This is the meal you make to impress your vegan friends, and for your meat lover friends that think they don't like vegan.  This is the meal you make on a blustery winters day, when you stare at your pantry and don't want to leave the house and put on real clothes to go to the store. This is the meal you make when you are craving something bad for you, but know you need to eat something semi-healthy and plant-based. This is the meal you make when you just need to feel full and satisfied on a budget. 

Filled with tomatoes, ginger, garlic and warm spices then topped with Panch Phoran (also known as Indian Popping Seeds) sizzled in ghee or vegan butter,  this dal is a bowl full of comfort. I like mine with a dollop of yogurt and some coriander leaves and naan bread. But honestly you could serve it alone and be just as happy. After the naan ran out we had ours with toast and leftovers could easily be made into fried lentil fritters or a filling for a samosa. 

Red Lentil Dal w/Panch Phoran

by Chef Heather Mader


2 cups Red Lentils, rinsed and discolored pieces sorted & discarded

2 cups basmati rice

Ghee, Earth Balance or Oil

1 onion, chopped

2 fresh jalapeños, chopped

6 roma tomatoes, chopped

1-inch piece of ginger, skinned and minced

1 tbsp tumeric

4 cloves garlic, finely minced                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 2 teaspoons ground coriander

 1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp ground red chili 

7 cups of water

2tbsp Panch Phoran - also known as Indian Popping Seeds

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp garam masala 

cilantro leaves, yogurt  and naan to serve


In a heavy bottomed cast enameled pot, heat a few tablespoons of ghee over medium heat and add onions, jalapeño, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and fry until golden and water has evaporated. Stir in the water, lentils, rice, turmeric, coriander, salt, cumin, red chili and bring to a slow simmer. Turn heat down and very lightly simmer over medium low heat until lentils turn soft and rice begins to break down. Add water if needed to keep mixture from burning and from thickening too much. Mixture will resemble a porridge. 

 While dal is cooking - Heat a few tablespoons of ghee in a sauté pan and add Panch Phoran (popping seeds)  and fry just until seeds turn golden brown and begin to pop and remove from heat. When dal is done, you will pour mixture into the dal and stir.

 Stir in the lemon juice, and garam masala and more salt to taste. If dal seems too thick, stir in water by the cupful. 

NOTES: Two things - if you don't have Panch Phoran or don't know where to find it and don't want to make your own , then just leave it out. The dal stands alone beautifully. Secondly, this is sort of non-traditional in the fact that I use some basmati rice in the blend, because it forms a perfect protein and I like the texture it adds to it. 


Pick through the lentils and remove the hard, discolored pieces. These could be bad lentils or little stones the same size.