Tadka Dal

By DK on Dec 08, 2008
Indian Red Lentils recipe
Sometimes a simple dish is all it takes, to make me feel warm and cozy. Its like that fuzzy/secure feeling you get while lying down on mom's lap. Its like all's safe with the world. Its like home. This simple dish of lentils for me is all that and more. A total comfort food. Something I grew up with. I make it often and every single time, it gives me weird sensations in the pit of my stomach - the type that makes me feel homesick. But the minute I sit down to spoon some in my mouth along with warm roti(s), I feel better - as if my mom is next to me serving it to me- the way she always used to. When life carries you away from the comforts of what you knew, you rely on such dishes as a mnemonic to transport you back to what feels familiar, doesn't it?
Indian Red Lentils recipe
Tadka Dal is a popular Indian dish made of red lentils and tempered with aromatic spices. Tadka refers to "tempering" and Dal is "lentils" in Hindi language where the tempering acts like a garnish in this hearty yet very simple stew. Tadka Dal is also referred to as Dal Fry by many I know. But I beg to differ. In my humble opinion, I think there is a subtle difference.  In a dal fry dish from what I have observed, the ingredients in the "Tempering" section are first prepared to which the rest of the preparations for the base is continued and built over. Whereas in this dish, the tempering is added towards the end, right before serving which makes it not only for a beautiful presentation but also there is an enhanced flavor thanks to the ghee spread right on top adding richness and aroma to the dish. Yes - I hear what you are saying. The differences are minute but well its a difference nevertheless! (yes, I can be sometimes picky this way :))
Basic Information
Prep Time: Under 15 min
Cook Time: Under 30 min
Serves: 4 people
Ingredients
    For the Base
  • 1 cup Red Lentils / masoor dal (See Tips)
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 medium Tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste (optional - see Tips)
    For Tempering
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1-2 Dried red Chilli (or use Green Chilli)
  • 2 inch Ginger, julienned (see Tips)
  • pinch of Asafoetida
  • few sprigs of Curry Leaves (optional, see Tips)
  • few sprigs of Cilantro, for garnish
  • 2 tbsp Ghee (see Tips)
Tips
1. Masoor Dal: Instead of Red Lentils, some variations use Yellow lentils, Split and skinned Green Gram lentils etc. You can use them on their own or with combination. I sometimes add few spoons of Green gram to this dish.

2. Ginger: I like the fried taste of julienned ginger hence add them along with the tempering ingredients. But you can instead chop them/grate them and add it along with the garlic while preparing the base.

3. Ghee: The restaurant version use about 4-5 tbsps of Ghee for tempering which gives it that gourmet taste. At home I tend to use 1-2 tsp. of oil (to make it Vegan too) instead for regular consumption using the 2 tbsp of ghee when I entertain. You can use a combination of ghee and oil or only oil for your preparation depending on your preference.

4. Lemon Juice: dding lemon juice or any kind of citrus helps in the absorption of iron from the lentils hence I tend to add lemons juice to all my dals. I especially love adding Meyer Lemons to it. It makes the dal taste even better.

5. Curry Leaves: If making it Punjabi Style, skip the curry leaves. Few punjabi versions tend to also add Garam Masala (about 2-3 tsp.) and kalonji (1/4 tsp.) to the dal.
Method
1
Wash the lentils well in cold water until the water runs clear. Red Lentils tend to require a little tedious cleaning process.
Indian Red Lentils recipe
2
Heat 1 tbsp of ghee (or oil) in a saucepan and add onions and garlic along with salt and turmeric - about 2 minutes. I usually tend to skip the oil for this. The salt helps the onions to sweat and hence I personally feel that fat perse is not needed to make it soft.
Indian Red Lentils recipe
3
Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for another 2 minutes.
Indian Red Lentils recipe
4
Add the lentils along with 3 cups of water.
Indian Red Lentils recipe
5
You can adjust the amount of water once the lentils are cooked depending on the consistency you prefer.
Indian Red Lentils recipe
6
Stir and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, close with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until cooked. I have this lid with a hole on top which prevents the lentils from boiling over cos of steam. If you do not have such a lid, make sure to partially close the lid/ or open cook to allow the steam from escaping. Otherwise it will boil over the pan
Indian Red Lentils recipe
7
Once the lentils are cooked, give them a stir and adjust the amount of water as per your liking.
Indian Red Lentils recipe
8
In another pan, heat the remaining ghee. Add mustard seeds and when they start popping, add the cumin, ginger, red chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves.
Indian Red Lentils recipe
9
Add it to the dal. Give it a quick stir and serve hot garnished with cilantro.
Indian Red Lentils recipe
They can be enjoyed with plain rice or with roti's, phulkas or parathas. On this particular day we paired it with Oat roti(s). Indian Red Lentils recipe
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89 Responses to “Tadka Dal”
  1. Asiya

    For anyone wanting an alternative to Masoor daal, try Urd/Urid daal, made in a similar way. Hope you enjoy.

