Green lentil dahl … anyone? But first, storytime. My love and curiosity for Indian cuisine started in 2007, during my first trip to India for a friend’s wedding. I’ll never forget the intoxicating smell of the busy spice markets, the vibrant flavor and tingling sensation of all the herbs and spices used in the dishes, snacks, desserts, even drinks. Pani puri, kheer, lassi… pakoras, chutney, tandoori, biryani, and curries… Lots. Of. Curries! Chana aloo masala, vindaloo, and dahl…
Green Lentil Dal - Easy and Healthy Recipe!
Dahl really surprised me. It’s the dish that really made me want to explore more and more about Indian cuisine. The ingredients, the techniques, the heart, and the soul. How a humble ingredient like lentils is turned into a heavenly delicious (and healthy!) dish. I remember how I loved trying different dahls (or sometimes called dal or even daal) in different villages and homes. How I snuck into the kitchen, talked to the cooks, and the aunties to learn their secret for making the perfect Indian style lentils.
So yes, here’s my take on Indian green lentil dahl... I know, it’s certainly simplified. In fact, this green lentil dahl is very simple and straightforward, without too many ingredients, which makes it perfect for beginners. It’s the basic dahl, the starting point, a good base in which you can add other ingredients to customize it and make it your own. This dahl has green lentils as the feature… soft, tender, but not mushy. And the spices… warm, easy to handle, not too harsh on the tastebuds, and easy to find. Also, the coconut milk makes it thick, creamy, and luscious.
Green Lentil Dahl Ingredients
- 1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed, drained - Use 1 cup of dried green lentils to generously serve 4 to 5 people. Lentils increase around 2.5 times when cooked. You can easily double or triple the recipe if you’re cooking this green lentil dahl for a crowd.
- 1 tablespoon oil - Use any vegetable oil you like, either neutral or flavored. You can even use ghee (Indian clarified butter) to give a buttery note to your green lentil dahl. However, please note that ghee is not vegan.
- 1 medium brown onion (yellow onion), finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon curry powder - It’s the main flavoring for this green lentil dahl, so use the best quality curry powder you can find. If you’re up for an adventure, visit your local Indian grocery store and talk to the shopkeeper; they know the best.
- 1-inch (2.5cm) piece ginger, grated - Go for fresh ginger to get that warmth and brightness to this green lentil dahl. Alternatively, you can use 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, but nothing beats the fresh one.
- ¾ cup coconut milk - Read about how coconut milk is made in my types of milk article. If you only have coconut cream use ¼ cup diluted in ½ cup of water or unsweetened coconut water.
- 4 cups vegetable broth- I use store-bought vegetable stock for this green lentil dahl recipe. Homemade stock? Better! And yes, you can use chicken or beef stock too.
Green Lentil Dahl Instructions (How do I Make Dahl Green Lentils)
How to make dahl? Here’s how to make this healthy and tasty recipe for green lentil dahl:
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Once the oil is slightly smoking, sweat the onion for 8 minutes or until soft and translucent, golden on the edges but not burnt. Add the garlic and curry powder, then stir until the curry powder coats the onion. Toast for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add the lentils, ginger, vegetable stock, and coconut milk. Stir, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, put the lid on, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils have softened and doubled in size.
- Uncover the lid. While stirring occasionally, cook for another 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Give it a taste. You may add some salt but remember… some store-bought stocks are quite salty already.
- Remove from the heat, and there you have it… green lentil dahl. Serve warm.
Lentil Dal Facts
Lentils are the dried seeds of a legume plant and are a relative of beans, peanuts, chickpeas, and soybeans. Their color ranges from brown and green, to yellow, orange, red, even black, and blue-ish – and each variety has its own unique flavor and texture. They are very inexpensive to buy and can be stored without refrigeration for a really long time. And they’re oh-so-delicious! All these reasons are why they’ve been used as a staple food across South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa for centuries. Lentils are everywhere in their popular traditional dishes… Ethiopian red lentil stew and Egyptian koshari, Lebanese mujadara, and Indian green lentil dahl, to name a few.
Lentil Cooking Times
Different types of lentils and different dishes require different cooking times.
