Different Types of Lentils 

 With India being the largest producer, consumer and importer of protein-rich pulses in the world, it’s perhaps no surprise that the best Indian cuisine offers a wide range of lentil options suitable for vegetarians. This means people who don’t eat meat or simply want a meat-free option can still enjoy the unique qualities of Indian food. But what are the different types of lentils? Let’s take a closer look.

The Meaning of ‘Dal’ 

The word ‘dal’ is often assumed to mean ‘lentils,’ but it actually means ‘split’ in Hindi. So a dal refers to the split version of a number of pulses including lentils, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, mung beans and more. So, if you’re looking for ‘the best Indian food near me’ and see dal on the menu, don’t presume the dish is made from lentils alone.  Here’s a rundown of the most common lentil types.

Red Lentils and Split Red Lentils 

Whole red lentils are used in many different curries, soups and rice dishes. They’re typically a cheaper option to meat and can be used to pad out recipes, offering an extra dash of protein. Whole red lentils are easily available and make for a popular store cupboard option. They’re also perfect for a hearty lentil curry. 

Split red lentils are also a must-have if you want to make a yellow dal or any kind of spinach dal recipe. They cook faster due to their composition, are lighter on the tummy and are ideal for a lunchtime treat. Split red lentils can also be used for making Dal Chilla – a type of gluten-free and vegan flatbread which is often served for breakfast.

Brown Lentils 

Brown lentils are the most common variety of this pulse and if there’s no description of colour on the bag then they’re typically this type. Brown lentils can range in colour from khaki brown to dark brown. They have a mild, earthy flavour and are great for making hearty curries. Lentils are often flavoured with cumin seeds and aromatics such as onion, ginger and garlic. They can be stirred up with tomatoes and potatoes for a mouth-watering and filling dish.

Green Lentils

Green lentils have a somewhat peppery flavour and maintain a relatively hard texture even after cooking. This means they don’t go mushy like some other lentil varieties, but they will require a bit more cooking – around 45 minutes in general. They’re delicious in salads and are often combined with coconut milk and Indian herbs and spices such as cumin, garlic, ginger and coriander to make a filling curry. Again, green lentils are often combined with potatoes or meat such as chicken or lamb. 

If you’re looking for the best Indian restaurant in London, book a table at Little India. Our restaurant is based in the heart of South Kensington and serves up an array of authentic treats including various lentil-based dishes. Come and get your protein hit and enjoy some of the most traditional and delicious Indian food in the city.