  2. Can I add some coconut milk to give more body to this recipe?

    Definitely yes. Though not traditional, I can vouch for the fact that coconut milk along with red lentils are a match made in food lover’s heaven!–DK

  3. Question, please. Do you use yellow or black mustard seeds in this recipe? Hope you see this today. Can’t wait to make it this evening. Thank you.

    I use black mustard seeds –DK

  4. Would you believe that this is one of the favorite comfort foods of a Polish-American lady? Although I have mastered Chana Masala, I’ve been searching for a red lentil recipe comparable to the dish I get at my favorite Indian take-out. I am so happy to have found this recipe. The ingredients listed seem to be what I taste in the restaurant dish. I would also like to try it Punjabi style. Please tell me when and how to add the garam masala and kalonji — in the base or as tadka? Do you add the lemon juice at the end? Thank you. I look forward to your reply.

    I am so glad to hear that Carol. Food is an universal language, isnt it? :) As for the queries – You can add the garam masala while adding tomatoes and then kalonji towards the end during tadka. I add lemon juice right at the end when I have switched off the flame (or just before serving). Strictly speaking, there is no specific recipe for Tadka dal. It varies from chef to chef, but believe you me, every single version stands proud. –DK

  5. Anu

    :lol: :-P I tried this recipe,but I added some Tuar dal & some chana dal along with.& the result dal tasted yummy & all liked it too much.thanx for sharing the recipe.i was searching for an easy recipe for dal tadka since long time & my search ended today..thanx a ton.. :lol:

  6. :) can i take other dal to replace masoor dal?

  7. yogesh
  8. nisha

    it seems good receipe. I have never cooked this daal alone so first experience lets hope result comes best

  9. vani

    Thanku soooooo much. Very simple, fast & a tasty
    Recipe.

  10. Jv Suresh

    When should v add lemon juice to it?

  11. PB

    Nice n simple recipe…Cooked for today.
    @MS that is Daal Khisaari which has been banned in India for Last 50 years. Masoor daal is good for health.

  12. shiny
  13. Danielle

    :roll: I made this but it didn’t taste of anything so I put chilli powder in to give it some flavour then read all your other comments and thought I must of made it wrong then found I used crushed ginger garlic NOT fresh ginger and I think my cup of lentils was 2 big as it’s more lentils than anything
    Will try again maybe I’ll remember fresh ginger

  14. MS

    I have been told by a few people as to how masoor dhal consumption is linked to causing some serious health issues. I also read that it is actually something called kesari dhal that causes the condition not masoor dhal. They are of similar color and therefore hard to distinguish. Still confused about it. I would really appreciate if you have read anything about this DK?or anyone else?

  15. Anisha

    Hey, I’m thinking of making this. Do you think it would go well with any type of naan? Like garlic naan? And what can I substitute for the red chillies? I think red chilli powder would work, but how much?

  16. MS

    By far the best dal recipe i have made. I got kudos from some kids too who are extremely picky eaters. Thank you so much for sharing this. :-D

  17. kate

    I always thought I was a terrible cook, but I tried this and it was lovely! I also used some veg stock, but next time I’ll use less as it can overpower too. 8)

  18. Mbasu

    Tried this and it came out awesome :lol:

  19. She S

    I made this daal recipe and I must say it is hands down the best daal recipe I’ve ever eaten. Be still my heart. I make this every week and have made it for guests and they love it. The only difference – I use half chicken broth (or veggie, chicken tastes slightly better) and half water instead. Thanks so much for posting this — it’s divine.

  20. kaukab husain

    :lol:
    i tried today this recipe

    thanks

  21. Karan

    Its a great explanation…:)

  22. chinmay

    :-D

    Really this dal tadka make my day thanks alot for sharing

  23. yashasvi

    :) thnx …. its really good…..

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