For soaked lentils, refer to my Soaked Lentils Cooking Time Chart.
For unsoaked lentils, here’s the general rule of thumb on how long you should cook them:
|Type of Lentil||Soaking Time||Cook Time|
|Green||0 hours||25 - 30 minutes|
|Brown||0 hours||20 - 25 minutes|
|Red||0 hours||9 - 12 minutes|
|Black Beluga||0 hours||35 - 40 minutes|
|French du Puy||0 hours||20 - 25 minutes|
|Yellow||0 hours||18 - 20 minutes|
Green Lentil Dahl - Tips
Can I use Other Types of Lentils to Make Dahl
Green lentil dahl is not the only type of dahl. So, yes, of course, you can use any type of lentils you want to make easy lentil dahl… Red, orange, yellow, brown, black beluga, or French du Puy lentils. You can even combine several types of lentils for a texture play.
I’m sharing this green lentil dahl recipe because Indian green lentils are one of the easiest lentils to cook. Cooked properly, green lentils are soft and tender, but they still hold their shape very well and don’t go mushy easily. (Sometimes, mushy lentils aren’t necessarily a bad thing though…)
But please remember that the consistency of your dahl will vary depending on the type of lentils you’re using. Red, orange, and yellow lentils are softer and mushier. Black beluga lentils are firmer, while French du Puy lentils are creamier and make a delicious French lentil curry. And brown lentil dahl will have pretty much the same consistency as this green lentil dahl recipe.
Coconut Milk Substitutes for Recipe for Green Lentil Curry
Coconut milk adds freshness, richness, and creaminess to this green lentil dahl. It’s one of the key elements to achieve that authentic South Indian flavor. However, if you don’t have coconut milk, or for some reason you can’t find coconut milk where you live, you can substitute it with an equal amount of other types of milk such as whole milk or half-and-half (if you’re not vegan) or almond milk (if you’re vegan and want a vegan indian lentil recipes).
Do You Need to Soak Green Lentils? - for Green Lentil Curry Recipe
No, you don’t need to soak lentils before cooking this green lentil dahl, or any simple green lentil recipe. To prep your lentils, you just need to rinse them once or twice in cold water to remove all the dust and debris… Drain them well, and they’re good to go! I know, right? So convenient!
Why are My Lentils Mushy?
Sometimes it’s just as simple as choosing the right type of lentils. If mushy lentils aren’t your thing, opt for green, brown, black beluga, or French du Puy lentils. Red, orange, and yellow lentils are almost always softer, no matter how you cook them, which actually makes them great for soups and dips.
To prevent lentils from being mushy, don’t cook them on a rapid boil for more than 5 minutes. The pressure can lead to the skin of the lentil splitting, resulting in mushy lentils. Bring the water to a boil, then immediately turn down the heat to low and continue cooking on a gentle simmer until the lentils are tender.
Green Lentil Dahl - Variations for Vegan Green Lentil Dal Recipes
As I said before, this green lentil dahl is a basic dahl recipe in which you can add other ingredients to suit your preference. Here are some ideas on what you can add to your vegan green lentil curry:
- The classic: yogurt + cilantro + lemon juice - Top your green lentil dahl with a dollop of yogurt to neutralize the spice. Then sprinkle a bunch of roughly chopped cilantro (coriander) and a squeeze of lemon juice or lemon zest to brighten the flavor of your green lentil dahl. Delish and fancy! Note: To make this green dal vegan-friendly, use dairy-free soy yogurt instead.
- More spices! - Want a more complex and stronger flavor for your green lentils Indian recipe? Add more spices… Cumin seeds, cinnamon, mustard seeds, cloves, cayenne pepper, ground turmeric, and cardamom are great additions. But use a light hand. ¼ teaspoon of each is enough. Toast these spices with the curry powder to wake up the flavor.
- Vegetables - Turn your recipe for green lentil dahl into a complete dish by adding vegetables. Try the combination of tomato, carrot, sweet potatoes, and bell pepper. Add the vegetables 10-15 minutes near the end of the cooking process so they don’t become too soft. Alternatively, add your favorite types of potatoes. You can also add some spinach right when you turn off the heat. Garnish the dish with finely sliced shallot and you're ready to eat!
