Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Recipe

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Recipe with Brown Rice | #vegan

It’s no secret among people who know me that my very favorite cuisine in the world is Indian, with Thai being a close second, and Mexican coming in third. I will always and forever love Indian food. I could pretty much eat it every day (I almost do in some form or another) and never tire of it. My dream is to one day travel to India and stay for a few weeks or months and really get acquainted with the culture and food. I’ve been experimenting with a slow cooker red lentil dal recipe for awhile now. It’s been fun to eat all of my experiments, but I think this time I got it!

When I first moved to New York as a single 20-year-old, I ate as much Indian food as I could. I had eaten homemade chicken curry made by a friend’s mom. Her mother was of Indian descent by way of Mauritius. I think that’s when I really started to fall for Indian food. Other than her chicken curries and a few other recipes here and there, I didn’t really eat much Indian food. My family didn’t love it or make it at home. There weren’t very many restaurants where I lived. So it took moving to the East Coast where I stood in front of my first Indian lunch buffet, and fell completely in love with dal (also spelled daal or dhal). As much as I love all kinds of Indian food, dal is my most favorite. I think lentils might just be my very favorite food of all. It’s a tie with coconut. :)

It’s my comfort food. It’s easy for me to make it at home, though it’s not quite as good as eating at my favorite Indian restaurant or having it prepared by someone who really knows what they’re doing. (I think I’m almost there.) I just love it. The warm spices, the steamy rice. It’s filling and healthy, and I can’t stop myself from having seconds.

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Recipe with Brown Rice | #vegan

This recipe calls for a mix of red lentils, split yellow peas, and split mung beans. You can use all of one or a mix. It doesn’t really matter. You could also switch it up with other kinds of lentils and gram. I love the mix of seeds I’ve used to flavor it this time. It’s pretty mild, but still really flavorful. We add the red chile flakes to our individual bowls so it’s not too spicy for our kids. The fennel adds a great flavor without being too overpowering. There’s plenty of turmeric (my new favorite spice) and fresh ginger too. It’s just a good mix of spices that tastes great.

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Recipe with Brown Rice | #vegan

You can eat it plain or with rice, or naan. We eat it all different ways, but my favorite is with brown rice. It’s also really good with quinoa.

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Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Recipe

A hearty, comforting slow cooked dal made from red lentils, split yellow peas, and Indian spices.

  • Total Time: 5 hours 10 mins
  • Yield: 10-12 1x


Units Scale
  • 3 cups red lentils (can use part yellow split peas or split mung beans, or a combination of two or more)
  • 6 cups water
  • One 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons each: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, onion seeds (nigella), fenugreek seeds (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving:
  • Hot cooked brown rice
  • cilantro, optional
  • extra onion and cumin seeds, optional
  • fresh lemon juice, optional


  1. Place red lentils and yellow split peas into a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak for a few minutes and swish to wash the lentils and split peas. Drain well and rinse. Place in a slow cooker and add the 6 cups water. Add the diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom pods, bay leaf, salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add all of the seeds to the pan. Shake the pan while on the heat, or use a wooden spoon to stir, while toasting the seeds. When they smell fragrant, remove from heat and transfer to the slow cooker. (It will probably bubble up a bit as the hot seed hit the liquid.) Stir well to combine all ingredients. Place lid on slow cooker and let cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-10 hours.
  3. Remove lid after cooking time and stir. Taste and if lentils are not soft, cook for another 30-60 minutes, if needed. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.
  4. To serve – Ladle the daal over brown rice and top with a squeeze of fresh lemon, cilantro, and more seeds, if desired.


Be careful not to toast the seeds for too long or the dal may become bitter. For a lighter flavor, use half as much of the fenugreek.

If onion seeds cannot be found, it’s fine to leave them out. The same for the fenugreek. The mustard and cumin seeds are fairly easy to find.

  • Author: Lindsey Johnson
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Category: Main, Side, Vegetarian, Vegan
  • Cuisine: Indian


Check out these other Indian recipes we love:
Potato Chickpea Masala
Vegan Banana Squash Coconut Curry
Vijay’s Channa Masala
Butter Balti Chicken

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  1. Looks like my kind of meal! I know this is a beginner question, but where do you buy cardamom pods in Provo (since the indian store is gone)? I haven’t found them.

