Coconut Daal with Crispy Potatoes

April is Earth Month, a great time to reaffirm our eating and living habits in ways that are helpful to the planet. Whether you do Meatless Monday, eat entirely plant-based, or take a semi-vegetarian, flexitarian approach, eating more plants can make a serious impact. Besides being good for both you and the planet, sustainable eating can be satisfying and delicious, too. 

Dal is both an ingredient and a dish, and while it may be a humble meal, it’s tremendous depth of flavor makes it indulgent to enjoy. In Sanskrit, an ancient Indo-Aryan language, dal means “to split.” Dal (also spelled daal or dhal) are dried, split pulses such as lentils, peas, and beans used in Indian cuisine that do not require soaking before cooking. It is also the term used for various soups prepared from these pulses. 

Most dal preparations are quite simple to prepare and recipes tend to be regionally specific. From spicy and tangy sambar in Tamil Nadu to creamy and luxurious dal makhani in Delhi, there are infinite ways to prepare dal. This Coconut Daal with Crispy Potatoes is rich, fragrant and packed with protein for a healthy meal. Topped with crispy curried potato wedges, it’s a hearty stew-like soup that’s perfect for when you’re craving something deeply cozy. 

Red lentils, or masoor dal, are inexpensive, quick-cooking, and endlessly versatile. Seasoned with an aromatic mixture of spices, they’re a perfect plant-based Indian meal. Not too spicy, loaded with flavor and texture, it is truly the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time. But what really makes this dish amazing is the crispy potatoes that top it. They are simply out of this world.

Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list. Start by measuring all of your spices for the potatoes into a small prep bowl. Into another small bowl, measure your curry powder, turmeric and cumin for the lentils. Set out your coriander seed, mustard seed, butter, salt and pepper. Gather a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of coconut milk. Chop your onion and carrot and dice your jalapeño. Peel your garlic and ginger so they’re ready to grate. While your daal is cooking you can rinse and chop your kale, pick through your cilantro leaves, quarter your lime and slice your green onion. 

Filling, flavorful, warming and delicious: daal is what’s for dinner. 

Coconut Daal with Crispy Potatoes


  • 4 to 6 medium yellow flesh potatoes, quartered (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced 
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can coconut milk, well shaken
  • 4 cups roughly chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • plain yogurt, for serving
  • toasted coconut chips, for serving
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • cilantro leaves, for serving

For the potatoes: Place a large baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450º F. Place potatoes into a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with cold water. Season with kosher salt, then bring to a boil over high heat. Parboil potatoes until just fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain into a colander and allow to steam dry for 1 to 2 minutes. 

Add butter to pot then set over medium heat. Stir in spices, letting warm for about 30 seconds. Add potatoes and toss to coat; season with kosher salt. Remove baking sheet from oven and carefully add potatoes to sheet. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and crisp, stirring about halfway through.

For the daal: Once potatoes are in the oven, wipe the pot you used for the potatoes out with a bit of paper towel. Add butter to pot, then return it to medium heat. Once butter melts, add onion, carrot, coriander seeds and mustard seeds and season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until onion is golden and carrot is slightly soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. 

Add jalapeño, garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently until fragrant. Add spices and lentils and let toast for 1 minute. Add 2 cups water, crushed tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 18 to 22 minutes. 

When lentils are tender and potatoes are done, stir kale and cilantro into the daal just to wilt, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve daal in bowls topped with crispy potatoes, a lime wedge, a dollop of yogurt and a scattering of toasted coconut, sliced green onions and cilantro leaves. 

-Mary Berg,

Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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