Keralan Dal Curry

“Creamy as well as savoury, this coconutty keralan dal curry evokes a sense of comfort when eaten.”

Keralan Dal Curry
Keralan Dal Curry by George Alexander

Undisputedly a firm favourite amongst most Indians, dal evokes a sense of comfort when eaten. What makes this keralan dal curry unique is its use of ground coconut which adds a richness and depth to the dal. Cheap and easy to prepare, the reward you receive from this dish surmounts the effort you put into it!

How to make the perfect Dal Curry?

Choosing the right lentils for your Dal Curry

There are several different varieties of lentils that are used in the preparation of dal. The choice of lentils used vary from region to region in India, and traditional recipes were formed based on their availability. 

The most commonly used lentils in dal recipes are split red or yellow lentils. This variety has a sweet and nutty flavour, and because of their “split” nature they tend to disintegrate when cooked, giving it a beautifully creamy texture. I’ve chosen to use yellow moong dal for this recipe as I grew up eating it this way and I personally love it!

Preparing the lentils

Before you start cooking, check the dry lentils for any unwanted debris by gently moving the lentils around. When you are satisfied that there are none left, rinse the lentils under cold running water between 2 to 3 times until the water runs clear.

Cooking the lentils

To cook the lentils perfectly, allow the pot to come to a rapid simmer and then reduce the heat to a point where the pot gently bubbles away for 25-30 minutes. For this recipe, you are aiming for a slight firmness to its shape and texture. This is because you will still be adding the coconut paste and simmering everything for another 5 minutes. If you’re unsure if it’s cooked, spoon out a morsel and carefully press between your thumb and index finger.

Tempering your Dal Curry 

If you’re not familiar with tempering, it is simply the process of frying key spices in oil and pouring them over a curry. This process adds another layer of complexity to the dal, imparting a fragrant nutty aroma from the heated coconut oil and mustard seeds as well a sweetness from the caramelised onions. It is a simple way to elevate the flavour of the dal curry.

The trick with tempering is getting the oil hot enough, but not till it’s smoking. So keep your heat at a medium flame, about 350°F/180 °C. This will ensure your spices don’t burn in the oil. 

Keralan Dal Curry Recipe Video

What to serve with your Dal Curry? 

Dal curry sits well alongside other non-vegetarian or vegetarian curries. It can be poured over either naan bread, roti, paratha or good old plain rice. On occasion, I have been known to ladle generous portions of the dal into a bowl, sprinkle over some chopped coriander leaves and enjoy it all on its own!

Ideas for accompanying dishes

Keralan Chicken Curry

Dry Fried Lamb Curry

Potato and Cauliflower Curry (Aloo Gobi)

Fried Cabbage (Cabbage Thoran)

Grilled Chicken Kebabs

How to store your Dal Curry?

If by some off chance you haven’t demolished all of your dal curry in one sitting, you can store your dal in the fridge and it will keep well for up to 4-5 days. If you’re thinking of making a big batch to portion out and freeze, then it will also keep well frozen for up to 3 months.

Keralan Dal Curry

Recipe by George AlexanderCourse: DinnerCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cook time






Total time



Creamy as well as savoury, this coconutty keralan dal curry evokes a sense of comfort when eaten.


  • dal
  • 1 cup dried yellow moong dal, rinsed

  • 3 cups water

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

  • coconut paste
  • 1/3 cup grated coconut

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 3 dried red chillies

  • 1 garlic clove

  • 1 shallot

  • 1/2 cup water

  • tempering
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds

  • 1 tsp urad dal

  • 1 shallot, sliced

  • 8-10 curry leaves

  • garnish
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes

  • handful coriander leaves, chopped


  • Rinse the dal several times under cold running water until the water runs clear. Drain with a sieve and add the dal to a heavy bottomed pot along with water and turmeric powder. Cover with a lid and allow the dal to simmer on a medium flame for 25-30 minutes until dal has fully cooked and doubled in size. Whilst the dal is cooking, move on to preparing the coconut paste.
  • In a blender, grind grated coconut, cumin seeds, dried red chilli, a garlic clove and a shallot into a smooth paste. Add the blended paste to the cooked dal and simmer the curry for a further 5 minutes, covering with a lid. After 5 minutes check that your dal has fully cooked through, if it hasn’t, cook for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set the prepared dal curry aside.
  • For the tempering, heat coconut oil in a pan over a medium flame and add to the warmed oil the mustard seeds. Within 15 – 30 seconds the seeds should begin to splutter, at this point add the urad dal and stir for a further 30 seconds. Next, add sliced shallots and curry leaves and sauté for 2-3 minutes until the shallots have caramelised slightly. Pour the contents into the dal curry, add salt to your taste and stir everything well. Cover with a lid until the dal curry is ready to serve.
  • When serving, ladle generous spoonful’s into a bowl and enjoy as a side dish alongside other curries, or simply on its own with a roti, paratha or some plain rice and lime pickle.

Recipe Video

Nutrition Facts

4 servings per container


  • Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
  • Total Fat 6.2g 10%
    • Saturated Fat 5g 25%
  • Sodium 1092mg 46%
  • Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
  • Potassium 66mg 2%
  • Total Carbohydrate 10.3g 4%
    • Dietary Fiber 2.3g 10%
    • Sugars 1.1g
  • Protein 3.9g 8%
  • Calcium 22%
  • Iron 2%

* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.


Tips: Lentils do not require soaking, however they can be in order to reduce their cooking time in half. If you decide to do so, soak the washed lentils in warm water for 1 hour prior. They will then only need to be simmered for 15 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes.

Tips: For this recipe I’ve used freshly grated coconut that has been frozen. Before grinding the paste, you must ensure that the grated coconut has properly defrosted. Otherwise the oils from the coconut will remain solid and won’t emulsify into the paste, making the paste chunky.

Tips: Ideally you should use fresh curry leaves and depending on where you live, you will be able to source this from most well stocked supermarket or asian stores. However, if you’re unable to get them you can also use dried curry leaves.

Salting the dish- Do not under any circumstance salt your lentils until after they have cooked through. Salting too early will prevent the legumes from reaching their peak tenderness. Stir in some flaked sea salt towards the end and they will still absorb perfectly.

 Storing dried lentils– Once opened, store you’re unused dried lentils in an airtight container and keep your container in a cool dry place. Dried lentils last quite a long time but they are best used within a year of purchase or expiry date.

Did you make this recipe?

Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #_pestleandspice.


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