This easy slow cooker dahl with butternut squash couldn't be simpler to make - prepare in the morning, let it cook during the day and tuck in for dinner!
What a gift it is when you discover a food that's a) deeply satisfying winter comfort-food, b) incredibly easy to make, and c) low-fat, high-protein and very good for you, all at the same time.
Not possible? Meet Dahl! This is one of my favourite suppers, and my kids love it too, (even the baby, who scoops it up with his fingers - you can imagine the mess!!), so it comes up often on our weekly meal plan, with rice and/or naan bread.
It is perfectly suited to slow-cooking, so you can get this prepped in the morning then leave it to do its thing for the rest of the day, just in time for dinner.
It keeps well in the fridge for a few days, and also freezes well, so if you're looking to expand your repertoire of vegan batch-cooking for the freezer, dhal is your friend!
I often make this dahl when we have an after-school activity to go to, so I can get it made in the afternoon, let it slow-cook, then use the keep warm function whilst we're out and have it ready to eat the minute we get back through the door.
I top mine with crispy fried slices of green chill and a little of the chilli oil, (leaving it off for the kids), and a squeeze of lemon and fresh coriander.
How will you serve yours?!
What you need to make your Slow Cooker Dahl
Butternut squash is found in supermarkets year-round but is in season in the UK from September to December, and that's when it is at its best. It is also the season everyone digs out their slow cookers from the back of the cupboard, a happy coincidence! You can of course use pumpkin or sweet potato instead if you prefer.
Red lentils Make sure you use dried red lentils for a dahl, rather than any other type - they break down and turn mushy to give a beautiful, creamy texture in a way that other types of lentil won't do. You can also use half and half red lentils and yellow split peas - this gives a different texture but also very lovely. However split peas take longer to cook so increase the cooking time by 1-2 hours
Coconut milk I use 'light' coconut milk, but full fat will be even creamier!
Garlic and ginger I've specified ready-chopped garlic and ginger from a jar or tube, but if you have time you get an even better flavour from freshly-chopped garlic cloves and ginger.
Red chilli The big fat chillis are relatively mild, so do add this even if you don't like too much heat. Remove the seeds for a very mild dahl, or leave them in for a bit more spice.
Curry powder Again I specified this to cut down on preparation time, but you can use your own blend of spices if you prefer. You could use 1 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and crushed mustard seeds.
Vegetable stock powder Do check it is vegan - some brands of vegetable stock contain a small amount of milk powder so check labels carefully.
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Slow cooker You can pick up slow cookers at very low cost these days. I love this Crock-Pot Dura-Ceramic Saute* slow cooker - which sautes as well as slow cooks, so you can skip the frying pan in the first stage of instructions for this dahl!
Casserole dish If you're making this over a gentle heat on the stove top you can reduce cooking time to more like 45-50 minutes (if simmering gently throughout). I use my trusty Le Creuset Cast Iron casserole dish - I've used it almost every day since we were given it as a wedding present and it still looks like the day we got it!
Variations on your Slow Cooker Dahl
You can use this basic recipe to play around with for all sorts of variations:
Change the vegetables How about using sweet potato instead of butternut squash, or even a cauliflower and broccoli version?
Make crispy butternut croutons Put half the butternut squash into the dahl, but roast the other half in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve it on top of the dahl for a deliciously crispy finish. Roasted cherry tomato halves also make a beautiful garnish.
Make it tomato-ey I love making this into a tomato dahl, substituting a tin of tomatoes instead of the coconut milk.
Can I freeze my Butternut Dahl?
Yes! This freezes really well, so you can make up a double batch and freeze in individual portions. It makes a lovely lunch on its own on a cold winter's day!
What else can I make in my slow cooker?
Here are a few more ideas for vegan slow cooker meals:
- Lucy's Slow Cooker Bean Chilli from BakingQueen74
- Cat's Vegan Lentil Chilli from Curly's Cooking
- My Borlotti Bean Chilli from The Veg Space
For more quick and easy vegan recipes take a look at my latest book Vegan in 15.
"Brilliant! Chock full of easy recipes and great tips and advice" Hello! Magazine
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Butternut Slow Cooker Dahl
- 1 red onion
- 2 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil
- 1 tsp garlic purée / ready-chopped garlic
- 1 tsp ginger purée / ready-chopped ginger
- 1 red chilli, de-seeded and sliced
- 4 tsp curry powder (or 1 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and crushed mustard seeds)
- 200 g red lentils, rinsed
- 400 ml tin coconut milk (I use the 'light' coconut milk, but full fat will be even creamier!)
- 1 tsp vegetable stock powder (check it is vegan)
- 300 g butternut squash
- 1 lemon
- 1 green chilli
- handful fresh coriander
- Peel and chop the onion, and place in a frying pan with the oil, garlic, ginger, chilli and curry powder. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Tip into the slow cooker, then add the lentils and coconut milk. Refill the empty tin just half way with water and add this too, followed by the stock powder.
- Peel the butternut squash and cut it into small cubes (about 1cm), and add to the mix. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Cook on high for 5 hours, (or low for 8 hours), until the lentils are soft and the dhal is a thick, creamy consistency. Check and adjust seasoning then serve.
- For the optional garnish, heat 2 tbsp oil in a small frying pan. De-seed and finely slice the green chilli and add to the pan. Cook over a low to medium heat until just turning crispy. Spoon over the dhal. Roughly chop the coriander, and scatter over, then finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.