- Chilli pepper- Adding heat to this green lentils curry is only for the brave! Add serrano pepper for the maximum level of spiciness or jalapeno for milder spice. Deseed, mince, and add the pepper alongside the lentils and ginger. If you can't get fresh chilies try chili powder or red pepper flakes.
What to Serve with Green Lentil Dahl
Serve your dal with green lentils alongside:
- Rice - Spoon this green lentil dahl over a variety of types of rice such as a bowl of basmati rice or brown jasmine rice, and let the rice soak up all that rich and luscious sauce. If you need help with how to cook brown rice, read my article for tips and tricks.
- Flatbread - Whether it’s roti, naan bread, paratha, chapati, or dosa… You can never go wrong with Indian flatbread as the companion for your green lentil Indian recipe.
- Bread - Eat this green lentil dal vegan with a piece of toasted sourdough bread. Or perhaps use this green lentils recipe Indian as a topping for your crostini. Finish it off with small cubes of paneer and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil… perfect fusion appetizer to surprise everyone at your dining table!
Green Lentil Dahl FAQs
What is the Difference Between Green Lentils and Red lentils?
Green lentils range in color from pale green to a dark greenish/brown color. They take approximately 45 minutes to cook and keep their shape and texture well. Red lentils range in color from almost golden to a bright red. They take approximately 15 to 25 minutes to cook and become quite soft during the cooking process.
Can I Make this Vegan Dal Recipe with Dried Peas?
This green lentil dhal recipe can use dried green peas, split peas, or even green split lentils instead of green lentils. Peas, also a legume, taste great in curries, dahl, and soups. The texture of the peas helps to thicken a dish and adds an almost creamy feel.
What is the Difference Between Lentils and Peas
Green peas are the dried peas from a pea plant. Often the pea will split in half, which results in split peas. Lentils are from a different type of plant, and the shape of a lentil is flatter and not as round as a pea.
What Color Lentils are Best?
This is a personal preference and depends on what recipe you are cooking. For example, red and orange lentils have the quickest cooking time, so they are great for whipping up a quick lentils dahl for lunch. French du Puy lentils are the perfect taste and texture for a French-style chicken, leek, and mustard casserole. So, there really isn’t a color of lentil that is best or makes the best green lentil recipe. They are all good for use in different dishes.
Do Green Lentils Need to be Soaked?
Before cooking this green lentil dahl recipe, you don’t have to soak the lentils. Just follow my step-by-step recipe for simple instructions on how to cook green lentils dal.
How Long do you Have to Soak Lentils Before Cooking?
Soaking lentils before adding them to your dish will reduce cooking time. Firstly, prep your lentils by rinsing them in cold water to remove any debris. As a general rule: add one cup of green lentils to 3 cups of water in a bowl. Soak for 6 to 8 hours. After soaking, add them to your saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until tender. The cooking time of lentil curry dal will vary due to the natural variation of the lentils and the seasonality of when they were picked and dried.
What Lentils for Green Lentil Dal are Best
Now it depends on what type of dahl you are making. For this green lentil dal recipe, I prefer green lentils as I like their texture, size, and taste. For other lentil dahl recipes, such as Palak Dahl, use Moong lentils (small yellow lentils); for dal makhani lentils, use whole Urad lentils (whole black lentils). Cooking dahl is an excellent introduction to exploring the vast variety of lentils that are available.
Green Lentil Dahl
- 9-inch (23cm) saucepan with lid
- 1 cup dried green lentils rinsed, drained
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 brown onion finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 inch (2.5cm) piece ginger grated
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Cook the onion for 8 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and curry powder and stir so that the powder coats the onions. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add lentils. ginger, vegetable stock and coconut milk. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until lentils have softened. Give a good stir.
- Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes until the lentils are soft and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and serve warm.
How to Make Green Lentil Dahl - In Conclusion
Easy, healthy, tasty, and cheap… that’s green lentil dahl for you! Yes, it takes an hour from start to finish, but it’s worth the time! Make it, gram it, taste it, and tell me what you think about it!