Sabut masoor dal is a comforting brown lentil curry that’s brimming with flavor.
Serve it with rice or Indian bread for a satisfying and filling meal. Vegan and gluten-free.
If you’re looking for a dinner that’s cozy, well-spiced, and brimming with goodness, look no further than sabut masoor dal.
A dal is an Indian stew made with pulses in a gravy or sauce. (You may also see it written as dhal or dahl.)
This vegan brown lentil curry is filled with warming spices.
And thanks to dried lentils, it’s inexpensive and pantry-friendly.
With a healthy dose of protein and fiber, it’s the kind of dish that sticks with you.
There’s a cacophony of flavors from cumin, coriander, cardamom, fenugreek, paprika, pepper, and sriracha.
It all comes together harmoniously for a multi-faceted array of tastes.
Plus, it is even more delicious the next day, once the spices have had a chance to meld.
Great for meal prep!
Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen
This whole masoor dal recipe is from Richa Hingle’s first cookbook, Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen.
You may know Richa from her popular blog, Vegan Richa.
Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen features 150 plant-based recipes.
They run the gamut from breakfast through dessert with stops along the way for flatbreads, curries, and dals.
The recipes put the focus on simple, whole plant foods.
Richa lets the inherent flavors of the beans, lentils, and vegetables shine. And then she heightens them with seasonings and spices.
In addition to being a delicious way to cook, it also makes the recipes very budget-friendly.
Some of my favorite recipes from the book are:
And of course, the recipe I’m sharing today – sabut masoor dal. It is also titled masala lentils.
How to make it
Here are the ingredients you will need for this whole masoor dal recipe.
Look for disc-shaped brown lentils in the center aisles of your grocery store. (You can also use green lentils.)
Here’s how to make the recipe at a glance.
For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe box at the bottom of this page.
1. Rinse brown (or green) lentils in a fine mesh sieve, removing any broken lentils or debris.
2. Cook lentils in a pot of water on the stovetop. Keep them partially covered until tender.
3. In a blender, combine the following:
- Coriander powder
- Black pepper
4. Sauté onions in a skillet with oil until golden brown.
5. Add blender ingredients to the skillet with onions. Cook until fragrant.
6. Stir in chopped tomatoes and salt. Cook until tender, mashing the larger pieces of tomato.
7. Combine the lentils with the tomato & onion mixture. (No need to drain the lentils first.) Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer.
8. Garnish with cilantro and vegan butter (optional but recommended).
Do I need to soak the lentils first?
The great thing about dried lentils, as opposed to dried beans, is that they don’t have to be soaked before using.
Once they are rinsed, they can be cooked in water until tender.
Some people like to soak lentils anyway for quicker cooking. But I never do.
However, if you prefer, you can soak the dried lentils for about 4 hours. Then drain, and cook until tender.
(They will cook in a shorter amount of time than listed if soaked first.)
Make it your own
You can make this brown dal your own by varying the ingredients or amounts.
Vary the type of legume
Instead of brown lentils, use French lentils du Puy, mung dal, yellow split peas, or split chickpeas (chana dal).
Keep in mind that the cooking time & liquid amounts may vary, depending on the type of pulse.
Follow the instructions on the bag. And use your discretion to increase/decrease water, as needed.
Make it soupier
You can make this dish more soup-like by adding more water.
Add water to taste after you’ve combined the lentils & tomato mixture.
Vary the spices
If there are any spices that you don’t have or don’t like, you can reduce the amount or leave them out.
You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness.
Vary the heat intensity
If you don’t like spicy foods, omit or reduce the sriracha.
If you omit the sriracha, be sure to combine the blender ingredients in a bowl instead, because sriracha is one of the main liquid sources. Without a blender, it’s important to finely mince the garlic.
Make it creamy
For a creamy texture, add coconut milk or cashew cream to taste.
Add it to the skillet or pot after combining the tomato mixture with the lentils.
Tips for success
When making the garlic & spice paste in the blender, add the liquid ingredients first for easiest blending.
If the ingredients fall below the blade and won’t blend, add about ¼ cup of the chopped tomatoes for added bulk & easier blending.
Or skip the blender. Finely mince the garlic, then combine it with the blender ingredients in a bowl instead.
This brown lentil dal is terrific with basmati rice, roti, or Richa’s vegan naan.
(Most naan isn’t vegan. So check the label if you’re getting store-bought. The shelf stable naan at Trader Joe’s is vegan. And that’s what’s shown here.)
Fill out the meal with any of these dishes:
- Veggie samosas (Homemade or cooked from frozen)
- Mixed vegetable ginger & turmeric rice
- Curry lentil soup
- Apple chutney
- Salad with persimmons & delicata squash
Sabut masoor dal will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 4 days.
It also freezes well in a freezer safe container for 3 to 6 months.
Thaw in the refrigerator when ready to use. Or use the defrost setting on the microwave.
Reheat on the stove or in the microwave.
Lentil dal thickens as it cools. Add more liquid as needed to bring it to your preferred stew consistency.
Sabut masoor dal (whole masoor dal)
- ¾ cup brown lentils washed and drained
- 2 cups water
- 2 to 3 teaspoons safflower oil or other neutral oil
- ½ cup finely chopped onion red or white
- 6 cloves garlic chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek leaves or ⅛ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon paprika sweet or hot
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ Tablespoons sriracha or other hot sauce, to taste
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 ½ cups chopped tomato
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
- 1 Tablespoon vegan butter optional
- Combine the lentils with 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Partially cover and cook over medium heat until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
- While the lentils are cooking, make the tempering. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
- In a blender, combine the garlic, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek, paprika, nutmeg, black pepper, sriracha, and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend to combine well.*
- Add this paste to the onions in the skillet. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and salt, and cook until the tomatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Mash the larger tomato pieces.
- Add the tempering to the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and spice.
- Garnish with cilantro and vegan butter, if using, and serve hot.
Content, recipe, and photos updated September 4, 2022. Originally posted June 20, 2015.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen. The opinions are totally my own.