Red Lentil Dal with Mustard Seeds

L.A. chef Akasha Richmond spices these fragrant Indian-style stewed lentils with cumin, ginger and bay leaf.

  • Active:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 8 to 10


  • 4 cups red lentils (1 1/2 pounds), picked over
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup ghee (see Note)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
  • One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Yogurt and chopped cilantro, cucumber and tomato, for serving

How to make this recipe

  1. In a large cast-iron casserole, combine the red lentils with the bay leaves, turmeric and 12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the lentils break down to a thick puree, about 40 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the ghee. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook over moderately high heat, 
stirring, until the seeds start to pop, about 1 minute. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chile and coriander and cook until the tomatoes just start to break down, about 5 minutes. Season the tomato mixture with salt and pepper.

  3. Stir the tomato mixture into the dal and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with yogurt and chopped cilantro, cucumber and tomato.

Make Ahead

The dal can be refrigerated for 3 days. Reheat gently before serving.


Ghee is a type of clarified butter that’s available at Indian markets and Whole Foods, and on

Contributed By Photo © John Kernick Published December 2015

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