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Sri Lankan red lentil dal

Red lentil dal

This is a red lentil dal with the signature flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine – mustard seeds, curry leaves and coconut being the highlights! It serves 2-3 generously as a main, or forms part of a larger spread for more people if accompanied by other curries and your favourite side dishes. Look up some other delicious Sri Lankan curry recipes for something a bit different to your regular Indian takeaway such as beetroot curry, hoppers, coconut fried greens, kottu roti and coconut sambal.


For the lentils

  • 300g red lentils
  • 2tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 4 tbsp coconut milk

For the temper

  • 1.5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • Approx 10 curry leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 4 salad tomatoes, roughly chopped


Start by rinsing the lentils and putting into a pan, with enough water to just cover them. Stir in the salt and turmeric and simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes. Whilst they are cooking check that they don’t catch on the bottom and if they are looking dry add a little more water. When the lentils are almost cooked, add the coconut milk and cook for another minute before turning the heat off. 

In a small frying pan melt the coconut oil and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Fry until the seeds start to pop and then add the curry leaves, red onion, and garlic until the onion is soft. Then add the tomatoes and stir through until they have softened but not completely broken down.

Add the spice mix to the lentils and stir through. 

Serve with rice or flatbreads. 

This dish makes a great addition to a spread of Sri Lankan or South Indian curries and simple sides such as turmeric roasted cauliflower, finely shredded spring greens or spinach, cucumber yoghurt & chutney.