Soulful, comforting Sweet Potato & Lentil Dal topped with a flavorful “tempering oil”. A quick 30-minute vegan meal that is simple to make and full of fragrant Indian spices.
No matter how successful we have been in the outer world, judged by standards external to us, if we are not living in accord with the intent of our soul, depression is likely to follow. ~James Hollis~
Sweet Potato Lentil Dal is humble comfort food for the soul. Infused with fragrant Indian spices, it’s a very simple but deeply satisfying meal, that awakens your taste buds while nourishing your whole body down to the core.
A lentil stew of sorts, it is finished with an optional, but delicious, “tempering oil,” which is basically whole spices like mustard seeds, fennel seeds,and cumin seeds briefly seared in coconut oil (or ghee), releasing an incredible aroma into the house, before it is drizzled over the dal for an extra burst of flavor.
Lentil Sweet Potato Dal | 60-second Video
The wonderful thing is this can be personalized to your taste. Today I added a stray sweet potato, but try adding roasted cauliflower, roasted butternut, peas, carrots, bell pepper, spinach, kale, or any other vegetable that needs to be eaten. You can also add cooked chicken if so inclined, although it is traditionally vegetarian. The ghee (clarified butter) is of course optional, but I have to say it is so yummy! It can be found at Trader Joe’s and upscale markets like Whole Foods.
What is Dal?
Dal, if unfamiliar, is both a dish and an ingredient. A flavorful vegetarian stew commonly found all over India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh- it is comforting, hearty and a good source of protein.
The word “dal” also refers to a dried pulse that has been “split” – most commonly you see this with lentils, peas, chickpeas and some legumes.
What makes Dal special are the warming spices. Traditionally dal is served over basmati rice, or scooped up with roti (a tortilla-like bread) or mopped up with chapati or naan bread. It’s delicious over other whole grains too – like quinoa, farro or buckwheat.
Here I used red split lentils called Masoor Dal, which have been in my pantry for… I don’t even want to tell you how long!
I guess the good thing is they really don’t go bad, or so I like to tell myself. 😉
Soak the dal in 3 cups boiling water while you prep the remaining ingredients.
Saute the onion, garlic, ginger and chilies.
Add the spices and tomatoes.
Add the lentils and the hot water.
At this point you could also add the sweet potatoes, or for even better texture, roast them!
I prefer to roast these, but cooking them directly in the dal is an option – especially if short on time.
And the last step is to make the flavorful tempering oil, which you will spoon over the dal.
Trust me when I say, this brings dal to another level! Don’t skip this step!
More Indian recipes you may like:
- Emerald Dal
- Golden Cauliflower Dal w/ Red Lentils, Coconut and Spinach
- Indian Shepherds Pie
- Rajasthani Butternut Squash Curry
- Easy Homemade Naan Bread!
- Raita Recipe
I hope you like it!
Soulful, Comforting Red Lentil Dal with Sweet Potatoes and a flavorful “tempering oil”. A quick 30 minute meal that is simple to make and full of fragrant Indian spices. Vegan! See notes about roasting the sweet potato vs. cooking it with the dal.
- 3 cups hot water
- 1 cup red lentils (split lentils)
- 2 tablespoons ghee, or coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon grated (or minced) fresh ginger
- 4 cloves garlic – minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or substitute ground cumin)
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 –3 fresh chilies- serrano chili pepper, (or jalapeño) slit down the side vertically (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Garam Masala Spice
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek leaves ( optional, but tasty)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced (or one 14-ounce can diced)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 medium sweet potato or yam, diced into ¾ inch cubes, skins OK (other veggies include cauliflower, green peas, spinach, kale, carrots, etc) SEE NOTES.
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- Handful fresh cilantro leaves or chopped scallions for garnish
- Toasted Flaked coconut- optional
Tempering oil – highly recommended!!!
- Rinse lentils and soak in 3 cups hot water in a bowl.
- In a large heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven, heat ghee over medium heat.
- Add whole seeds- cumin, fennel mustard seeds and saute until they begin to sizzle.
- Add onion, saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring, then add ginger and garlic, and saute until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Add fenugreek, bay leaves, garam masala, fresh chilies, tomatoes and salt. Saute 3-4 minutes until they start breaking down. Add the sweet potatoes (***if roasting, add these at the end, see notes) lentils and hot water, along with honey.
- Give a stir, bring to boil, cover, and turn heat down, and let gently simmer, about 10-15 minutes, or until lentils are tender. After 15 minutes, uncover and check consistency, If watery, continue to simmer uncovered until it reduces and becomes thicker.
- Adjust salt, adding more to your taste, keeping in mind you want this to be slightly salty if serving over rice.
- Make the tempering oil to drizzle over top: heat oil or ghee over medium-high heat, add seeds and curry leaves and swirl or stir until you hear popping about 30- 45 seconds. Turn heat off. Spoon it over the dal, after plating it up.
- Serve with toasted naan bread, or basmati rice, garnishing with cilantro and flaked coconut.
- I really like ROASTING the sweet potato – which gives this a better texture in my opinion. But to save time here, I added the sweet potato directly with the lentils to cook. Up to you! If roasting, do this first- toss the cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast on a parchment-lined sheet pan at 400F until tender, about 20 minutes, while you cook the dal on the stovetop. Spoon it in after the dal is cooked.
- To add more richness, without adding ghee, you could also add a little coconut milk.
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