Slow Cooker Indian-Style Dal Tacos
Each December, my children’s school hosts a craft fair that is as homespun as they come. Parents and middle schoolers spend months making handmade goods that range from colorful sock puppets to delicate wreaths crafted from tree branches. An entire section of the fair is devoted to edible crafts, mostly cookies and cupcakes made by fledgling young cooks. Tempting as the sweets may be, though, my favorite booth is manned by one of the teachers whose family hail from India. He brews up a pot of savory lentils called dal, which he spoons over tortillas, finishing the whole business with yogurt and chutney. Lines form to buy one (or several) of these Indian-style dal tacos. They’re often the first to sell out.
What Are Indian-Style Dal Tacos?
Today’s easy recipe is a nod to those craft fair tacos. It comes courtesy of our crock pot experts Jane McKay and Meg Barnhart of the Zen of Slow Cooking. And while it might sound sort of unusal, the recipe calls for familiar ingredients and requires minimal fuss in the kitchen. Lentils stew alongside ginger and a host of Indian spices until tender and flavorful. The result is not only delicious, but a nutrient powerhouse, packed with protein, folate, fiber, and iron.
Health Benefits of Lentils
Clearly this isn’t your typical taco recipe. Aside from the fact that it’s not remotely Mexican, it’s also made with lentils instead of more standard beans. Lentils are a nutrient-packed legume that provides protein, fiber, and a decent dose of iron, which can be hard to come by if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Adding yogurt means a dose of probiotics and a hit of protein to boot. Choose a whole-grain tortilla and you get even more fiber in every taco.
How to Make Slow Cooker Tacos
You start by sautéeing onion with ginger and garlic until tender. Then, in goes a variety of Indian spices to perfume your pot. After that, everything gets transferred to the slow cooker, where it stews for a couple of hours until tender. Once the lentils are done, it’s a matter of assembly. I like to spoon the fixings into a small flour tortilla, but corn will do the trick, too. To finish, add a dollop of plain yogurt, fresh cilantro, and Indian chutney if you have one on hand.
Top Tips to Make Indian-Style Dal Tacos
Here are a few simple tips to make a successful pot of these healthy tacos:
- Be sure to pick through the lentils before using to eliminate any tiny stones or debris.
- This recipe relies heavily on spices. Check to make sure yours aren’t antiques. If they’ve been in the pantry more than a year or two, it might be time to replace them.
- Tortillas are that much tastier when slightly blistered, either directly over a gas burner, or in a pan set on the stove.
- This is an entirely vegetarian recipe. If you prefer it to be vegan, look for a plain, plant-based yogurt.
- If you want to make this for a bigger crowd, feel free to double the recipe.
When you’re lentils are done and everything is on the table, you’ve got a meal worthy of family dinner, or perhaps, your next craft fair.
Be sure to check out these other tasty vegan recipes!
Slow Cooker Indian-Style Dal Tacos
- 1 ½ cups French green lentils
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium diced onion
- 2 medium diced carrots
- 2- inch piece minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 small finely chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 Corn or small flour tortillas
- Garnishes: roughly chopped cilantro, plain yogurt, favorite Indian chutney
Pick through the lentils to be sure there is no debris or tiny stones.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion, carrot, ginger, garlic and optional jalapeno. Saute gently for 3 minutes. Add the coriander, turmeric, cumin and curry powder and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the tomato paste, lentils and broth and stir well to combine the ingredients.
Cook on high for 2 ½ hours until the lentils are tender. Add the salt, stir, and taste to see if more salt is needed.
When ready to serve the lentils, warm the tortillas directly over a gas burner or in a cast iron skillet until just slightly blistered. Store in a clean dish towel until ready to serve. Make tacos by topping a tortilla with a generous spoonful of lentils, a dollop of yogurt, a pinch of fresh cilantro, and if you have it, a dab of your favorite Indian chutney.
Very slightly adapted and used with permission from the Zen of Slow Cooking, where you can find an abundance of fabulous slow cooker recipes.