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Slow cooker dal in a bowl, topped with herbs and chopped cashews.
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Easy Slow Cooker Dal

You’re going to love this easy, creamy slow cooker dal, which is a cinch to make using inexpensive pantry ingredients! It’s rich and nourishing yet bright and healthy. Serve the dal as a side dish, or turn it into a full meal by pairing it with rice and/or naan bread and sautéed vegetables (we especially love this with garlicky sautéed greens, such as kale, spinach or Swiss chard). If you’d like, you can also serve shredded rotisserie chicken alongside. I prefer to use light coconut milk in this recipe, as it gives the dal a silkier texture (you can use full-fat but it will be a bit thicker). If you want to skip the stovetop prep you can simply cook the aromatics in the microwave (I've included instructions below!). Be sure to cook the dal on low heat, not high (see the Notes below). For a stovetop version, check out my book Build-a-Bowl!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time6 hrs
Total Time6 hrs 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: easy dal recipe, red lentil dahl recipe, slow cooker dal recipe
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients

Stovetop (or microwave) prep

  • 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Slow cooker

  • 2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ lime

For serving (optional)

  • Rice and/or naan bread
  • Sautéed greens, such as kale, spinach, collard greens or Swiss chard
  • Chopped cilantro or mint
  • Toasted cashews
  • Mango chutney

Instructions

Prepare the stovetop ingredients

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, curry powder and cumin. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. (Alternatively, combine everything, including the spices, in a heatproof bowl and microwave on high, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4-5 minutes.) Scrape the mixture into a 4- to 7-quart slow cooker.

Assemble the slow cooker

  • Add the lentils, coconut milk, water and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender (they should be slightly firm but not crunchy), about 5-6 hours on low (it takes 6 hours in my KitchenAid 6 quart model); do not use high heat. Squeeze in the juice from ½ lime, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve the dal as-is as a side dish, or turn it into a full meal by serving it with rice and/or naan bread and sautéed greens. Let people garnish their dishes with cilantro or mint, toasted cashews and/or mango chutney.

Notes

Slow Cooker Jumpstarts: You can cook the aromatics ahead of time and refrigerate them for up to 2 days before cooking the dal. 
Storage: The dal can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Notes:
  • You will need a 4- to 7-quart slow cooker for this recipe. I love my KitchenAid 6-Quart model. Different models cook at different rates, so check your dal early (the lentils should be slightly firm, but not crunchy). In my model it takes 6 hours. 
  • Do not use high heat when cooking the dal, as it will cause the lentils to cook unevenly and burst. 
  • I prefer to use light coconut milk in this recipe, as it gives the dal a silkier texture. You can use full-fat but it will be thicker. 
  • If you like it spicy, feel free to throw in some red pepper flakes or a dried chili when assembling the slow cooker.
  • Check out this Slow Cooker Curried Red Lentil & Kale Soup!
  • Find a ton of other flavor-packed recipes in my books, Build-a-Bowl and Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker!
  • For more slow cooker inspiration, check out my Bluprint class, Slow Cooker Made Fresh.