I stumbled upon this vegetarian Red Lentil Soup, Dal Style in Smitten Kitchen Everyday this morning while attempting to quell my coronavirus related anxiety. An hour or so later, the house was filled with a wonderful aroma of Indian spices. I felt a sense of achievement early in the day, having made a healthy vegetarian soup from various dried spices and lentils in my pantry without having to head out to the crowded and somewhat dreaded grocery store. My family was thankful for some edible comfort.

The only fresh ingredients that I used were a large carrot and large onion. The original recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers calls for fresh ginger, which I unfortunately did not have on hand. I subbed in 1/4 tsp of ground ginger, which is probably a poor substitute for the fresh variety, but it was better than not including the ginger at all. I will add fresh ginger to my grocery list for next week even though it may not be something I will find available at the store. I also lacked a spicy fresh pepper so subbed in ground cayenne. While I imagine that this soup would be even better with these fresh ingredients, I got no complaints from my crew who ate up it quickly and went back for seconds.

I do think you could make this with any kind of lentil that you have on hand. I learned this morning from a NY times article that beans and lentils really start to decline after a year and by two should be thrown out or else they never get soft and don’t taste as good. This means that most of the beans and lentils in my pantry should be thrown out other than the red lentils that I used this morning. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out quite yet given the world we are living in right now.

These are certainly crazy times. Unprecedented and scary, reminiscent, yet different from how I felt after September 11. Oddly, I have not found myself bored…yet. Work is busy, and I’ve got household projects galore that I have been putting off years. But it has only just begun. 

I worry a lot. I worry about my parents and my inlaws who are in their seventies. I worry about my brother who is on the front lines, running the coronavirus response at a hospital in Ohio. He has had to socially distance himself from his family as he doesn’t want to expose them to the virus he will inevitably be exposed to soon if not already. I worry about my family and friends, many in New York City who are just by nature of the city environment exposed to more people, I worry about friends with sicker elderly parents that they must care for. I worry that our economy will plunge into a recession.

But I really am striving to focus on the positive on this beautiful spring day. There are silver linings to this whole mess. We’ve eaten dinner as a family every single day this week. I’ve found myself more involved in my kids academics than ever before as we all try to tackle E-learning together. We’ve taken long outdoor walks around the neighborhood, soaking in the sunshine and breathing in the fresh air. The family is painting together. I just achieved my best 30 minute ride ever on my Peloton, riding virtually together with my two best college friends. Yesterday I rode with colleagues from work to breed comraderie.

And I’ve resurrected from the grave my blog that I created years ago. I started this blog in a time where I needed a creative outlet to let me focus and rid myself from depression and anxiety. There couldn’t be a more perfect time to bring this blog back to life than now. 

I encourage you to reach into your pantry and create this wonderful and warming Red Lentil Dal. It will allow you to channel your energy in a creative and productive way.

Blowing everyone a virtual kiss and asking that we stand together in these trying times even though we cannot physically be near to each other.

Red Lentil Soup, Dal Style


  • Soup:
  • 3 T neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1½ T minced ginger (40 g) or 1/4 tsp dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fresh hot green chile pepper, minced, or 1/2 t ground cayenne
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 1½ t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 t kosher salt, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 1 large carrot, diced (just shy of 1 cup)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup (210 g) red lentils
  • to Finish:
  • 3 T canola oil or ghee
  • 1½ t mustard seeds
  • handful of chopped cilantro
  • squeeze of lemon juice


  1. Heat the neutral oil until shimmering in a large pot, medium high heat, then add onion, ginger, garlic, and fresh chile, and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 min
  2. turn the heat down and add spices and salt. Cook for a minute or two, add tomatoes and carrot. Cook for a minute, add water and lentils. Bring to simmer, partially cover, and cook for 25-30 min until lentils and carrot are soft. Adjust seasonings, blend a bit if you like.
  3. [Optional] In a small skillet, heat canola oil or ghee over high heat. Add mustard seeds and cover the pot with a lid or spatter screen. When the seeds stop popping, immediately pour the oil over the soup. And lemon and cilantro.
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