  2. I love this website!! I made this recipe pretty much as written and later added quite a few more spices to suit our tastes. If I were to make it again I would also use chicken or vegetable broth for a little more flavor. Thanks for the recipes!

  3. My 2 year old loves this! We eat a lot of pulses (especially since me starting university as a mature student!) this is ace as all 3 kids & hubby love it and super cheap!

    Currently have a huge batch cooking up :)

    Thanks for this from the uk!

  4. My mother was born in Mauritius and I grew up eating her wonderful Indian food! I have a pantry full of dal and I’m always looking for good recipes – I’m going to try this today :)

  5. I can’t wait to try this recipe. I have all the ingredients, except for Onion Seeds. I asked at Whole Foods, and the employee (who happened to be Indian and shops at the local Indian grocery store) said he has never heard of this, and never cooks with it. What do the onion seeds at, flavor-wise?

    1. Nicholas! That is a great question, and I’m sorry you had a difficult time locating it. Black onion seeds are a common name for nigella. So sometimes you may see it labeled as such or in Indian markets the package will say “kollonji” or “kolonji.” I wonder if it could also be a regional thing to certain parts of India. This site lists some substitutions. I can’t really describe the flavor it adds – it’s just kind of distinctive. It won’t ruin the recipe to leave it out by any means. Interestingly enough, I just consulted an old Indian cookbook I have and it lists nigella and onion seeds differently. But I’m almost positive that what I use as “onion seeds” is nigella. Good luck finding it and I appreciate the question!

  6. Lindsey,

    I recently happened upon this recipe and I am waiting for it to cool off here before I try it (desert Southwest!).

    My crockpot is a casserole dish and I was wondering if I could throw everything together the night before and just add the liquid in the morning. Have you ever done it this way?

    1. Hi Cathy! I hear you! We’re having another hot spell right now where I live. :) I think it’s just fine to throw everything together and add the liquid in the morning. I’m sure it would be just fine.

  7. Hi Lindsey,
    Loved your recipe. I’m from India and it feels great you love indian food. I would recommend you to try “Daal baati”, a marwari dish made in Rajasthan, India. You’ll definitely love it.

  8. great recipe! I made with things I had in the pantry (spelt, mung and adzuki beans). I also threw in a bit of dried chickpeas for additional protein. Was great with quinoa mixed with brown rice and green onions. Yum!!!

  9. I have it in the slow cooker now but there seems to be a very strong, almost overpowering taste from one of the ingredients, perhaps the ginger, bay leaves or cardamom pods (hopeless as tasting!!).

    Does it generally mellow as it cooks? About 5 hours left.

    1. Hi Kevin! It could be the cardamom pods. Is that an ingredient you use normally? Sometimes people can be sensitive to it if they don’t consume it on a regular basis. The flavors will meld. I actually made this yesterday for our dinner. The other smell or taste could be from the lentils. They give off a strong smell and flavor, but as they cook it mellows a lot. If you used the yellow split peas or another legume, this is especially true. Let me know how it goes! I promise it’s delicious. You’ll love it. We eat it all the time. :)

      1. I think it’s the Tumeric, Kevin. We’ve made it twice now, once with a Tbsp. and once with a tsp. We much prefer the taste with a tsp. 1 Tablespoon of Tumeric is a lot. We can’t taste the garlic, ginger or mustard seeds when we use that much (and we even put twice as much garlic and ginger than the recipe calls for) Dried Turmeric can have an overpowering and bitter taste to those with sensitive palates. Try t again but with less turmeric.

  10. I made this today, which was a bit of a risk given that I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten lentils before. I couldn’t locate fenugreek or onion seeds, and instead of cardamom pods and fresh ginger, I swapped in their powdered equivalents, but this is just my third time using my slow cooker, so I figured it’s a bit early to be Mr. Fancy Schmancy Chef who has to have everything perfect. I thought it turned out well. I wouldn’t mind more of a kick, but I think I’m going to call this a win.

