Sri Lankan Red Lentil Curry

Dhal or lentils (aka parippu) is a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine. It’s such a simple dish that you can make in less than 20 minutes but packed with flavour. This is a cult-favourite that you can find any corner on the island. Every household got their own recipe of making this dhal curry and the taste can vary from region to region though Sri Lanka is a small island. This curry can be served at just about every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can be eaten with rice, roti, stringhopper, plain noodles or loaf bread. It pairs with any carb or delicious on its own. And, the good things about this curry do not stop from there. Red lentils are high in protein and low in calories. This curry is vegan and gluten-free as well!

Parippu curry is my husband’s favourite too. He will eat it every single day without complaining!

Despite the strong links with the South Indian cuisine, Sri Lankan cuisine distinguishes itself by the delicacy and lightness of its flavours, as well as intense but balanced use of coconut milk in the curries.  If you are familiar with Indian dal, you’d be surprised to know that this dhal is prepared the same way but with different flavours. We use coconut milk and temper with curry leaves, onions and dried whole chillies making the curry divinely scented with coconut milk and mildly spiced up. Even most non-spicy food lovers would love it, including kids!

Storing-Once reached room temperature you can refrigerate in a glass container for up to 2-3 days.

Freezing and reheating – If you would like to freeze, save a portion of the cooked dhal before adding coconut milk and then freeze. When you are ready to use it,  bring it to room temperature and cook on low heat for about for 3 -4 minutes and add coconut milk. The dhal can be frozen for up to 2 weeks without coconut milk in it. If you find that you’ve cooked too much dhal, this is a way to save them 🙂


For tempering;

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 6-7 curry leaves
  • 1/2 large onion sliced
  • 2 whole dried chillies
  • 1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds

For the curry;

  • 2 cup red lentils
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 cumin seeds
  • 6-7 fresh curry leaves
  • 3-inch pandan leave
  • 2-3 garlic cloves sliced
  • 1/2 large onion sliced
  • 1-2 green chilli sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk


  1. Wash the lentils thoroughly.
  2. Add the washed lentils into a thick saucepan and cook in water with all the ingredients for the curry, except for the lime juice.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add all the ingredients for the tempering and temper for about 2-3 minutes until the onions turn golden brown and mustard seeds pop in hot oil. Set aside.
  4. When the lentils are almost cooked, gradually add the coconut milk and let it simmer on low heat for about 6-8 minutes. Add salt to taste.
  5. Remove from heat and add the lime juice.
  6. Add tempered ingredients on top and serve hot with rice or bread.

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