RECIPE: Indian Lentils – “Dal”

This is my method for making Indian Dal  (Lentils) and rice.

I have made a large crock full for a couple years for the teachers appreciation day at school. They love it.

Today I am going to try curried oxtails at home to go with some of the dal and rice.  First time making oxtails. The recipe had me at “collagen.”

Dal (Lentil Curry)

This “recipe” is a method. There are no exact amounts. It will depend on many choices that you, the cook, are making. It is not fussy!  Play with it and make it your own. It is very difficult to ruin. The worst thing you can do is burn it or add too much cayenne. If you don’t get it cooked long enough you can cook it some more. If it’s too dry, add more water. You can even stretch leftovers by adding water or stock to make it a soup. If your Dal turns out too runny, you can eat it like soup or put it on low heat, uncovered, and let the steam come out of it to dry it out. It will firm up.


  1. Familiarize yourself with the information below: ingredients and amounts.
  2. Soak lentils and / or beans. Rinse.
  3. Prepare your additions and vegetables according to notes below.
  4. Longer version – brown the onions in butter or coconut oil. Add the Spices and cook another minute.  Quick version – Throw everything in the pressure cooker. Don’t bother browning the onions—it turns out quite tasty anyway!
  5. Throw in the lentils and whatever else you are going to cook with them.  Add water or stock/broth.  Liquid amount- this depends on what you are adding and your cooking method. I pressure cook and make sure that there is standing water just above the level of the lentils before putting potatoes on top. Pressure cooking takes less liquid.
  6. Pressure cook at full pressure for about 20-25 minutes.  At 35 minutes the lentils will be ready to break down once you begin stirring in other ingredients.   Or slow cook at a slow simmer, til the lentils are soft. Slow cooker try 1.5 hrs.  Stove top low simmer should be less than 1 hour.
  7. Prepare your serving base such as rice, cauliflower, potatoes, or any cooked vegetable mentioned in this recipe. If you try a new vegetable, please tell me!
  8. Once the lentils are soft to your liking, add the coconut milk and peas (frozen – the heat of the Dal will thaw the peas perfectly). If you are using yogurt instead of coconut milk, do not stir it in now—only serve it at the table.
  9. Taste and bump up any spices you want, including cayenne.  Hint: you might want to try a bit more cinnamon.
  10. Consider adding in gelatin.  Please try an individual serving first for taste differences.

Spices—Starting Amounts

Amounts of spices depends on the amounts of lentils, beans, veggies, etc.  You can have a tasty Dal with the lower amounts, but up to double the spices will also taste very good.  Add a lower amount and then you can adjust the spices after cooking!

Spices Nos. 1-4 can be added at about 1 tsp. per cup of lentils

  1. Penzey’s Curry blends – take your pick. Start with the “Sweet Curry”. You can also use something like Frontier brand basic curry blend.
  2. Penzey’s Garam Masala
  3. Salt
  4. Cumin

Also add (+)

Ginger powder – 1/4 tsp. per cup of lentils

Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp. per cup of lentils.

Garlic – depends on the type. Try 1/4 tsp. garlic granules or 1 clove per cup of lentils. I like to do 1 frozen cube per cup of lentils.

Adjust to taste. If you don’t know what it’s missing, try adding a small amount of cinnamon.

Cayenne powder – add at the end, carefully, to kick up the heat.  My hubby adds some into his personal serving.

Pressure Cook the onions, spices and these ingredients:

  • Lentils* – brown, French, green, mixed.  Or, red split lentils will cook faster (don’t recommend pressure cooking).
  • Beans – optional.  If you want to have some color go for some red beans. Easy: throw in a can of kidney beans toward the end so they will not overcook and break down. Pantry: if you have dry beans in your pantry to use up, you can substitute some in for the lentils and cook for the length of time needed for the larger beans to soften.
  • Onions, chopped Easy: a 10 oz bag of frozen chopped onions. Brown these in the coconut oil prior to adding spices.
  • Potatoes (sweet or white/red) or squash (summer or winter), optional, skins on cut in large chunks. Buttnernut squash you can leave skin on!
  • Eggplant, if you properly salt for 20 minutes and then rinse, this would be good cooked in with the lentils. I haven’t tried it, but I think it’s worth a try.
  • Frozen okra is an easy addition. Takes about 20 minutes of non-pressure cooking.

Other ingredients – To be added after lentils are cooked.

Do not put these in for the full pressure cook or slow cook time.

  • Coconut milk 15 oz. can – Use a nice full-fat/”classic” version. I like Native Forest or Thai Kitchen
  • Yogurt – In lieu of the coconut milk, you can garnish with plain unsweetened yogurt or even heavy cream
  • If you don’t have any of the coconut milk or dairy, add coconut oil for some healthy fat and flavor.
  • Frozen green peas, 10 oz bag optional– adds fresh color at the end.
  • Other veggies, Best cooked separately and thrown in at the end.
  • You might try a can of pumpkin stirred in at the end. Lentils are super nutritious, so you don’t need to use pumpkin here for nutrition. But maybe you’re looking for a way to use up some pumpkin or bring down the carb count a little. Careful, though. It’s so smooth you may not like the consistency unless you also add some bigger beans.

Amounts – Crowd size


Adapt the amount of lentils to the number of people you’re feeding, whether or not you will be adding meat or other dishes to the table, and how much leftovers you want. Also rinse lentils and soak/sprout overnight or a few hours to increase digestibility (and therefore nutrition).

For a very full crockpot to take to a potluck, I use 4 cups of lentils plus potatoes, but no other veggies except the bag of peas at the end. If you are adding eggplant, okra, or whatever, you will not want 4 cups of lentils. 4 cups of lentils is the max. If I’m cooking for a family of 4 I’m probably going for 2 cups of lentils plus veggies in the Dal.


For a potluck, I would also take a large pot of rice, say 4-6 cups of dry rice cooked to directions. (Notice it should be about 1 cup of dry rice for every 1 cups of dry lentils that you are cooking.) I prefer the Himalayan rice for nutrition. Costco has a White Himalayan Basmati in the large (10-15 lb?) burlap bag. If you use brown rice, soak it for any length of time up to overnight or 8 hours to increase digestibility (and therefore nutrition). White rice does not need to be soaked as the hull is removed.

Crowd-Pleasing Ingredients:



Coconut Oil

Green peas


Coconut Milk – Thai Kitchen Original

Sea Salt

Spices:  Cumin, Garlic, Turmeric, Ginger

Penzey’s Sweet Curry and Garam Masala


Rice Ingredients:

Himalayan white basmati

Coconut Oil

Redmond Sea Salt

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