Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe

Bowl of Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

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Sri Lankan dhal curry is a simple, delicious, everyday comfort food. It goes well with rice and any flatbreads.

Bowl of Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Theme of the Week – Global Cuisine

The theme for this week is global cuisine and my choice is Sri Lankan cuisine. Sri Lanka is India’s southern neighbor and it’s cuisine is influenced by South Indian cuisine. Rice and coconut are staple. After a 6 month break from blogging, I am still struggling to get back to blogging routine. Hence went safe with this cuisine which is close to native food. Sri Lankan dhal curry is similar to Indian dals with minor variation.

Sri Lankan Meal with Dhal Curry

What is Dhal Curry?

Dhal Curry is a staple in Sri Lanka and served with rice or roti, along with other veg or non veg curries and a sambol. Sambol is a spicy Sri Lankan condiment, similar to Indian chutneys. Sri Lankan dhal curry is red lentils cooked in coconut milk with some roasted onions, tomatoes and a few spices.

As with any recipe, there are many versions of dhal curry; varying in preparation to ingredients. Today’s recipe is a no garlic version with minimal spices.

Bowl of Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Why Dhal Curry?

Intriguing and unique ingredient in Sri Lankan dhal curry is coconut milk, which makes it unique from Indian dals. Grated coconut or coconut paste is common in some South Indian dals but addition of coconut milk is a rarity. Addition of cream or milk is common in some North Indian dals and those taste amazing. One such dal is Lucknowi dal, which I tried for Dazzling Dal series back in May but could not post the recipe. Since dairy milk tastes good in dal, it was time to taste coconut milk, hence dhal curry.

Besides, dhal curry is quick and easy recipe that comes together in under 30 minutes, which is a must have recipe for crazy weekday meals.

Bowl of Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe

5 from 6 votes
Bowl of Sri Lankan Dhal Curry
Sri Lankan Dhal Curry
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
25 mins
Sri Lankan Dhal curry is everyday red lentils cooked in coconut milk.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Sri Lankan
Keyword: Comfort Food, Everday Food, Gluten Free, Vegan
Servings: 3
  • ¼ cup Masoor Dal ~ Red Lentils
  • ½ cup Water
  • 1 - 2 tbsp Coconut Milk or Oil of choice
Tempering Ingredients
  • 2 tsp Coconut Oil
  • tsp Mustard Seeds
  • tsp Cumin Seeds
  • tsp Fenugreek Seeds
  • 3-4 Curry Leaves
  • 2-3 Green Chilies cut in half
  • ¼ cup sliced Onions
  • ¼ cup Tomatoes chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ tsp Turmeric
  • Garlic optional
  1. Wash masoor dal and cook with ½ cup of water until dal is cooked but firm. This takes about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add coconut milk and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes.
  3. Meantime, heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, cumin, fenugreek seeds and let mustard seeds pop.
  4. Throw in curry leaves, green chilies, onions and saute until onions are soft.
  5. Add tomatoes, salt, turmeric and cook until tomatoes are soft, and mushy.
  6. Transfer onion tomato mixture to cooked masoor dal, keeping aside a some  mixture for garnish.

  7. Check consistency of dal, add water if required, bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

  8. Garnish dhal curry with remaining onion tomato mixture.  

  9. Serve hot with rice along with few other  non veg or veg curries.

Recipe Notes
  • Garlic - is an optional ingredient and if using, add some crushed garlic in tempering.
  • Coconut Milk - I used canned milk. If using top layer, use 1 tbsp. If using coconut milk, use 2 tablespoons.
  • Green Chilies - Dhal is not spicy hot and add more green chilies for some heat, as per heat tolerance level.
  • Variation - Cook dal with some onion, garlic and curry leaves. This is in addition to onions and curry leaves that go into the tempering.

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Bowl of Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

This day in:
2013 – Aloo Pakoda
2014 – Tomato Basil Loaf
2016 – Sooji Dhokla ~ Rava Dhokla

This is my entry to My Legume Love Affair, MLLA # 122. This is a series started by Susan, hosted by Lisa. This month’s guest host is Cook with Renu.


Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners are doing this BM#94

17 thoughts on “Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe

    1. Yes, Priya. Can’t go wrong with this dhal. All one needs do is adjust the seasoning as it might be a bit bland for spice lovers.

  1. I have been wanting to make this dal ever since I bookmarked it among the recipes while doing the Sinhalese cuisine for a past BM! It sounds very similiar to how we make our dal, but with minor differences, and I really want to know how it tastes like! That whole meal looks so delicious and homely…

  2. 5 stars
    This is so similar to our dhal and yet so different with the addition of coconut milk. It must have definitely added to the texture and flavour. Looks yum.

    1. Coconut milk does add to the flavor and since I used coconut oil as well for tempering, it felt little heavy (more filling) compared to other dals.

  3. 5 stars
    I made Lucknowi dal with regular milk and I see this Sri Lankan dal with coconut milk. Amazed at the similarities across countries. This one sounds very flavorful with coconut milk.

  4. I love Srilanka recipes because they resemble our recipes a lot. And with the addition of coconut in most of the dishes they are so full of flavour. I haven’t tried adding coconut in dal but this sounds awesome. That spread looks amazing Usha.

  5. 5 stars
    Welcome back to blogging Usha. I know the first post after a break is always difficult, but you did great 🙂
    Sri Lankan dal curry looks delicious. I love the addition of coconut milk in there.

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