Masoor Dal Pulao/Pilaf Recipe | Red Lentil Rice
Lentils of all sizes, shapes, flavors and textures sit in my pantry. Being a vegetarian, its needless to say, Lentils do form a large part in our day to day diet. Being Indian on top of that, it becomes all the more essential cos lentils play a huge role in so many of our dishes. And when I say, day to day, I do not mean just in terms of consuming dal. I mention this cos recently I met with an American who was discussing Indian meals with me and she insisted that how we consume lots of dals and how that was our main source of protein. I agree but dals are not the only way we enjoy the lentils. Among the many ways, I use lentils in my kitchen, adding it the rice is also one variety we enjoy - like this Red Lentil Rice which in Hindi we refer to "Masoor Dal Pulao"
Masoor Dal Pulao/Pilaf Recipe | Red Lentil Rice
Any lentil can be used to enjoy along with rice though the cooking time will vary. I use Red lentils cos they are quicker than many other lentils and personally I love its flavor with this kind of pilaf. I also find it convenient to pack for lunch box. One pot meal is always welcome in my household - as if I care to do dishes! And no, I don't use the dishwasher - where everything is done using only one skillet. Depending on the time and my enthusiasm, I serve it with an elaborate side dish or stick to simple Papad -Raita - pickle combo. Don't get intimidated with the list of ingredients - this can be made with as minimal ingredients as possible (example - just onions, cumin, tomatoes, lentils and rice will do the trick too!)
  • Cook time:
  • Prep time:
  • Serves: 2 people
  • 1 cup basmati or any long grained rice, soaked in water for 10-15 minutes
  • 1/2 cup red lentil (masoor dal - you can use more if you don't mind the final texture mushy. Tastes great though!)
  • 1 tsp cumin / fennel seeds
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 2-3 spring onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 each of cloves and cardamom
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1-2 green chillies, thinly sliced (or as per taste)
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2-1/2 cups coconut milk (optional. Just replace it with vegetable stock/water instead)
  • salt to taste
  • few sprigs of cilantro for garnish
  • fresh lemon juice to taste (optional)
1. In a skillet in 1 tsp oil (or butter) saute the cumin, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, garlic, chillies, ginger along with onion and salt.
2. Once the onions get soft add the tomato along with turmeric and garam masala. Saute for another 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the lentils and rice. Give it a mix and saute for another min or two until the rice gets aromatic/translucent.
4. Add the coconut milk/water/stock. Mix well.
5. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
6. Fluff it gently. I sometimes add frozen peas to this mix too towards the end of cooking. You can add more vegetables if you want to.
7. Now to add some color and more flavor. Garnish it with spring onions and cilantro. Even mint leaves go v well with this.  I squeeze some lemon to this rice for couple of reasons. Of course for the flavor. It also helps to reduce the sodium level and third - most importantly - the citrus helps to absorb the iron present in the lentils. So whenever I cook with lentils, I add lemon juice to the dish.
Serve hot with any side dish of your choice. A few drops of ghee optionally adds amazing flavor to this rice. Masoor Dal Pulao/Pilaf Recipe | Red Lentil Rice

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6 Member Reviews

By Deepa on Apr 13, 2012

It tasted so good, the taste of coconut milk, lemon and lentils are just awesome!! :)

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By megha guhya on Apr 16, 2011

this is a yummy recipe! i used grated coconut (frozen days before) and water and that tasted great too.. really liked your info on how lemon is more than just for taste. didnt add lemon though as i was  having raita with my pulao to beat the summer.. thanks..

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By Natalie on Jul 27, 2017

Can you provide some temperatures? All it says is to cook for lengths of time. Mine turned to watery mush.

Its medium-high heat Natalie. But if you used Red Lentils (Masoor dal), its bound to be mush since thats its texture. If you don't prefer prefer, substitute puy lentils/green lentils/split chickpeas (channa dal/Bengal gram) since they retain their shape once cooked as well. --DK

By Staceyann on Mar 6, 2016

This was so so yummy! Mine did not look anything like your photo though. More like a mush and milky color because of the coconut milk. How did you get your color and definition with the rice?

Depends on the rice. The so named Basmati in the regular US markets don't turn like the ones you get in India. Try the ones available in your local Indian grocery and wash it until the water runs clear. Presoaking it for 15-20 minutes also helps. Another important tip is leaving the rice alone while it cooks and once cooked, letting it slowly cool down. Fluff it gently then and see the difference :) --DK

By Easy mushroom pilaf | missfoodfairy on Sep 29, 2014

[...] Masoor dal Pulao (Red Lentil Rice) at Chef in You is a totally vegetarian option and sounds delicious! Using coconut milk or cream it’s a great alternative to using stock. [...]

By Linda H on Sep 15, 2014

I would like to make this but am wondering since I have ground cloves and ground cardamom, can that be used instead of whole? Thanks!

Yes, it works great as well. --DK

By Red Lentil Rice (Masoor dal Pulao) | Lovely Recipes on Jul 21, 2014

[...] Red Lentil Rice Recipe – Source [...]

By Radhika on Mar 31, 2014

DK - Yipee! I made this pulav this morning. Blush Blush :-P. Came out well ( my next attempt will be better i guess).. Thank you !!!

By Nasreen on Mar 13, 2014

I add carrot cubes of small size n it goes very well with it..

By taz on Nov 23, 2013

also, what brand of basmati rice do you use? I used Royal basmati rice and it turned out mushy.

