" or "tempering" in Indian cooking, is a wonderful way to enhance the flavours of dahl.
To create an easy tempered garnish heat some oil and add a variety of ingredients such as - cumin seeds, cumin powder, coriander powder, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds or powder, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, asafoetida, fresh garlic, fresh onion, fresh ginger, spring onions, shallots, curry leaves, curry powder, or chilli slices or dried chilli flakes.
You can use a combination of these ingredients depending on what ingredients you have, and even a simple tadka of cooked cumin or nigella seeds will add a lot of extra flavour.
Cook and stir, until any fresh ingredients are golden and perhaps crisp, and the spices are nice and aromatic. Garam masala powder can be stirred through the temper at the end of cooking if liked.
Once the dahl is ready the tadka can be drizzled over the top. And perhaps some fresh coriander [cilantro], mint leaves, or chives sprinkled over.
Roasted garam masala cauliflower [can also use broccoli or Brussel sprouts] is the perfect way to use up a reduced price cauliflower as it results in the most tastiest veggie meal ever when combined with cooked lentil dahl! And the cauliflower is also so good as an amazingly tasty snack perhaps dipped into some mango chutney or vegan plain yogurt with some fresh coriander stirred through. See the recipe notes above and within the recipe card for how to prepare.
More budget-friendly veggie meals
Budget-friendly meals are a necessity in today's cost of living crisis but they don't have to be boring! With a few simple ingredients a tasty veggie meal can be created that the whole family will enjoy.
The best thing about budget-friendly meals is that they can be adapted to the ingredients you do have.
For example fresh onion and garlic can be replaced with their dried, frozen, or powdered counterparts such as dried onion powder or granules. Or if these are not available an extra stock cube can be used for an easy flavour boost.
If you have any questions on how to substitute any ingredients for any of our recipes then do get in touch!
Sometimes using a slow cooker can be even more budget-friendly than using the stove-top, so we often prepare this Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Soup for those times we fancy a curry or a dahl but don't want to turn the stove on and cook.
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Easy Budget-Friendly Red Lentil And Kale Dahl
- Large non-stick soup pot with lid
- Cheese grater for grating fresh ginger, optional as can use dried ginger
- 1 medium onion [about 175 grams prepped onion, rough diced, or 2 teaspoons onion powder]
- 6 garlic cloves [diced or sliced thin, or 2 teaspoons garlic puree or 2 teaspoons of garlic powder]
- 1 inch ginger root [about 15 grams, grated, or replace with 1 ½ teaspoons ginger powder or 2 teaspoons ginger puree]
- 225 grams red split lentils [rinsed and drained]
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ tablespoon curry powder [such as Madras]
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 80 grams kale [chopped and tough stalks removed]
- 1 litre vegetable stock [hot, plus extra if required]
At the end of cooking:
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice [a few squeezes from half a lemon, or to taste] optional
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 4 tablespoons coriander [cilantro, chopped, use more to garnish if liked]
- red chilli or paprika flakes [a few sprinkles, to taste, can replace with fresh chilli slices for those who enjoy spiciness]
- Add the onions, garlic, ginger, red lentils, curry powder, turmeric, bay leaf and kale to the pot.225 grams red split lentils, 1 medium onion, 6 garlic cloves, 1 inch ginger root, 1 bay leaf, 1 ½ tablespoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 80 grams kale
- Pour in the hot vegetable stock. Add a little salt and black pepper.1 litre vegetable stock
- Bring to a gentle boil, lower the heat to low-medium, and pop a lid on the pot askew. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring the dahl a few times during cooking to ensure the lentils all cook evenly and they don't stick to the pot. Extra vegetable stock can be added if necessary.
- Once cooked remove the bay leaf. Stir though the sugar, fresh lemon juice,and the fresh coriander, if using, keeping some coriander back for the garnish.Stir and season with enough salt and black pepper to bring all the flavours together.1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon sugar, 4 tablespoons coriander
- Serve with the extra coriander, and a sprinkle of red chilli or paprika flakes, if liked.red chilli or paprika flakes
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Nutritional data does not include the lemon juice, coriander, or red pepper flakes which are all optional.
- Leftovers can be stored within the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Or freeze for 2-3 months.
- Reheat by placing in a pan and stirring over a medium heat until piping hot. A little extra vegetable stock or some canned coconut milk can be added to loosen up the dahl if necessary, but don't add too much unless of course you want dahl soup! Which is also very tasty.
- Stir through 1-2 teaspoons of garam masala powder at the end of cooking for extra flavour.
- Extra vegetable stock can be added to the dahl if its too thick.
- Add some canned coconut milk to the finished dahl for a creamy dahl meal.
- For gluten-free dahl, use a gluten-free vegetable stock and check your curry powder for any gluten ingredients which can be added as thickeners.
- Enjoy lentil dahl as a main dish with sides of rice, naan breads, chapati's, lentil or chickpea crisps, crackers, mango chutney, mint sauce or pickle, etc.
- Mashed potato is a surprisingly tasty accompaniment for dahl, as is a baked sweet potato.
- Or have a scoop of dahl as a side-dish alongside a larger Indian inspired feast.
- Cooled lentil dahl can be packed firmly into a bowl or small food-safe tub and chilled. Once chilled use it as a lentil spread or as a lentil pate to enjoy with oatcakes, toasted bread, or thin slices of pumpernickel rye bread.
- To bulk out the red lentil dahl into more portions mix through a few cups of roasted veggies after the dahl has been cooked. Such as roasted garam masala cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, sweet potato or white potatoes.
- To prepare roasted garam masala cauliflower or an alternative: prepare 2-4 cups of cauliflower florets and mix with a few teaspoons of garam masala powder or similar, sprinkle a little salt and pepper over, and roast on a baking tray for about 20-25 minutes at 180 C/ 356 Fahrenheit/ Gas 4. Exact cooking times will depend on the size of florets, and if using potatoes a longer cooking time will be required. Alternatively, roast the florets in an air-fryer.
- [Cauliflower shrinks once roasted so prepare a little more than you think you need]
- Roasted garam masala cauliflower is so tasty you'll have a hard time not munching it straight from the oven before it can be used for a recipe!
- For more useful tips and substitutions do check out recipe notes and FAQ section above this recipe card.
Prepared our Red Lentil and Kale Dahl recipe? Do leave a comment and let us know how you got on and click the star ratings. Its very much appreciated. Sharing a photo on social media? Tag us in using @traditionalplantbasedcooking or #traditionalplantbasedcooking Thanks so much! Jacq x