Serves 2-4 depending on portion
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 small onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 pinch red chili flakes (optional)
½ teaspoon cumin seed, ground
½ teaspoon fennel seed, ground
1 teaspoon mustard seed (optional)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric or 1 teaspoon freshly grated
⅓ cup cilantro stems, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 cup red or black lentils (see note)
4-5 cups water (see below)
1 lime, juiced
1 handful cilantro leaves, to garnish
Olive oil, to garnish
Note: You can use either red or black lentils, but the cooking time and process varies slightly between the two. Please take note of the separate instructions below!
Heat a medium-large pot (ideally a heavy bottomed one like enameled cast iron) over medium heat. Add the oil, then follow with the onion, garlic, and a big pinch of salt. Let cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, so the onions are turning translucent but nothing is taking on color. Add the ginger, chili flakes, cumin, fennel, mustard seed, turmeric, cilantro stems, and salt. Stirring the whole time, cook the spices for an additional minute until fragrant.
For Red Lentils: Add the lentils and 4 cups water, then bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat so the mixture is just simmering, and put the lid on leaving it ajar. Cook the mixture for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll know it’s done when the lentils have become tender and fallen apart to some extent. Add more water if you’d like a thinner dal, give it a stir, and heat through. If you prefer a thicker dal, just cook a bit longer.
For Black Lentils: Add the lentils and 5 cups water, then bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat so the mixture is just simmering, and cover, leaving the lid ajar. Cook the mixture for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll know it’s done when the lentils have become tender. Transfer ⅓ - ½ of the lentils and broth to a blender, and blend for 10-15 seconds. Return the blended lentils to the pot and stir to combine into a slightly creamy soup. Add more water if you’d like a thinner dal, give it a stir, and heat through. If you prefer a thicker dal, just cook a bit longer.
Once the dal is to your desired texture, season to taste with a squeeze of lime juice and salt. Garnish with cilantro leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve warm.