Coconut Lentil Curry
Up your lentil soup game with this flavorful coconut enriched, warming dal. Every region of India has its own favorate dal, and Kerala’s version is made with the three cooking essentials of this state: black mustard seeds, curry leaves, and coconut milk. As for the lentils used, yellow lentils (moong dal) is traditionally the most popular dal (lentils) in Kerala, but I also loved this soup with split pigeon peas, also called split yellow gram (toor dal/matar dal), AND the regular brown lentils that you can easily found in the grocery store. They all have slightly different flavors and textures, but all work beautifully in this dish.
Called "parippu curry" in Kerala, this dal is a special occasion and festival favorite because of it’s creamy soulfulness. The word sadhya means "feast" in Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala. Celebratory vegetarian meals are served on banana leaves, offering up a variety of banquet dishes, including this lentil curry. And cooking it in the Instant Pot makes it quick and easy. This recipe is based on one from Ashley Singh Thomas’s post on her blog, My Heart Beets. And if you haven’t visited her blog, it is a must-go-to source for really delicious Instant Pot Indian recipes.
Dal & Dal
Dal is both the word for lentils that are split AND a soup made from lentils. Dal, the split lentils, are an essential source for protein in India, for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. In North India, dal is cooked just to the point of tenderness, but the lentils still keep their shape. However, South Indian dal is cooked longer, resulting in a smooth, creamy soup. With either consistency, this is an easy, healthy, satisfying antidote to cold weather and the ills of this world.
A big pot of lentils with some rice and your favorite flatbread makes a healthy and easy meal to put together. Also, dals tend to be nice and thick, so add water if you prefer a thinner soup. And have fun playing around with different lentils. I have made this dal with three different varieties so far, and they all tasted slightly different but were all satisfying, each in their own way. If you would like to make a North Indian dal, try the luscious dal makhani.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Coconut Lentil Curry(Kerala Parippu)
- 1 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas) ~ Or yellow lentils (moong dal), or brown lentils
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil ~ Or oil of your choice
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds ~ Or mustard seeds you have
- 15 curry leaves ~ About & find. See Notes below.
- 1 1/2 cups water ~ 4 cups of water if cooking on the stovetop
- 1 13 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
- 2 small Indian green chilis
~ 1-inch slit down either side, or 1 serrano, more or less to your taste; about
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice ~ Optional, and more to taste
- ghee ~ Optional, for drizzling over the top
Instant Pot Instructions
- Using the sauté function, add the coconut oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves.
- When the mustard seeds start popping, add all the rest of the ingredients except the salt and lemon juice. Place the lid on, close the pressure valve, and change the instant pot setting to pressure cook on high for 10 minutes.
- When the Instant Pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally (NPR) for 10 minutes. Then release the pressure manually, open the lid when the pot is ready. Add the salt and lemon juice if using.
- For a rich flourish just before serving, drizzle a bit of ghee over the top.
Cooking on the Stovetop
- Drain the water and return the dal to the saucepan. Add 4 cups of water, a small Indian green chili, and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-high heat until the peas are just tender, but not mushy. This will take about 15 minutes.
- In another pan on medium, heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start popping, after about 2 minutes, add the other Indian green chili, the cumin, and turmeric. Sauté for a minute or two to toast the spices. Add the coconut milk and simmer on low for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat until the dal is finished cooking.
- Drain the dal and mix it into the coconut milk and spice mixture. Add the salt and lemon juice and taste for acid and salt. If you want more chili heat, add a pinch or two of Kashmiri ground chili. Drizzle with ghee if you wish before serving.
- Depending on the lentils you are using, you may need to tweak the salt and lemon juice (if using).
- I have cooked with three different dals (lentils) for this coconut lentil soup, and they all are delicious. I do encourage you to find the toor dal, however.
- You may find the finished dal too thick for your taste. Simply add water until you have the desired consistency.
- If you prefer lentils that keep their shape rather than dissolve into the soup, cook the dal on high pressure for 8 minutes rather than 10, if you are using the Instant Pot. If you are cooking on the stovetop, you can start checking your lentils at the 10-minute mark.
- Curry leaves add herbaceous, anise, and citrus notes to a dish. curry. If you can’t find them, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of lime rind. The result won't be the same but the zest can add some of the citrus notes you get with the real thing. Buy unwaxed fruit.
- This is a mild dish. If you prefer more heat and possibly a more intensely flavored dal, rather than leaving the chilis whole mince them. Also, feel free to add another chili or so. Starting with a 1/4 teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder, up the heat at the end if you feel the dish needs it. You can also add a teaspoon or more of minced or grated garlic with the rest of the ingredients if you are using the Instant Pot. If you are cooking on the stovetop, add a clove or two of crushed garlic in as the dal is cooking.