Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (2024)

Published: · Modified: by Usha Rao

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

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (1)

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.

Jump to:
  • What is Dhal Curry?
  • Why Dhal Curry?
  • Sri Lankan Cuisine
  • 📖 Recipe

Why Dhal Curry?

Intriguing and unique ingredient in this 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 this 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.

Sri Lankan 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.

Dhal curry is similar to Indian dals with minor variation. A simple, delicious meal I put together from this cuisine is kale mallung, eggplant salad and dhal curry with rice. For a non veg option, try some Sri Lankan shrimp curry.

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (2)

📖 Recipe

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (3)

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Sri Lankan Dhal curry is everyday red lentils cooked in coconut milk.

4.75 from 8 votes

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Course: Side Dish

Cuisine: Sri Lankan

Prep Time: 5 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes minutes

Servings: 3



Tempering Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoon Coconut Oil
  • teaspoon Mustard Seeds
  • teaspoon Cumin Seeds
  • teaspoon 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 teaspoon Turmeric
  • Garlic optional


  • Wash masoor dal and cook with ½ cup of water until dal is cooked but firm. This takes about 10-15 minutes.

  • Add coconut milk and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes.

  • Meantime, heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, cumin, fenugreek seeds and let mustard seeds pop.

  • Throw in curry leaves, green chilies, onions and saute until onions are soft.

  • Add tomatoes, salt, turmeric and cook until tomatoes are soft, and mushy.

  • Transfer onion tomato mixture to cooked masoor dal, keeping aside a some mixture for garnish.

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

  • Garnish dhal curry with remaining onion tomato mixture.

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


  • 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.


Serving: 0g | Carbohydrates: 0g | Protein: 0g | Fat: 0g | Saturated Fat: 0g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 0mg | Potassium: 0mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 0g | Vitamin A: 0IU | Vitamin C: 0mg | Calcium: 0mg | Iron: 0mg

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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.

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (4)

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  1. Srivalli Jetti says

    I remember making this for the srilakan cuisine and enjoyed it..very nicely clicked usha, six months is way too long right?


  2. Pavani says

    Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (9)
    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.


  3. Sushma Pinjala says

    Dal is always a comfort food. Such a nice color it has got, looks yummy.


  4. Sandhya Ramakrishnan says

    Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (10)
    I am in love with this recipe. It is made with masoor dal and also has coconut milk in it, which are my absolute favorite. I am going to try this recipe soon.


  5. Chef Mireille says

    Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (11)
    I've always loved the creamy coconut milk SL dal - I first tried it many years ago even before blogging and it remains one of my faves


  6. Gayathri Kumar says

    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.


  7. harini says

    Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (12)
    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.


  8. Srividhya Gopalakrishnan says

    Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (13)
    I am big fan of dals and this one with coconut milk sounds very yum. Welcome back to BM . And same here, after 5 months break I joined this month. Getting used to the routine.


  9. Renu says

    Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe (14)
    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.


    • MySpicyKitchen says

      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.


  10. Rafeeda - The Big Sweet Tooth says

    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...


    • MySpicyKitchen says

      I liked it Rafeeda. It was slightly mild but one can always adjust the spice level.


  11. Priya Suresh says

    I love the addition of coconut milk in this dhal, have tried long back and still remember the flavor of this dal curry. Prefect nutritious dhal curry to try without any fail.


    • MySpicyKitchen says

      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.


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