A tray of spicy roasted sweet potato and crispy onion infuses so much flavor into this red lentil and coconut milk dal. This is a fresh, filling, protein packed vegetarian dinner with an easy relaxed process… you will want to make it time and time again!

This dal is a cozy, simple meal in a bowl

This dal is so much more than a side dish! Packed with roasted sweet potatoes and onions, there is a vegetable component that keeps it well rounded with textures that keep it interesting. You will love this for a simple Indian inspired dinner with rice and/or naan bread; nothing else is really required.

If you’ve never tried sweet potato dal, you’re in for a treat! While it’s not authentic Indian cuisine in any way, the combination of creamy red lentils and melt in the mouth sweet potato just works. It takes the dal in a sweeter direction overall (especially with the addition of coconut milk) but we contrast that with the right whole spices (cumin seeds and fennel seeds) as well as finishing it off with some lemon and cilantro (fresh coriander).

This dal is made traybake style, in a roasting dish

Getting this right took me several tries, and for me the biggest game changer was when I took the time to roast the sweet potato rather than cooking it in the saucepan with the lentils. Sweet potato was just made for being roasted and baked, the oven is its natural habitat, and who am I to fight that?

If you’re worried about the additional effort, don’t be! I’ve kept it as streamlined as possible, and I think you’re going to love the process AND the outcome. Let’s take a look…

Of course, you could flip this and add the contents of the roasting dish to the saucepan or pot that you cooked the lentils in. You may prefer to serve it that way. But if you’re doing this, get a good spatula and make sure to scrape out as much of the roasting oil / spicy butter / stuck on crispy onion goodness as you can!

What to know about the Ingredients & Substitutions

  • This recipe uses red lentils, which are fast cooking lentils that will break apart and form a creamy base for the dal. Yellow lentils would work too, but they would have a much longer cook time (about an hour to turn really soft and creamy). I would not recommend swapping for green, brown or black lentils because they don’t break down and soften in the same manner – but if those are the lentils you want to use I can point you to my Green Lentil Dal (which can be made with green or brown lentils) or Black Lentil Dal recipes!
  • To keep this recipe vegan, use coconut oil or a vegan butter if you have one you like.
  • Ideally you want full fat coconut milk but light will be fine if you’d like to make that swap.
  • I call for one large sweet potato to make this recipe, but sweet potatoes can vary a lot in size so it’s more important to pay attention to how full the pan is. You want to fill it with sweet potato cubes but leave enough space around them to roast. This might require 2 smaller sweet potatoes or less than one really massive sweet potato.
  • The cumin seeds and fennel seeds add some savory base flavor to this dal, so don’t skip them. If you don’t have or want to use fennel seeds, though, you could use another type of seed such as coriander seed, mustard seed or fenugreek seed. The flavor will be different but still great.
  • I call for 1/4 tsp each of smoked paprika (for smokiness without heat) and chili powder (for a more intense flavor and heat). You can play around with this. You could use all chili powder or all smoked paprika. Use a hot or mild chili powder depending on your preferences.
  • Note this recipe doesn’t call for any fresh chili, relying instead on the chili powder, but you can certainly add some alongside the garlic and ginger if you’d like to.

Want to add more veggies?

Feel free!

  • Mixing in a few handfuls of baby spinach at the end is never a bad idea. Just mix them into the saucepan with the lentils until they start to wilt, before pouring into the pan of sweet potato.
  • Other hard veggies can be roasted in the pan alongside the sweet potatoes. Think mushrooms, eggplant, peppers. Just make sure the cook times will align.
  • I don’t add any tomato to this recipe (I did try it but I consistently preferred it without); however, you certainly could add a couple of chopped tomatoes if you wish. Add them to the saucepan with the lentils and coconut milk if you’d like them to break down, or add them to the pan at the end (alongside the butter and spices) if you’d like them chunky.

Roasted Sweet Potato Coconut Dal

A tray of spicy roasted sweet potato and crispy onion infuses so much flavor into this red lentil and coconut milk dal. This is a fresh, filling, protein packed vegetarian dinner with an easy relaxed process… you will want to make it time and time again!
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Ingredients

For the dal

  • 1 cup (180 g) red lentils
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1.5 cups (350 ml) water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ lemon for squeezing
  • 1 handful cilantro (fresh coriander), chopped

For the roasted sweet potatoes

  • 1 medium-large sweet potato
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 3 tbsp (45 g) salted butter or coconut oil

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F.
  • First, we'll get the dal simmering. Add the red lentils, coconut milk, salt and water into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Stir and allow to simmer over a very low heat. The lentils will soften and turn creamy after about 15-20 minutes, but you can just let them bubble away until the sweet potatoes are ready.
    1 cup red lentils, 1 can coconut milk, 1.5 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • Next, we'll get the sweet potatoes roasting. Scatter the cubed sweet potato and onion slices into a lightly oiled baking dish (ideally 9×13' with high sides). Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste and then place in the oven for 20 minutes.
    1 medium-large sweet potato, 1 small red onion
  • Meanwhile, measure out and prep your spices and aromatics. Using a pestle and mortar, lightly crush the cumin and fennel seeds. Add to small bowl with the garam masala, chili powder and smoked paprika. Chop your ginger, garlic and cilantro (coriander).
    1 tbsp chopped fresh garlic, 2 tsp chopped fresh ginger, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp garam masala, 1/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp chili powder, 1 handful cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • After 20 minutes in the oven, check in on the sweet potato and onion. The sweet potato should be soft and brown at the edges, and the onions a little bit crispy and caramelised. Give them a little more oven time if needed.
  • Remove from the oven and immediately pour the spices, ginger and garlic into the pan and mix through. Add the butter to the dish, then place back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant and the butter is melted (it may even be bubbling a little). Be careful not to leave it in the oven any longer than this – you don't want it to dry out or for the spices to burn.
    3 tbsp salted butter or coconut oil
  • Now pour the cooked lentils into the pan with the sweet potatoes and onion. Add the cilantro and a couple squeezes of lemon juice. Stir to combine, making sure the butter and spices infuse through all of the dal. You can use a wooden spoon to break up some of the sweet potato cubes if you wish, though it's fine to leave them all whole.
    1/2 lemon for squeezing, 1 handful cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • Serve immediately, with rice and/or naan, and additional lemon slices for squeezing if desired.
Calories: 523kcal, Carbohydrates: 53g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 24g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 23mg, Sodium: 431mg, Potassium: 1031mg, Fiber: 18g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 12516IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 99mg, Iron: 8mg