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My Grandmother's Coconut Red Lentil Dahl Recipe

Recipes Apr 22, 2020

Lots of you have requested that I share the recipe for the yellow lentil dahl that I often make, so here it is!

In case you didn’t know, my father’s side of the family is Sri Lankan, with a passion for food that’s been passed down for generations. My grandmother Lorna is an incredible cook and has dedicated her whole life to food – creating a bicycle lunch service in Colombo in the 60’s, sending dozens of lamprais (curry packets) to us in Brisbane from Melbourne when I was a child and finally cooking for hundreds of elderly people every week for her work with the CWA. She has so many amazing recipes – her pol sambal (coconut relish) is incredible, as is her kaju curry (cashew curry). And I’d slather seenie sambol (onion relish) on everything if I could. But my favourite staple on her table has to be Parippu – her yellow Dahl.

For the last few years I have batch cooked this on a Sunday to have throughout the week, which is why you see me cooking it so much! It’s delicious paired with a chicken curry, or served with a piece of pan fried salmon  and some greens. I even pop a fried egg on top for breakfast!  My grandma’s trick to a really amazing dahl is adding additional spices cooked in butter or oil at the end to give it zing.

My Grandmother’s Sri Lankan Yellow Dahl


  • 3 tbsp of ghee (or butter/coconut oil)
  • 2 large onions diced
  • 2 Garlic gloves, minced
  • A large piece of ginger, minced
  • 3 tbsp of fresh curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2.5 cups dried red split lentils, rinsed
  • 1.5 cups of coconut milk
  • 3 cups water or stock (I use chicken stock)
  • 1 large red chilli, thinly sliced


  1. Heat a large pot on medium heat and add a third of the ghee, half the onions, half the curry leaves and the ginger. Cook until the onions start to soften and then add the garlic, and the spices and fry, stirring occasionally until the onions are well cooked.
  2. Add the lentils and stir to coat them in the spices. Add the water/stock and pour into the lentils, and allow the lentils to soften. Add the coconut milk and cook for 15 – 20 minutes until the lentils reach a thick and creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. If it’s looking a bit dry you can a little more water.
  3. Once your dahl is almost ready, lower the heat of the large pot and take a small pot and in it put the remaining ghee, curry leaves, onion, mustard seeds and the chilli. Cook until the onions are well done and starting to caramelise and then add the mixture to the cooked lentils, stirring well to give the lentils a delicious coating and sheen. Season with salt and pepper and serve with rice, a sprinkle of coriander or as a side dish.

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