By Ellen on Jul 25, 2013

I made this tonight for dinner and it was delicious! I never knew I could make Indian food so well. The recipe was easy to follow and I loved your tips/suggestions on how to make it taste better by adding lemon and ghee. I used lime instead and it was so good I had seconds! I would definitely make this again and look for more recipes on your site. Thank you! Because of you I had a good dinner!

By Atul on Sep 29, 2012

Great recipe.. easy and delicious :-P

By abha on Jul 25, 2012

Hello ! I made this tonight and it cane out slightly mushy. Not fluffy like yours. I madeit for four ppl so doubled the recipe so needed 5 cups of coconut milk . I used coconut cream because its what was available so I used 2.5 cream with 2.5 water . Do u think it might have been too much liquid ??

By Aruna on Jul 18, 2012

I tried this recipe and the whole family really liked it! It has become a regular in my kitchen now :). Thanks!

Thanks for the feedback Aruna :) --DK

By This Week's Menu - Gamerwife on Jul 3, 2012

[...] Stuffed Shells Tuesday: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Miso and Ginger with salad and rice Wednesday: Red Lentil Rice Thursday: Shredded Seitan Enchiladas Friday: Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown [...]

By This Week’s Menu « on Oct 3, 2011

[...] Stuffed Shells Tuesday: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Miso and Ginger with salad and rice Wednesday: Red Lentil Rice Thursday: Shredded Seitan Enchiladas Friday: Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown [...]

By Shwetha on Mar 11, 2011

Hi Thanks for the clarification about adding the citrus juice :)...I misunderstood that line in the post!! I tried this out sometime last month and it came out well... Thanks!

By Aathira on Feb 15, 2011

My first visit to your blog here, and its a wonderful place. So many amazaing recipes, simple, healthy and looks delicious. I am going to be making this Masoor Dal Pulao tomor when I pack lunch!

By Melody on Jan 22, 2011

how long do masoor whole lentils take to cook. from what I read in your blogs if they are called dal then they are skinned and halved and cook more quickly. the ones I have are whole and called Crimson Lentils. thanks

By Shwetha on Dec 11, 2010

Hi, I've been following your blog for quite sometime now and want to say its great :). I was curious to know if there's any particular reason your trying to minimize the iron content in the lentils by adding citrus juice. I read somewhere that lentils are a good source of iron for vegetarians. Thanks.

?? I do not add citrus juice to reduce the content of iron. I instead add it to help our body to absorb the iron from the lentils which lemon juice aids.

By heguiberto souza on Dec 1, 2010

no need to cook red lentils before hand as long as their are dal (hulled skinless) cheers, Heguiberto

By Sylvia Charles on Dec 1, 2010

Want to know if the red lentil in this recipe needs to be soaked or precooked first before mixing it with rice. Have never cooked red lentil before but do know that lentils take some time to cook. Afraid that when the rice is cooked the lentis are still half cooked. Thanks.

By heguiberto souza on Nov 23, 2010

I adore rice dishes basmati and jasmine being my favorite types. The dal makes it is a complete meal. Cheers, Heguiberto

By kripa on Nov 18, 2010

:?: :( I made this recipe for 6.I used 3 cups rice,1.5 cups dal and 6 cups coconut milk + 2 cups water.The rice didnt seem to cook at all so i transferred it to rice cooker.No luck.Then after 1 hr on the rice cooker, I just had 2 put it in a pressure cooker n finish it.Came out like kichadi.Evry1 lvd the flavor n aroma but it was nowhere near what ur pics depict.Where did i go wrong?

Its the quality of the rice. Many times the same proportion of liquid to rice ratio will not work across the board. Guess its the experience/used to factor of the rice you are using on a regular basis

By Cynthia on Oct 26, 2010

You always know how to tempt me!

Believe u me - I am trying to learn it from you :) I should sue you probably for making me salivate on my KB so many times.....dont u know its bad manners making one salivate this way ;)..Guess my learnings from you are slowly starting to pay off :) :) :)

By Priya Srinivasan on Oct 24, 2010

Tried this recipe with Brown Rice, came out great!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!!!

By Mia on Oct 23, 2010

Want some right now!! :-P

By sushma on Oct 22, 2010

This looks really good! Planning to try it out this weekend! :)

By Joie de vivre on Oct 21, 2010

I've never mixed lentils with rice before! It seems so simple yet so brilliant! Looks wonderful.

By harini-jaya on Oct 21, 2010

awesome mix of masoor dal and rice..mouth watering pics too..

By vandana rajesh on Oct 21, 2010

The pulao looks so appetizing , healthy and a nice pick for the lunch menu.

By Priya on Oct 21, 2010

Nutritious rice, looks yummy..

By Nishi on Oct 20, 2010

The pulao looks so good. And the colout is so devine :). Just loved it!!!

By sunita on Oct 20, 2010

hi dk so delicious yr recipes are so easy to make that i dont even rely on any other recipe and whatever recipes i have tried so far from yr site its always a hit thanks for all the delicious and easy recipes dk

By priya on Oct 20, 2010

hi dk..looks lovely! just wanted to know if i can make this recipe with moong dal? But i guess it wont taste the same way, right??

Of course it wont taste the same :)

By Gayathri Kumar on Oct 20, 2010

Lentil rice looks yummy. Your blog is great. I tied a recipe of yours and it turned out yummy. Love to try this also

By Apu on Oct 20, 2010

Looks delicious!! Masoor dal pulao has a super taste.

By richa on Oct 20, 2010

hey...m gonna make ur veg hakka noodles today..was seeing other recipes..they look good... m gonna come bak to ur site again.. m looking for more of low sodium go for high bp... but thanks...its ppl like u who make my life easier by sharing nice recipes with pics..keep doing ur good work..