Dal Nirvana

$3.39 recipe / $0.57
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.84 from 50 votes
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Things are a little tight this month so I made a resolution to use up all (or a lot) of the food that I have in my pantry and freezer. Sure, I should always be doing this anyway but exciting recipes always seem to entice me into trying (and buying) new things.

Anyway, I have two huge bags of lentils (a.k.a. “dal”) sitting in my pantry that have been waiting for their day in the spot light. I saw this recipe for Dal Nirvana over on Steamy Kitchen and it looked so scrumptious that I had to try it. The best part is that the ingredient list is mostly items that I already have. Indian recipes are tricky because they usually include ingredients that I don’t have nor have I ever heard of! This recipe, on the other hand is different. It’s simple, it’s delicious, it’s super filling and I’d happily eat it every day.

I served the Dal with some simple, steamed jasmine rice and homemade naan (Indian flat bread). The recipe for the naan will be up in a couple of days… it turned out AMAZING!

Dal Nirvana

Dal Nirvana with Naan and rice plated on white plate

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Dal Nirvana

4.84 from 50 votes
Dal nirvana is a simple, creamy lentil dish seasoned with aromatic Indian spices.
Servings 6
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 1 hour
Total 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 1 cup dry brown lentils ($0.31)
  • 1 15oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes ($1.49)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.12)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger ($0.07)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.03)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin ($0.03)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.17)
  • salt and pepper to taste ($0.05)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk or cream ($0.75)
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro ($0.37)


  • Place the lentils in a pot and cover with a couple inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until tender (about ten minutes). Drain the lentils in a colander.
  • While the lentils are boiling, mince the garlic and peel and grate the ginger (use a small cheese grater). Return the drained lentils to the pot (medium heat) and add the butter, ginger, garlic, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Add the can of tomatoes and one cup of water. Stir it all together, bring it to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Put a lid on the pot and let it simmer for half an hour. The mixture should be soft and thick after a half hour. If it is not, continue to simmer, adding more water if it dries out. You want the end product to be thick, not watery.
  • Stir in the evaporated milk or cream and garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro. Serve over rice or with naan bread for dipping!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 204.3kcalCarbohydrates: 28.98gProtein: 10.78gFat: 6.08gSodium: 327.67mgFiber: 5.05g
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Dal Nirvana with naan and rice plated on white plate

Step By Step Photos

brown lentils in bag with measuring cup full of lentils on side
I have this huge bag of brown lentils so that is what I used. Black lentils were used in the Steamy Kitchen recipe so feel free to experiment.

lentils and water in pot
Place the lentils in a pot and cover with two inches of water.

lentils boiling in pot
Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Boil until the lentils are soft (about ten minutes).

ginger and garlic with garter and peeler
While the lentils boil, mince the garlic, peel and grate the ginger.

lentils in drainer
Drain the lentils then return them to the pot (reduce heat to medium).

lentils in pot with butter, garlic, ginger, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper
Add the butter, garlic, ginger, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir it on up.

tomatoes added to lentils and spices in pot with wooden spoon
Add the can of crushed or diced tomatoes, one cup of water and stir it all together.

mixture simmering in pot
Simmer the mixture with a lid on until it is cooked down to a soft, thick mixture.

cream added to cooked lentil mixture in pot with wooden spoon
Add the evaporated milk or cream…

finished lentils in pot with wooden spoon
Stir it up, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve it up!

Dal Nirvana with naan and white rice plated on white plate

NOTE: I’m sure you could make this recipe for less money than I did. I happened to be near a Whole Foods yesterday so I stopped there to pick up the few ingredients that I didn’t have (cilantro, ginger, cream and diced tomatoes). I may have paid a little more than usual but this recipe is so simple and inexpensive that it was still well worth it.

The Steamy Kitchen version says it serves four but I portioned out my lunches and got six servings out of the pot. Of course, I was serving the Dal with rice and naan which bulked up the meal as a whole.

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  1. As the classic college student in their first apartment, building up a spice collection has been my biggest struggle– they’re EXPENSIVE. This recipe is perfect for getting a tasty Indian recipe without a masala dabba! I used “Italian style (I think garlic and basil added)” crushed tomatoes because I had them on hand. I also tossed in a bit of yellow curry spice blend from a sampler, and a teeny bit of a veg bullion cube. I love spice so I kept the amount of cayenne, but I don’t recommend using the full amount unless you like it moderately spicy!

  2. This recipe is delicious! Even my young children loved it. I was able to feed my family of 5 and have leftovers for under $5 Canadian. Win win!

  3. This is one of my favorite recipes. I have been making it for years and it is always delicious. My kids are adventurous eaters anyway and this a family favorite. Thanks!

  4. This is an all time recipe. I’ve made it probably a dozen times and it always plays.