Sweet potato dahl with red lentils is so ingrained in our recipe repertoire that whenever I suggest ‘dahl tonight?’ the enthusiastic ‘yes’ just assumed it’s all about this recipe. That’s for good reason, red lentil dahl with just 10 ingredients including loads of sweet potatoes is one of our all-time favorites.
What we love about sweet potato dahl
Besides the fantastic flavor and natural sweetness of our favorite tuber, this is another one-pot recipe that doesn’t require anything fancy and you can even make a few substitutions if split red lentils, jalapenos or black mustard seeds allude you. Heck, I’ve even had an occasion where I used Japanese sweet potatoes or purple sweet potatoes when my beloved orange ones were all sold out. Seriously, was everybody in town making dahl that night?
And to be honest, as I gained more confidence and experience cooking Indian dishes, I've tweaked this recipe ever so slightly to the point it is today. Whereas in the past, I would have added ground cumin, today I am all in with toasting cumin seeds whenever it makes sense. What's great about a one-pot recipe like this is that you can start out toasting a teaspoon of cumin seeds and black mustard seeds (use yellow if you can't find black). Then you just start layering everything on as you go.
The second part I love about cooking this particular dahl is that it goes so quickly. It takes 1 minute to toast the seeds, then you just saute the onions and jalapenos, add the tomatoes, curry powder, and turmeric and give it a quick stir. After that, it's just diced sweet potatoes, lentils, and broth. That's a cover, simmer and eat kinda dinner that we honestly love.
The secret that isn't
One of the other wonderful things about sweet potatoes is their ability to create a creamy, velvety texture. It doesn't matter if you are making this lovely sweet potato dahl recipe or Chilean sweet potato stew, or Thai sweet potato curry, The secret is the same - time and liquid. For this recipe, I found 6 cups of vegetable broth (or water) about the right amount for 2 cups of split red lentils along with the potatoes.
I'm a sensible cook (most of the time) and I realize that my 2 cups of diced sweet potatoes might not be the same as yours. For one thing, we would never sacrifice a few leftover potato cubes for the sake of a perfect measure. And realistically, I've rarely had the experience of getting the exact measure or weight of potatoes for any recipe. They don't cooperate with me like that.
This is my roundabout way of letting you know that if you have a few extra cubes of potatoes you might discover you need a bit more broth or water as your dahl simmers. It’s better when you’re simmering lentils if you have a little too much rather than too little.
The split with lentils
There are a few different kinds of lentils out there. Ok, there are more than I can list, but when I’m considering anything with red lentils (which I do a lot), there are two kinds on my mind. Whole and split. Simple. Personally, I love using the split kind because they cook quicker and usually my intention is red lentil dahl so I want them to completely break down.
In defense of whole red lentils, they will also break down into a wonderful creaminess. It might just take a bit longer, that’s all. That’s one of those minor adjustments you get to make when you cook. Just be sure to watch the liquid and taste the lentils to make sure they are falling apart. A little lentil integrity of original shape is fine, but you never want to eat al dente lentils. Well, maybe you do, but your stomach will likely advise you otherwise.
Besides, the ideal consistency of dahl, at least for my big bowl preference is a thick, velvety soup. A spicy, melt-in-your-mouth experience and one you are happy to repeat for this and future settings. That luxurious sensation plus the heartiness of the mushy sweet potatoes and creamy lentils along with the flavorful spices makes this a one-stop dinner in-a-bowl meal. This is no starter soup. At most you might consider a simple 5-minute cucumber salad or maybe some flatbread to scoop it up.
If you want to doll it up a bit, you can’t go wrong with some finely chopped red onion and/or chopped coriander. Depending on how the jalapenos are and if I’ve partaken of the medium, not the hot curry powder, a few red chili flakes might also be welcome.
I waited until adulthood to learn about dahl and other Indian dishes. It wasn’t part of my family’s recipe repertoire. It took years, a move across the ocean, a bit of travel, and the inspiration to expand my eating adventures to get me to the sweet potato dahl I now make as a routine.
After gathering all those great recipes, it was with a certain delight that I realized I could take them all with me when I decided to eat plant-based (and oil-free) exclusively. I learned that all my favorite recipes and a constant gathering of new guest recipes could easily become tweaked (if that were required) to join the party table. Our plant-based ‘routine’ isn’t nearly so routine, but there’s always room for favorites. I sincerely hope this easy sweet potato dahl becomes one of yours too. Peace.Print
Creamy sweet potato dahl with red lentils delivers a plant-based, oil-free velvety delicious meal-in-a-bowl in 10 ingredients and 35 minutes prep to table.
- 1 medium red onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced into half-moons (about 1 cup)
- 1-2 jalapenos, diced (remove the seeds if you don’t want it too hot)
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. black mustard seeds (can substitute yellow)
- 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (3-4 medium)
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 2 cups red lentils, rinsed
- 2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
- 6 cups vegetable broth or water (you can also use 2 – 3 vegetable stock cubes)
- Heat a medium pot over medium heat.
- Add 1 tsp. cumin seeds and 1 tsp. black mustard seeds and toast the seeds for 1 minute so they release their aroma.
- Add the onions and jalapenos and saute for 5 minutes until they start to soften, stirring frequently so they don’t start to stick.
- Stir in the tomatoes and then add the 1 tsp. turmeric and 2 tsp. curry powder.
- Fold in the lentils and sweet potatoes and then add the broth. Mix everything and bring the pot to a low boil.
- Lower the heat and cover the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove the cover, stir and check the potatoes and make sure there is still enough broth left if you need to continue cooking. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes until the lentils are broken down and the potatoes are creamy.
- If you substitute ground cumin for the cumin seeds or dry mustard powder for the mustard seeds, skip the first step and add the ground spiced along with the turmeric and curry powder. Add the ground in the same amounts (1 teaspoon each).
- You can substitute canned tomatoes for the fresh. Use 1- 15 oz. can and be sure to dice the tomatoes if they are not already crushed. In this case, you may need to increase the broth, but do this after the potatoes and lentils have simmered for 15 minutes.
- Category: Soups & Stews
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: sweet potato dahl with red lentils