Dal Nirvana

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

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4.82 from 37 votes

Dal Nirvana

Dal nirvana is a simple, creamy lentil dish seasoned with aromatic Indian spices.
Total Cost: $3.39 recipe / $0.57 serving
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 10 mins
Servings: 6


  • 1 cup dry brown lentils ($0.31)
  • 15 oz 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 cumin ($0.03)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.17)
  • to taste salt and pepper ($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!

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.
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Dal Nirvana

Step By Step Photos

brown lentils
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.

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

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

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

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

add butter and spices
Add the butter, garlic, ginger, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir it on up.

add tomatoes
Add the can of crushed or diced tomatoes, one cup of water and stir it all together.

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

add cream
Add the evaporated milk or cream…

Stir it up, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve it up!

Dal Nirvana

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.