Red Lentil Dal with Turnip, or How To Eat More Legumes If You’re A (Somewhat) Picky Eater

Red Lentil Dal with Turnip, or How To Eat More Legumes If You’re A (Somewhat) Picky Eater

I really love lentils. Some might even say I love lentils a little bit too much, considering I’ve had them for breakfast and lunch for the last three days.

But I wasn’t always the legume-lover I am now.

When I was little, I had a very typical children’s palate: anything sweet, preferably with a uniform texture, high in carbs, as well as anything salty and hyper processed was a win in my book. Applesauce, mashed potatoes, white bread, cookies and desserts in any shape and form, you name it, they were all staples. I wasn’t big on vegetables, and legumes were my greatest horror: the grainy, gritty texture just threw me off.

While I do hope most of you reading this have a somewhat more diverse palate than my younger self did, I think the texture of legumes can be an issue for many. If you struggle with that (or have kids that do), I recommend taking it step by step. Here are some tips for ‘easing into’ legumes!

  1. Start with easier textures, such as storebought hummus. Storebought hummus is often smoother than homemade, and it has more oil than I personally feel comfortable adding, haha! This helps create a silky texture. Blended soups such as my carrot and white bean soup fit into this category as well.
  2. To get some of the health benefits of legumes while still indulging in a favorite food, try incorporating legumes into sweet treats: black bean brownies or chickpea blondies are a good place to start. I swear they’re delicious!
  3. Legume based pasta. If you love pasta like I do but you’re trying to eat a balanced diet, you might want to look into legume pasta, such as red lentil penne, yellow lentil spaghetti, green pea fusilli and the likes. Healthier than white flour pasta, tastier than whole wheat (if you ask me). Bonus: the ones with 100% lentil flour are naturally gluten free! There’s many types available, but not all of them are vegan so make sure to check the ingredients.
  4. Red. Lentils. If you ask me, red lentils = getting your legumes in on easy mode. If you cook them long enough, they fall apart and lose most of that texture that can make legumes difficult for picky eaters. Besides that, there are so many recipes and different ways to spice these. So many cuisines have their own version of lentil soup, and red lentils will work in many of these. They are also easiest to handle, as they do not require soaking overnight or cooking for hours.

With these tips, I hope you will be able to transform into the happy, legume-lovin vegan you were born to be 🙂

Now without further ado, here’s a recipe to kickstart your new-found legume appreciation. This recipe is a variation on the lentil dal I make regularly. I like to switch up the spices and vegetables every once in a while depending on what’s in my fridge. This is also excellent without the turnip. You can also try adding a leafy green such as spinach – don’t add this until the very end of the cooking time.

Red lentil dal with turnips

This basic lentil dal has turnips added, but you can add all kinds of different vegetables!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Lunch, Main
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: dal, Lentils, Rice
Servings: 4


  • 300 g dried red lentils
  • 1 large turnip Peeled and diced. You can leave this out, or substitute another root vegetable such as celeriac, carrot or squash. Get creative!
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp oil use a neutral oil, such as sunflower or canola
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds Preferably whole. Substitute ground if you don't have them
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds Preferably whole. Substitute ground if you don't have them
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp coriander ground
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) optional. roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed

To serve

  • rice
  • fresh mango / mango chutney


  • Put the red lentils in a pot that can contain at least more than 4 times their volume. Wash them well and drain them.
  • Add enough water to fully cover them + about a centimeter extra. Add the turmeric and bring to a simmer.
  • Peel and dice the turnip (or other vegetable) and add to the lentils.
  • Cook until the lentils fall apart and the turnip is fully cooked.
  • In the meantime, chop the onion, garlic and tomatoes. Heat up the oil in a large pan.
  • Add the cumin and mustard seeds, followed by the onion and garlic after a minute or 2.
  • Add the rest of the dried spices except the garam masala. Fry them with the onion, then add the tomato and continue frying.
  • When the lentils are cooked, add the onion mixture to the lentils. Add the garam masala, lemon juice and extra salt if necessary.
  • Serve with rice, topped with some fresh cilantro. Extra delicious with mango or a chutney, and maybe some soy yogurt!

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