Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale


Bloggers Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley serve these creamy, superflavorful lentils with vibrant toppings: spice-cooked onions, red chiles and chopped cilantro. Slideshow:  More Lentil Recipes 

Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale
Photo: © Nicholas Hopper
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hr


  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

  • 2 small fresh red chiles, thinly sliced

  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth

  • One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

  • 2 cups red lentils, picked over (13 ounces)

  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems, plus chopped leaves for garnish

  • 1/2 pound kale, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (4 cups)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

  • Sea salt

  • Pepper


  1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Add the cumin, fennel and turmeric and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and half of the sliced chiles and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Spoon half of the spiced onion mixture into a small bowl and reserve.

  2. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, red lentils and cilantro stems to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

  3. Spoon the dal into bowls. Top with the reserved onion mixture and the remaining sliced chiles. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with lemon wedges.

Make Ahead

The dal can be refrigerated for 2 days. Reheat gently, adding more water if necessary to help thin it out.

Suggested Pairing

Juicy Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley is a good pick for dishes that have a lot of varied flavors, like this coconutty, spicy dal.

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