Coconut Tadka Dal (Vegan)

I am the first to admit that I can’t seem to sustain a Vegan diet for good, let alone a month! But Veganuary is a great opportunity to try and cut back on meat and dairy and the recent trend over the years has really made us think about what we eat. For me and my family, we try and reduce the amount of meat we eat each week, however we can’t seem to reduce our dairy! Baby steps.

Dal is one of our weeknight staple meals. It’s so easy to make and my daughter absolutely loves it. It can be a very healthy dish too, full of proteins from the lentils. However growing up, we are used to putting lashings of butter and ghee in the dal, which of course makes it even tastier but lately I’ve questioned whether we need to do this every time. Surely it’s sending the calories of a perfectly healthy dish through the roof.

Whilst I am not planning to cut out dairy in our food, I decided to make this dal vegan by swapping the butter for coconut oil. I can honestly say it was absolutely delicious, gave a lovely coconut flavour and I didn’t miss the butter at all. I know coconut oil can be just as calorific as butter, but I found myself using a lot less than I would if I used butter. Surely that’s a good thing?

Anyway, regardless of the intention, this vegan dal is a winner and can be made in less than 30 minutes. Happy toddler over here! I specifically use the red lentils for this dal when I want something quick, plus they are cheap and easy to find.

What is ‘Tadka’?

A ‘tadka’ is a technique that is used in many Indian recipes whereby oil and whole spices are heated up and lastly added to a dish for extra flavour. This is my version and I like to add garlic slices to my tadka as they crisp up nicely and add a crunch to the dal. Delicious!

Here’s how I made mine:

Serves 2-3 people


  • 200g red lentils
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp each of turmeric, chilli powder, ground coriander and ground cumin
  • 1 small handful of coriander, chopped
  • salt to taste

For the tadka:

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3-4 curry leaves
  • coriander to garnish


  1. Wash the dal to get rid of any grit, then add to a saucepan with approximately 1 pint of boiling water. Add a pinch of salt and turmeric and boil on a medium to high heat for 12-15 minutes or until soft and cooked through. Add a splash more water if it dries out too quickly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small pan, add 1 tbsp of coconut oil on a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cumin seeds and sauté for a few minutes until the onions are soft and slightly browned.
  3. Next, add the ginger, garlic and spices and cook out for a minute or so.
  4. Then add the chopped tomato and coriander and sizzle for a few minutes until the mixture forms a rough paste.
  5. Once cooked, add the spice paste to the dal and stir. You may need to add some more water to the dal, depending on how thick or soupy you want the texture to be.
  6. Let the dal simmer for about 5 minutes.
  7. Whilst simmering, make the tadka. In the same frying pan (you can just wipe it clean), add 1 tbsp of coconut oil and heat through. Then add the remaining tadka ingredients and sizzle for a minute or until the garlic is golden.
  8. Pour the tadka over the dal and serve with a garnish of coriander leaves. This can be eaten with rice, roti or just on its own as a soup. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you give this a try or if you have any great vegan recipes for me, I’d love to hear from you!

My name is Bhavisha Surti and I am a food photographer and stylist based in Milton Keynes. Please subscribe to my blog below and check out my website to see more of my work at you! 

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