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Spicy Coconut Red Lentil Dal Recipe

This protein-laden dish is a dream to meal-prep: easy to make in big batches, freezer-friendly, and inexpensive.

A man serves up some red lentil dal recipe in a bowl

A little bit of time on the weekend will go a long way during the week when it comes to fueling your body on the busiest of workdays. This red lentil dal recipe is as good as meal prep gets: Once cooked, you can just pull the coconut dal out of your fridge or freezer, heat, and replenish with a tasty, inexpensive, plant-based protein-rich lunch.

That’s one of the reasons Tonal coach Trace Gotsis loves this recipe. “There are so many ancient grains and legumes that have enough protein to sustain me,” he says, adding that this warming lentil recipe works well with the colder weather that’s rolling in. “It’s almost like a soup. I really enjoy this one.”

a man garnishing a bowl of red lentil dal with some cilantro

Spicy dal dishes have become increasingly popular thanks to their health-promoting benefits, and the roots of many of these recipes can be traced back to South Asia where lentils are an important daily staple for good reason. They are an inexpensive source of plant-based protein (one cup of cooked lentils has about 18 grams of protein), and research finds they are also chock-full nutrients and fiber that contribute to a healthy gut.

“I think that’s a big benefit of vegetarian sources of protein like [lentils]; you’re able to have both fiber and protein in the same nutrient,” says John Christie, a registered dietitian and director of Curriculum Intelligence at Tonal. Plus, when you serve the red lentil dal with brown rice, you get even more essential amino acids for a complete protein that can help replenish protein stores and rebuild tissues, he adds.

Bonus: This dish is cooked in coconut milk—a great source of medium-chain triglycerides that help increase energy. “It’s going to be a relatively slow and sustained delivery of nutrients,” Christie explains, and for that reason, he suggests utilizing this coconut dal as a recovery meal a few hours after an intense workout or even on a lighter non-strength training day.

a recipe card with a bowl of lentils alongside the following text: Spicy Coconut Dal, Servings: 4-5, Prep Time: 15 minutes, Cook Time: 35 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated   
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped 
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cups of cooked red lentils
  • ½ tsp. chili flakes, or to taste 
  • 1-2 cups hot water  
  • 4 generous handfuls of baby spinach, chopped 
  • A handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • To serve: cooked brown rice 


  • Heat the coconut oil on medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, and grated ginger. Cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and then stir in the spices. Cook for another couple of minutes until the spices are fragrant. 
  • Add the chopped carrots, crushed tomatoes, and coconut milk, and bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil. Then simmer for about 20 minutes.  
  • Add the lentils, chili flakes, spinach, and cilantro and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. If the dal looks a little dry, you can add more water.
  • Season with salt and pepper and then serve over freshly-cooked brown rice. 
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.  

Note: These values below represent one serving of five and do not account for brown rice.

  • Calories: 532 kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 54g
  • Fiber: 19g
  • Protein: 22g
  • Fat: 28g 

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