Indian Dhal with naan bread (vegan)

reading time: 2 min

Dhal, dahl, dal, daal

Dhal, dahl, dal or daal is a kind of lentil stew commonly served in South Asian countries such as India and Nepal. Dal Bhat (literally: lentils and rice) is a staple food in these countries. - And for those worrying about protein intake in a vegan diet: Dhal is a ready source of proteins due to the lentils!

This is a basic recipe that you may see as an inspiration as it is so versatile. You can add whatever vegetables you have (carrots, zucchini, leek, sweet potato...) and omit and substitute however you want, for example change the spices (such as adding garam masala, roasted mustard seeds or cinnamon, or omitting vegetable stock – just make sure to add cumin as this helps with digestion and gas relief!), sub some of the water for coconut milk or even sub the lentils for chickpeas or kidney beans! Make this recipe your own :) 

Personally, i make this the way that my mom told me, who often made this when i was younger, and was inspired by her travels to Nepal and India. My boyfriend ate this for the first time, and he already loves it!

fun fact: I spent 2 weeks in Nepal with my parents when i was 6 years old :)

(that's me with a couple of Nepali kids on the great stupa Boudhanath in Kathmandu, hehe)


Preparation time: 30 - 60 mins
Main ingredients: lentils
difficulty level: easy
serves: 2-4
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free, nut-free, low-fat 


1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1 tsp vegetable stock concentrate
3 cm fresh ginger, minced 
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp curry powder or turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tomatoes, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste 

1 cup (uncooked) basmati rice
1 cup water (if using a rice cooker) OR 2 cups water

1 package (9g) dry yeast 
450g spelt flour (type 630)
60-70 ml soy milk
200 ml water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
optional: fresh cilantro or ground coriander seeds, garlic powder, chilli powder, paprika powder, freshly ground pepper... 

Tomato slices, lime slices, and herbs or lettuce to garnish

For the dhal:

Turn heat on high, add onion, garlic and ginger in a large saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and sautée for 2-3 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add lentils, water and vegetable stock concentrate to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Once it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking. Add the tomatoes and the spices. Let cook on low heat for 40 minutes or until soft and creamy (most of the water should be absorbed).*

In the meantime, you can prepare your side dish: either naan bread, which should be prepared beforehand, or rice, or both.

For the naan bread:

This takes quite a while to make, as you have to prepare this 2 hours before serving. So we had this with our leftovers the next day (see below). The method is simple: In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (yeast, flour, sugar, salt and spices). Add water and soy milk, and thoroughly combine using your lightly floured hand (use only one hand to knead the dough, so the other one stays clean to hold the bowl). Knead at least for 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour. The dough will double in size.

After an hour, knead the dough again and divide into 6 or 8. Roll into balls and let rise for another 30 minutes. After that roll the balls out onto a floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin - the dough will be sticky like a huge chewing gum, so make sure to generously flour both the surface, the rolling pin and your hands! Otherwise you will be very frustrated very soon. Roll each ball out into a pancake-shaped circle.

Heat a heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, place a rolled out naan on the skillet and cook with little or no oil until the breads are golden brown or until little bubbles start to appear. Flip and cook the other side. Store on the counter covered with a kitchen towel for the day. The outcome is worth the effort! You will be rewarded with soft, fluffy naan bread :)

Note: Some might even blow up to one huge bubble - don't panic, that's okay. Just make sure not to leave them in the pan for too long, or else they will burn.

For the rice:  

Cook your rice in a rice cooker (i can only recommend this handy lil thing!) or bring twice the amount of water to the boil in a pot, then reduce to medium-low heat setting, add the rice and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and then. Basmati rice is my favourite, but brown rice would be great for dhal because both takes around 40 minutes to cook.

Top off with tomatoes, lettuce or fresh coriander and lime. Avocado would also be great. Oh and cracked black pepper! Such a good combination.

So basically, if you don't want to lick your plate clean, use a piece of naan bread to scrape up your dhal ;)

*Red lentils only take about 10 minutes to cook, but with dhal it's pretty much the same as with Mexican chili: the longer it cooks, the better. This will allow the flavours of the spices to mingle and meld together with the lentils. 

Cook once, eat twice

Since my boyfriend and I try to be as efficient as possible in the kitchen, we always cook enough food to cover dinner and lunch the next day. Lucky for us, this Indian dahl tastes just as amazing – if not better – on the following day. However, it does continue to thicken up as it sits so you may need to some broth, soy milk or water when you reheat. Make sure to store the naan bread in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.

- Instead of basmati rice, feel free to use Jasmine rice, brown rice, or even quinoa.
- To cut down on cooking time and also ease digestion, soak the lentils for 2 to 4 hours beforehand.