Sri Lankan dal

Confession: I’m Indian, I’m a lifelong vegetarian, and I hate dal. That is, except for Dal Bukhara, the famous dal makhani invented at the ITC Maurya Sheraton in Delhi. And this dal.

This is slightly adapted from my friend Sharini’s recipe. It’s now become a staple in our household. It’s super easy, flavorful, and healthy.

The toughest part is stocking up your pantry with all these ingredients. But I promise, it’s well worth it.

This dal is nice and spicy. If you’re sensitive to heat, you can omit the chilis and reduce the chili powder to half a teaspoon.


  • 1 cup red dal
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspooon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspooon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspooon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6-7 curry leaves
  • 2 cups water, plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspooon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed ginger
  • 3 green chilis, chopped (can omit or reduce if you’re sensitive to spice)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • Juice of half a lime
  1. Rinse dal. Place in large pot, along with oil, pepper, turmeric, mustard seeds, fenugreek, cumin, chili powder, coriander, cinnamon stick, and curry leaves. Fry until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Add water, ginger, garlic, chilis, onions, and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower temperature to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until dal is tender.
  3. Add coconut milk and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, add lime, and serve with rice or iddiyapam* (string hoppers).
*Available in the frozen section at most Indian stores

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