A lot of people are baffled when they see my kids happily eating lentils for dinner. I’ve been feeding them this super quick and simple red lentil dhal recipe since they were babies. It’s pretty much baby food served with rice, except this baby food is delicious and packed with flavour. You can make this more interesting by adding more spices or stirring through tempered curry leaves and mustard seeds at the end, but this is a great base recipe that isn’t confronting for kids at all. 






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (46 votes)


  • 200 g (1 cup) red lentils
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2½ cm piece turmeric, peeled and minced
  • 2½ cm piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • Handful coriander leaves, chopped
  • steamed basmati rice and lime or mango pickle, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead to soak ingredients overnight.

  1. Place the lentils in a large bowl of cold water and add the vinegar. Soak overnight or for at least 6 hours. When you’re ready to cook, drain the lentils into a sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear.
  2. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the ghee. Allow it to get nice and hot, then add the onion. Stir to combine well, then stir in the cumin seeds, ground coriander and ground cardamom and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the garlic, turmeric and ginger. Stir for another minute, then add the tomatoes and salt and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes break down into a paste.
  3. Add the drained red lentils and add 750 ml (3 cups) water. There should be about 2½ cm of water above everything else in the pan. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft and breaking down. Stir occasionally and add a little water if it’s ever looking dry.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice, then ladle into bowls. Scatter with coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice and pickles on the side.



- If you want to add some more depth, just before serving the dhal, heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once the ghee is hot and shimmering, add a handful of picked fresh curry leaves and 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds. Stir for 30 - 60 seconds or until the leaves and seeds sizzle and pop but be careful not to let them burn. Pour the contents of the saucepan into your dhal and stir it through.


Adam Liaw cooks, laughs, and explores culture with some of Australia's most beloved in The Cook Up With Adam Liaw.


Photography by Danielle Abou Karam.