Curried Brown Rice and Lentils: A Simple Indian Dal Recipe

They say the US is the melting pot of all cultures – that we eat everyone’s food, combine everyone’s culture, and use everyone’s traditions. And while that might be true – I bet you can find any type of food somewhere in the US – I also think it’s mostly a lie for the Standard American Kitchen.

Top down, slightly oblique view of a simple Indian dal dish made of curried brown rice and lentils in a white ceramic bowl.

At least in California, that is, for those of us whose families have been here a few generations. Here, the “ethnic” food that is cooked in most homes is Mexican food and Italian – and we don’t really even get that into it.

Top down view of a white ceramic bowl of an Indian dal dish made of curried rice and lentils on a rustic wooden table top with leafy greens and green cloth napkins. A bowl of spice, utensils, and a water glass are also on the table.

Mostly it’s just burritos and pasta, with the occasional lasagne thrown in. And now, I’m definitely not complaining because those foods are downright tasty, but what I wouldn’t give for a little bit of Japanese food sometimes! Or Colombian, what do they eat there? Has any of us even thought about what the heck Norwegian food would be like?

I have no idea!

Top down view of a bowl of spice containing garam masala, curry powder, coriander, turmeric, ground ginger, and cumin.

So what I’m saying is that I’m going to try to “get out” more. Experience more cultures through their food, even if I Californianize it, if you will.

Like this recipe. I wanted something with Indian roots. I know dals are a big thing in Indian food, but I didn’t know the first thing about making a dal.

Oblique view of a white ceramic bowl of curried brown rice and lentils sitting on weathered wooden surface.

In fact, I wasn’t really even quite sure what a dal was. Technically, a dal is really just a lentil of some sort. It can also be used to describe a stew of sorts made with the lentils, so I think that pretty accurately describes what we’ve made here. We’re gonna roll with it.

We love making rice and beans for a hearty dinner side dish, so this lentil and rice recipe would be a great transition. And because we wanted this to be an easy glide into Indian food, I stuck with spices that are generally easy to find.

Close up and oblique view of a white ceramic bowl full of an Indian dal recipe consisting of curry, garam masala, cloves, cumin, tarragon, cumin, and ground ginger along with lentils and brown rice.

The only one that might be a bit tricky to find is the garam masala. It’s a combination of things like nutmeg, cloves, and allspice, and really rounds out this dish. I also use it all the time in my banana bread, which is an unexpected and delicious kick.

I find it in the bulk section of the local health foods store (which technically is now a Whole Foods…). Along with the rice and lentils, this is stuffed with onions, potatoes, and eggplant. It is chock-full of flavor and SO FILLING.

Top down view a white ceramic bowl full of a curried brown rice and lentil recipe flavored with garam masala and other spices.

This takes about an hour from start to finish, but most of that time it’s just simmering away on the stove. Not bad! It’s also naturally vegan and gluten free, which is always a plus. So, if you’re looking to try out some (faux) Indian food, this is an awesome, healthy place to start!

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Front oblique view of a bowl of a Indian Dal curried brown rice and lentils flavored with garam masala and other aromatic spices. A clump of green parsley sits to the right of the bowl.

Curried Brown Rice and Lentils: A Simple Indian Dal

  • Author: Raquel Smith
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


An easy and satisfying recipe for those looking to try their first Indian dish. Full of flavor but not too heavy on the spice, this is a delicious way to get some healthy brown rice and lentils into your diet.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup tomato puree
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/41/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp roasted curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 3 small yellow potatoes, diced
  • 2 japanese eggplants, diced
  • 2 cups dry brown rice
  • 1/2 cup whole green lentils
  • 67 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala


  1. Warm the olive oil in a medium sized try-ply stock pot (or something similar) over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Lower heat to medium and add the tomato puree and spices, then cook while stirring constantly for about 4 minutes, until thickened slightly.
  2. Stir in the diced potatoes and eggplants, the brown rice, and the lentils. Add 6 cups of the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 45 minutes, until the rice and lentils are soft.
  3. Give the pot a good stir and add some more water if needed. You want it to be just a tiny bit soupy. Add the frozen peas and cook another 5 minutes or so until they are fully warmed through. Finally stir in the garam masala, then serve immediately. Enjoy!
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 50 mins
  • Category: Vegan
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: Indian food, dal, garam masala, vegan, curry, brown rice, lentils, gluten-free

Have you ever prepared an Indian dal dish before? How did it compare to this one? What about a tikka masala? Let us know in the comments below and please rate this recipe if you’ve tried it!

And if you liked this dish, you should love these suggestions:

Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 9th, 2014. Last updated: March 29, 2020 at 12:06 pm.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Raquel Smith

Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now merged into Foodal).

10 thoughts on “Curried Brown Rice and Lentils: A Simple Indian Dal Recipe”

  1. I just love Indian food and this rice and lentils look amazing! So cozy and comforting. Beautiful photography! 🙂

  2. Made this recipe during quarantine to use up some of my pantry staples. So good. Sometimes i worry with new recipes we’ll have a ton leftover we don’t like. This was DELICIOUS! We had it for breakfast (w//fried egg) and lunch with quick naan for about 3 days and we still are raving about it.

    • Hello, Teresa! It should be possible, with some small adjustments. You can follow the recipe close to as written, using the same amounts.

      Use the “Saute” setting of your Instant Pot for the first step in the recipe to cook the onion, tomato puree, and spices. After adding the remaining ingredients, pressure cook for 20-25 minutes. For a more thorough explanation, study our article on How to Cook Brown Rice in the Pressure Cooker:


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