    1. Hi Jeannie! I’m so glad you like the recipe. :) I have a 7-quart All-Clad slow cooker with the insert that can go from oven or stove to the slow cooker. I love it…BUT the inside has a non-stick lining that has bubbled up and has started peeling, so I’m hesitant to recommend it now. I need to check into getting it replaced, which I read the company will do. I think I am going to just replace it with a new slow cooker with a ceramic insert. Probably the All-Clad. I do like their products. I also like the traditional CrockPot a lot, too.

  11. Made this recipe last night, so it’s ready today – and it’s delicious!! I will definitely be making this again. I didn’t have all of the seeds, but I added in some caraway in place of the fenugreek and then added in some of my Berber spice mix too. Also switched out 4 cups of water for my homemade chicken stock, and added in carrots. Delish!

    Just a note for those who have smaller slow cookers – this is a large recipe, and will fill up to the brim of a 4qt slow cooker – you can probably reduce the water by half a cup if you’re concerned about liquid levels.

    Thanks for the great keeper recipe! :)

  12. OMG this recipe looks awesome… and being someone who always comes across daal recipes suited for pressure cookers (I don’t have one), may I say, thank you for posting this slow cooker recipe! Just the thought of all these spices simmering for hours is driving me nuts. Bless your heart

  13. I have a question: can you confirm I am reading this correctly and it is three cups total of lentils or other beans? My mom is reading it differently and think that I might need 6 cups total of lentils / beans.

  14. Tried this recipe tonight and it was delicious. If I want to cut the portion size in half, should I cut everything in half or just the water?

  15. No…you’ve made a mistake Lady…no way do you need one tablespoon of turmeric.

    Have you – or anyone else – made this dish according to the recipe? You mean one TEASPOON of the spice. A tablespoon in that quantity will make any normal person gag. It is a great spice and so good for you….but a little goes a long way.

    1. Mostyn, have YOU made this recipe? It makes a lot of dal and I use 1 tablespoon every single time I make it. And I make this recipe at least once or twice a month. And it’s delicious! A lot of people have made this recipe and not one has questioned the turmeric. Of course, anyone who chooses to make the recipe can definitely adjust the spices according to their tastes. Also, the 1 tablespoon isn’t eaten by the spoonful! Of course that would make someone gag. Ha! It’s mixed in with the other spices and ends up being maybe a 1/4 teaspoon per serving depending on how much one person consumes. Not a lot at all. I drink turmeric tea every single day and never gag.

  16. I happen to have about a cup and a half apiece of red and brown lentils. Do you think those two would mix okay?

  17. This was so good! I used an immersion blender toward the end to break up the diced tomatoes and hearty up the texture. We served it with brown rice, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Delish, felt like comfort food but still good for us!

  18. Hello! I made this a few times now, and I am a little uncertain about what’s going wrong, if it is at all. I have a 6 quart crock pot and it seems quite watery, almost like soup, when I use the reccomended fluid amount and cooking times. I typically need to have it cook for a few more hours than recommended to get it to where using a fork would be feasible. What is this consistency supposed to be in your opinion?

    1. Hi Charlotte! You know, dal tends to be on the thinner side. It should thicken up as it sits. But if you find you’re having to cook it for that long, go ahead and reduce the liquid at the beginning. I can’t say for sure why it would be thinner – there could be a few factors. But cutting the amount of water down shouldn’t hurt anything. You can always add a little more if it’s too thick at then end. :)

    1. Hi Holly! That’s a great question. It’s totally doable on the stovetop. Just follow the directions as written, except place the ingredients in a large pot on the stove. Bring it to a boil, then lower heat and cover pan. The exact cooking time may vary by 20 minutes or so depending on the lentils you use. But typically those yellow ones take about an hour to soften. Red lentils will cook much more quickly, so if you use all red lentils, the cooking time may only be 20 minutes tops. You can also saute the onion in the pan/pot before adding the other ingredients so that it has plenty of time to soften. I’ve made this many times on the stovetop as well as the slow cooker. It works great! :)

  19. I was not sure what you meant by “onion seeds”. However, after putting the dish together and then going through your long list of responses I came across the answer: aka “nigella”. In the future could you please state in the recipe (in parentheses) what it is also known as to save time searching for the answer. Much appreciated. The dish is tasty.

    1. You know, I’ve never made it without toasting the seeds. But I’m sure it would be just fine. The toasting helps bring out the flavors of the seeds more, but I don’t see that there would be any harm if you left that step out.

