Dal Tadka

Along with rice, dal (lentils) is a food item that’s synonymous with everyday cooking in India. It is a dietary staple and has a high ratio of protein per calorie. Dal tadka, dal makhani, dal fry, the list of popular recipes made with these humble pulses are endless.

This is the only dal tadka recipe that you’ll ever need!

India’s love for dal (lentils) is legendary. If you have to look for the most popular food combo in Indian cuisine, it wouldn’t take you much time before you figure out that it is dal chawal (lentils and rice) that are consistently seen across the dining tables in the country. Irrespective of where you go in this vast country, you are going to find at least one dal dish that’s popular to that region.

Lentils everywhere!

Variety of lentils available makes it a daunting task even for the seasoned chefs to decide which one to pick for their recipes – toor dal (pigeon pea), mung dal (green gram), channa dal (chickpea), masoor dal (red lentil), rajma (kidney beans), urad dal (black gram), the list goes on. It’s even more difficult to look for one winner from all the different delicacies made with dal. But I guess it’s safe to assume that dal tadka is one of the most popular delicacies among dal lovers.

Dal Tadka - The great Indian lentil delicacy
Dal Tadka – The great Indian lentil delicacy

If you were wondering, dal tadka is, dal (lentils), tempered (tadka) with spices. It’s a simple, yet elegant dish with great flavours. At the end of a long day if you want to reward yourself with an easy, yet great tasting home-cooked meal, look no further.

Dal tadka for many brings back memories of home and mom’s cooking. For many it is a must-have dish when you are eating out at a roadside dhaba or an Indian restaurant. You could associate it with home-cooked food, street food, or even fine dining.

About this dal recipe

This dal tadka recipe is as simple as it can get. We’ll start by pressure cooking the lentils (I have used toor dal) with tomatoes, ginger and green chillies. Once it’s cooked to perfection, we’ll add salt, and some coriander leaves. That’s the first part done. The next step is to make the tadka. We’ll temper cumin seeds, crushed garlic, dry red chillies, etc. in ghee, and add this to the cooked dal. The appetising aroma that fills your kitchen, and the great flavours that’ll excite your taste buds, you can stop wondering why this humble dish is so popular! Enjoy your dal tadka with phulkas (or chapati) and rice.

Dal Tadka

Dal (lentils), tempered (tadka) with spices - this dal tadka is the easiest interpretation of the iconic Indian delicacy, and the only recipe you'll need.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 cup toor dal
  • 2 green chillies slit lengthwise
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1 inch ginger grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (coriander leaves) finely chopped

For tadka

  • 2 tablespoon ghee Indian clarified butter
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 4 dry red chillies
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida

Instructions

  • Wash the toor dal thoroughly, and drain it.
  • Transfer the dal to a pressure cooker. Add the chopped tomatoes, slit green chillies, grated ginger and turmeric powder.
    Dal Tadka Steps - Ingredients in the pressure cooker
  • Add 3 cups of water and combine well.
  • Close the lid, and pressure cook on a high flame.
  • After 1 whistle, reduce to low flame and cook for 4 more whistles.
  • Wait for the pressure to reduce. Open the lid.
  • Add salt, coriander leaves, and mix well. Simmer for a few minutes.
    Dal Tadka Steps Image - Adding chopped coriander leaves to the cooked dal
  • The curry shouldn't be too watery or too thick. Add a little water if you think the curry has become thick.
  • Heat two tablespoons of ghee in a pan. When it's hot enough, add the cumin seeds. Let them splutter.
    Dal Tadka Steps Image - Tempering cumin seeds in ghee
  • Crush the garlic cloves with the back of a knife, or your palm, and add to the pan. If we slice the garlic, they'll get lost in the gravy. Lower the flame and add the dry red chillies as well.
  • Combine well and saute for a minute. Add asafoetida and chilli powder, stir well and continue frying.
    Dal Tadka Steps Image - Adding asafoetida and chilli powder to the tadka
  • The frying will fill your kitchen with the aroma of tadka. The ghee in the pan should turn golden brown before you switch off. Take care not to burn the tadka ingredients.
  • Pour the tadka (empty the pan clean) on top of the cooked dal. Mix well before serving.
  • It's enjoyed best with phulkas (or chapati) and rice.

Notes

  • If you are not a fan of dairy products, you can replace the ghee with 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable/sunflower oil
  • This recipe doesn't have any onion. If you are looking for a "no onion, no garlic" cooking, you can stay away from the garlic in tadka

8 Comments

  1. How long do I need to cook the lentils WITHOUT using a pressure cooker?

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Hello Anna,
      Cook them well – slightly overcooked is the best. If you press a cooked lentil between your thumb and the index finger, it should be soft, leaning towards mushy.

      Hope that helps. Happy cooking!

  2. This looks incredible! I love Indian cuisine, but have never ventured into actually making it. Maybe I will with this, especially because you laid it all out so simply and precisely!

    Joanne | https://fung-shui.com/

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Thank you Joanne! This is indeed an easy recipe to start with. And it’s a classic one too. I am sure you’ll like it.

  3. Lentils are soooo under-rated, but they’re phenomenally healthy! They need to be showcased FAR MORE!!

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      That’s so true Gigi! In Indian cuisine we have several signature dishes celebrating lentils. Dal tadka is one such delicacy.

  4. This looks delicious – I love all the spices happening here – bet it smells amazing too!

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Thank you Pamela!
      Yes, it smells amazing! The spices, the butter, it’s a classic Indian that cannot go wrong!

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