This red lentil coconut dahl has crispy bits of spicy paneer on top for the perfect vegetarian Indian dinner. Make this red lentil dahl recipe in just 45 minutes instead of ordering a takeaway on a busy weeknight.
Vegetarian Indian food is amazing in general, but this red lentil dahl with coconut milk and crispy bits of spicy paneer on top is a real treat. The good news is that you can have it on the table in 45 minutes, and it doesn’t require a lot of hands-on time.
It’s a creamy, beautifully rich curry that’s also filling and budget-friendly at the same time. Except for the paneer, all the ingredients are likely already in your kitchen.
What’s even better, you can enhance the flavours and bulk up this easy dahl recipe with other veggies, such as bits of sweet potato or baby spinach.
Why are red lentils good for you?
This red lentil dahl features red lentils as the main ingredient, and I love to use them in all sorts of curries and soups because they are very low in fat, packed full of fibre, rich in iron, and also a good source of protein, which is super important if you’ re a vegan or vegetarian.
Unlike other types of lentils, you don’t need to soak red lentils overnight. You can get away with not soaking them at all for this dahl recipe, but if you have the time, you can soak them for a couple of hours. You also don’t need to pre-cook red lentils before adding them to this coconut dahl recipe.
However, don’t forget to rinse the red lentils well before adding them to the dahl, and look for any small rocks that may appear in the pack.
What kind of paneer should you use for this dahl?
If you love Indian food, you’re probably familiar with paneer, a type of fresh and squeaky cheese that makes lots of vegetarian recipes so much more interesting. Paneer is not salty like halloumi, even though the texture of the two types of cheese is comparable.
You can grill paneer just like you would do with halloumi, but this dense cheese with a mild flavour shines best when used in curries. This is because it goes particularly well with spices and also because it remains intact when stirred into curries.
You can make paneer at home (see this simple recipe from Swasthi’s Recipes), but I must confess I don’t always have the patience to make my own cheese. So shop-bought paneer would do just fine for this spicy paneer curry.
In the UK, I love Everest Paneer, which has just the right texture. Some types are a bit too watery, and you want the paneer to be firm and not disintegrate when you cook it. It may take some trial and error until you find the right kind.
How do you make this coconut and lentil dahl?
To make this red lentil dahl with coconut milk, add the lentils, coconut milk, onion, plum tomatoes, and turmeric in a pan with 350 ml water. Season well and bring it to a boil. When it reaches the boiling point, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a frying pan until crisp. Add the garam masala, season, and toss well. Leave aside.
In another small frying pan, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil and fry the black mustard and cumin seeds until fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger paste and fry for about 1 minute, careful not to burn it.
Serve the lentils with spicy paneer on top, with roti or naan.
If you liked this red lentil coconut dahl with spicy paneer, why not dig into some of my other Indian recipes:
- 225 g (1 1/4 cup) red lentils
- 1 tin (400 ml/13.66 fl oz) light coconut milk
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 6 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1 green chilli, chopped
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 225 g (8 oz) paneer, cut in 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp garam masala
- Add the lentils, coconut milk, onion, green chilli, plum tomatoes, and turmeric in a pan with 350 ml water. Season well and bring to a boil..
- When it reaches the boiling point, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a frying pan until crisp. Add the garam masala, season, and toss well. Leave aside.
- In another small frying pan, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil and fry the black mustard, cumin seeds, and chili flakes until fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger paste and fry for about 1 minute, careful not to burn it.
- Serve the lentils with the spicy paneer on top, with roti or naan.
Recipe adapted from Olive magazine, February 2020 issue
Amount Per Serving Calories 589Total Fat 42gSaturated Fat 26gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 64mgSodium 1064mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 7gSugar 8gProtein 27g
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.