      1. When making any lentils, always try saute a little bit of cumin and aseftodia (hing) in ghee (clarified butter) and keep aside. When daal is done, put this in and stir before serving. It makes a world of s difference and lifts everything up to another level. (And ofc, dont roast cumin seeds beforehand, just use them this way).
        If you dont have clarified butter (ghee), then either use olive oil or unsalted butter (olive oil gives better taste in this case)…

        oh and … AWESOME RECIPE! :)

  20. Hi there,

    I’ve tried making this recipe twice, each time with a different brand of diced tomatoes, and both times it came out quite bitter! Do you have any thoughts on what might be the problem?

    Thanks for the great blog!


    1. Hi Anna! My apologies for the delayed reply. I’ve been thinking about your comment since I first read it. The only things I can think of is perhaps the spices are bitter. I’m not 100% sure as I haven’t tasted your dal, but turmeric can be bitter. The seeds can be on the bitter side. I’ve had garlic and onions that are extremely bitter, particularly garlic, and has ruined an otherwise delicious recipe. Have you cooked with these spices before? I mean no disrespect, my thinking is that if someone is new to these flavors they can come across as being on the bitter side. (I may be stretching here! I really want to figure out why it’s so bitter!) You can email me as well and I can help you troubleshoot some more. This is one of my very favorites and I want it to be a success for you too! ca***********@gm***.com

  21. I made this recipe last week. It smelled heavenly. Unfortunately, it had a bitter taste. I saw that another person commented on this as well. I work with a colleague who is from India. I showed her the recipe and asked her what would make it bitter and she said the fenugreek seeds are the culprit. She said you don’t need them; they are mainly for aroma, not taste. She said if you use them, you only need one or two seeds. Same for the fennel. By the way, she grew up and lived in India until she was in her late 20s and she had never heard of onion seeks (kolonji). Interesting……

    1. So interesting! Thanks for the comment! I’ll have to try this with less. I’ve never had an issue and have seen other recipes that call for fenugreek and onion seeds. I wonder if it’s a regional thing? In any case, I’m sorry it was bitter for you! Please try making it again without the fenugreek and see if that helps. And if you do, please let me know!

    2. I also just did a quick search about fenugreek seeds. You’re right, they can be bitter, but it seems from what I’ve read that it happens when the seeds are toasted too long. So that may be an issue too.

  22. I love this recipe. I make it along with a vegetable curry (and rice) to bring for lunches. It makes at least 20 potions!!

    Last night I changed it slightly and fried the onion, spices, garlic and ginger in some oil and added the tomatoes plus toasted seeds, then transferred to the slow cooker with the lentils and water and I have to say, it was so much richer in flavour. I know this extra step takes away the ease of the slow cooker but it took 10 mins and was one additional pan to wash up!! Really made the dish for me!

    Thanks again for the amazing recipe.

  23. I do not know what I did wrong since I followed it to a “T”, including the seeds and toasting them, (did not do the fenugreek) but this was mushy and flavorless. I did the slow cooker 10 hour option and apparently that was too long. Also, I am not a novice cook so I have 30+ years of experience. Super disappointed.

  24. Hello, I am interested in trying this recipe, but I was wondering if you could tell me how much ground fenugreek I would use instead of the seeds? Also, how much ground ginger instead of fresh? Thanks!

  25. I make this in my Ninja Pressure cooker and reverse the steps. I put the seeds in the pot on the sautee setting until they are toasted and then add the rest of the ingredients, including the lentils, and pressure cook for 25 mins. It comes out perfectly. I’ve made this a dozen times and love it. I serve with curry fried cauliflower or samosa flavored mashed-potatoes pancakes.

    1. Half ground fenugreek to seed – but toasting the seed is important to the flavor, you’ll want to toast the ground fenugreek in a little bit of the oil at the end of the seed toasting. If you use ground ginger, use 1/3 the amount in powder and toast the ginger with the ground fenugreek.

  26. I’ve made this 4 times and we love it. Great to have for lunches or dinners for the week. I add fat to the slow cooker though (either gee or avocado oil), extra garlic, and some type of chili (cayenne powder if no chilis on hand). It’s healthy and satisfying!

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