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This creamy sweet potato and chickpea red lentil dal is not only nourishing but also packed full of flavor. From the warm spices to the sweet potatoes to the creamy coconut, this meal is everything you're craving in one bite.
Watch how to make this
What makes this dish special
With the start of the new year, I find myself desperately looking for healthier dishes. After feasting on Christmas cookies, rib roast, and cheese platters last month I need to take a detoxing break. But if you're familiar with my cooking, I require my meals to be flavorful. Luckily, just because a dish is healthy doesn't mean it's boring. Take this sweet potato and chickpea red lentil dal for example.
This nutrient-dense meal has sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and lentils but is seasoned with several spices, coconut milk, and aromatics to produce one incredibly tasty dish. Serve it with warm naan and enjoy it as the main dish or have it on the side. Either way, I think you'll love this dal.
- Sweet potato: For a sweet component and to make the dal more substantial, add sweet potatoes. You can also use butternut squash or another squash if you prefer.
- Spices: To add flavor to the dal, we're using a combination of coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, and curry powder. If you want a spicy dal, you can also add cayenne.
- Red lentils: Appearing red to orange, red lentils have a sweet and distinct flavor. It's also the quickest to prepare among all of the lentils and creates a smooth consistency once cooked.
- Canned diced tomatoes: If fresh tomatoes are in season, you can use chopped tomatoes instead of canned diced tomatoes.
- Chickpeas: To make the dal more satisfying, add chickpeas. You can substitute it with another bean such as white beans or another protein such as paneer.
- Coconut milk: For a creamy element, use coconut milk. Another option is to use heavy cream.
How to make sweet potato and chickpea red lentil dal
Step 1: Saute aromatics
In a generously sized sauté pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add finely chopped onions and sweet potatoes. It's essential to finely chop the onions and sweet potatoes for a uniform texture in the dal.
Sauté the onions and sweet potatoes until the onions begin to soften, around 5 minutes. The potatoes will continue to cook so you don't have to worry about fully cooking them right now.
Next, add minced garlic and ginger, aromatics that help create the flavor foundation for the dal.
Step 2: Simmer lentils
To build flavor, we're going to add spices including ground coriander, cumin, curry powder, paprika, and turmeric. If you have whole spices, take an extra step to toast the whole spices and grind them yourself. In fact, I recommend the latter method because freshly ground spices are more aromatic than pre-ground spices.
Toss the spices with the vegetables and lentils and toast for about 1 minute. Although there are many different types of lentils, I chose to use red lentils because they cook faster and break down while cooking, resulting in a creamy texture.
Next, add canned diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and vegetable broth, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer uncovered, allowing the lentils and sweet potatoes to absorb the flavors of the aromatic broth. Cook until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. If the dal is too soupy, you can increase the heat and let the broth evaporate for a few minutes.
Step 3: Finish with coconut milk
Once the lentils are cooked, finish the sweet potato and chickpea red lentil dal with coconut milk. The addition of coconut milk brings a luxurious creaminess to the dish. Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes then give the dal a final seasoning adjustment.
Transfer the dish to a serving platter and for an extra layer of richness, swirl in plain Greek yogurt to add acid. If the yogurt is too thick, you can add a splash of water to thin it out.
Garnish the dal with fresh cilantro and sliced fresh chilies if desired. Serve it alongside naan or crusty bread and dig in.
It also amazes me how just a handful of ingredients can come together to create one cohesive and delicious dish. The little bites of sweet potato with hearty chickpeas and tender chickpeas blend perfectly with the curry spices and creamy coconut milk. I would gladly devour this dish any time of the day, as a main dish or side!
Frequently asked questions
If you're not a fan of coconut milk, you can use heavy cream instead.
This recipe is mild but if you want to increase the spice level, you can adjust chilies or cayenne to the dal.
Absolutely! In fact, the flavors tend to develop and intensify if the dal is allowed to sit for a while. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
You can serve it alongside other Indian dishes such as Chicken tikka masala or saffron korma meatball curry. You can also make it the main dish and add extra protein such as seared halloumi or paneer cheese.
More Indian vegetarian recipes
Looking for vegetarian-friendly dishes with Indian flavors? Try these:
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Red Lentil Dal
- 2 tablespoons oil
- ½ medium onion finely chopped
- 10 ounces peeled and finely diced sweet potato ( 1 medium sweet potato)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons cilantro
- 1 red chili sliced (optional)
- Naan for serving (optional)
- Heat oil in a large sautepan over medium heat. Add onion and sweet potatoes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saute for 1 minute or until aromatic.
- Add coriander, cumin, curry powder, paprika, turmeric, and lentils, tossing to coat. Continue to cook for 1 minute or until lentils are toasted.
- Add canned diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and continue to cook uncovered until lentils and sweet potatoes are soft, about 25 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer dal to a serving platter and swirl in yogurt. Garnish with cilantro and red chili if using. Serve with naan if desired.