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Sri Lankan Dhal Curry Recipe

Sri Lankan dhal curry recipe is a staple dish in Sri Lanka, that you will find in any household, any shop, any catering event, any wedding function. Almost every meal will have dhal curry in Sri Lanka. This is one dish I can make in 15 minutes while cleaning the house hahaha you get what I am trying to say ya? its that easy to make.

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Sri Lankan dhal curry is a recipe I learn from my mother. In my eyes, no one can beat the dhal curry of my mum, it is full of flavour and you can just eat it all by itself. there are two things that my mum is really really good at making, well make that three that’s her dhal curry, pol sambol and babath curry oooohhhh writing this I am actually salivating for this combo.

Sri Lankan dhal curry, Sri Lankan parippu curry, Sri Lankan lentil curry or some spell it as dal curry are all the same curry. We all call it different names. This is such a staple dish but the trick is to get the perfect balance in the curry, what I mean is, it shouldn’t overcook, then it looks like mushy (child food) it cannot be hard then it is unpleasant to eat.

Different households with different dhal curries

If you go to a street food shop in Sri Lanka, they would serve you a very watery dhal curry, why??? because that way they can keep their cost down, by pumping up the dhal curry with water, some households do this too, not for cost purpose, but to have a lot of ‘hodi’ gravy.

I prefer when the dhal curry has a body, its thick and creamy with the coconut and smells of all the aromatic spices. and that’s exactly the recipe I have given below. Every household makes it differently, so you might find 50 different ways of doing dhal curry on the internet.

What are the types of Sri Lankan dhal curry

There is parippu kirata (non-spicy dhal curry) Parippu mirisata ( Spicy dhal curry) Some call another type tempered dhal curry, basically, all dhal curries are tempered so, so I wouldn’t classify that as another variety. Basically what I am doing is parippu kirata (non-spicy lentil curry) But I add in chilli flakes, that’s to give a good oomph of flavour, this does not make it spicy, but if u prefer non-spicy, just omit the chilli flakes.
Pariippu mirisata is made with chilli powder and it is very spicy. I will give out that recipe a bit later as well.
You also can add Ceylon spinach into dhal curry which is very nutritious and I love this combo as well, all you have to do is, add the spinach at the end of cooking.

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Sri Lankan dhal curry

What kind of lentil to use for Sri Lankan Dhal curry recipe

Red lentils, which is readily available everywhere, even in Australian supermarkets. Please note Indian dhal curry is quite different, with different spices and they also use a different grain which is much thicker and plumpy. Always use the red lentils

Why are my lentils still hard after cooking?

If you use red lentils, within 15-20 minutes they will be soft. If you use any other type of lentils which are bigger and thicker, that takes forever to soften. so make sure to use the right lentil

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Boiling red lentils

What do you eat with Sri lankan dhal curry

String hoppers

Basically we eat anything with dhal curry hahahah we even eat noodles with dhal curry 🙂

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Dhal curry with white rice

Sri Lankan Dhal curry meal ideas

Dhal curry will always be the vegan dish that is the grain then we would always serve either beef, chicken, lamb, fish curry and a mallum (Sri Lankan greens), which would be a typical meal solution in Sri Lanka.
Usually, if the dhal curry is non-spicy, then we will have a spicy meat curry, but if we do a spicy dhal curry then we might sometimes do a non-spicy fish dish or something like that. so the flavours and spiciness are well balanced in the meal.

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Sri Lankan meal with dhal curry

Why you will love Sri Lankan dhal recipe?

  • It’s vegetarian/ vegan, gluten-free
  • It’s simple and easy to make meal solution to have with hot rice
  • It’s quick and easy
  • It’s high in protein and fibre and low in calorie
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Sri Lankan Dhal curry step by step guide

You can also check my other Sri Lankan recipe here.

Watch how to make Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Step by Step recipe on how to make Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

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Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Sri Lankan red lentil curry, cooked in creamy coconut milk
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4 people


  • Pot


  • 1 cup Red lentils
  • 2.5 cups Water tap
  • 1/4 tsp Tumeric powder
  • 1/2 Red onion Sliced
  • 1 clove Garlic Chopped
  • 1 sprig Curry leaves
  • 1/2 cup Coconut milk
  • 1 tsp Chilli flakes Optional
  • 1/2 Pandan leaves Cut into three


  • 1 tbsp Oil coconut, canola, vegetable, olive oil
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp Chilli flakes ( optional if you dont want spicy)
  • 1 sprig Curry leaves
  • 1/2 Red onion sliced
  • 1 clove Garlic sliced


Cooking Dhal curry

  • Wash red lentils thoroughly under cold water, until it is clean
  • Into a medium-size pot or clay pot add lentils, sliced onion, pandan leaves, sliced garlic, turmeric, salt, water. Mix well, place it on medium heat and let it cook for approximately 15 mins
  • After 15 minutes check if the lentils are soft and cooked, then add coconut milk and bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes


  • While the lentils are cooking. In a separate pan add oil, onion, garlic and saute well for 3-4 minutes, then add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, chilli flakes and mustard seeds and cook for further 3 minutes. Once they are well tempered and the ingredients are soft and cooked, take it off the fire.
  • Mix this tempered mixture directly into the cooked lentils.
    Reserve some tempered mix to add on top as garnish to make it more appealing if you wish.
    Add about 2 tbsp of oil to the reserved tempered mix, so it will also transform into a chilli oil with all the ingredients s it looks very appetising( refer to the main picture)
  • Serve with some hot basmati rice


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