Foodie Friday: Vegan Punjabi Lentils

Lentils are fast becoming my favorite meat-alternative. They are quick, easy and (I think) delicious. They are also traditional in lots of different types of cuisine – Middle Eastern, North African, Italian and French, to name a few. And of course, Indian food has so many amazing lentil dishes, especially dal.

Credit where credit is due, I based this recipe on this one by Smitten Kitchen, except I did it in a lazier way (less dicing), added some veggies (carrots) and eliminated the butter and cream to make it vegan. If you want to up the richness of the dish and move into vegetarian territory, you can add plain yogurt, sour cream and/or butter to taste. The spice ratios were right on, I think!


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped (I like to keep ginger in the freezer and then microplane it – it keeps forever and makes it much easier to prep than chopping. If you do this method you need 1 tbs. microplaned)
  • 2 garlic cloves through garlic press
  • 3 carrots, chopped into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (you can leave this out since it’s more of a specialty ingredient, but it is much better with it!)
  • Ground chili powder, to taste (I used 1 frozen green Serrano pepper from our garden)
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (I ended up using frozen green tomatoes from our garden and it worked very well!)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup dried black lentils (if you don’t have black lentils, you can really substitute any other kind of lentil here, just adjust water accordingly based on package instructions)
  • 4 1/2 cups water, plus more if you like thinner daal
  • Chopped green onions to top


Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Once hot, add onion, carrots and cumin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion starts to sweat (you don’t have to wait long, only 5 minutes or so – this will all cook for a while later). Add ginger, cook for 1 minute more, then add the rest of the spices, the garlic and tomato and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring. Add water and salt, then lentils. Bring to simmer, then reduce to low and cover and cook until lentils are tender, between 35 and 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. I like to cover and put in a 350 degree oven, checking every ten minutes or so to see if lentils are soft and cooked through. You can add spices to taste, and add water if you’d like as well to thin it out. I served this over jasmine rice, which I made per package instructions, and topped with some green onion, because I’m an onion addict.