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 :))
  • Cook time:
  • Prep time:
  • Serves: 4 people
    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)
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.
1. Wash the lentils well in cold water until the water runs clear. Red Lentils tend to require a little tedious cleaning process.
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.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the lentils along with 3 cups of water.
5. You can adjust the amount of water once the lentils are cooked depending on the consistency you prefer.
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
7. Once the lentils are cooked, give them a stir and adjust the amount of water as per your liking.
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.
9. Add it to the dal. Give it a quick stir and serve hot garnished with cilantro.
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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5 Member Reviews

By Sana on Apr 7, 2014

same method did add green chilies in the end too will taste in a short while to know how it tastes and will update the review accordingly

By Piya on May 19, 2013

I often made this Tadka Dal but did not use curry leaves. In Bangladesh curry leaves are not available so we use coriander leaves.

Read All 5 Reviews →


By David on Nov 6, 2018

The only recipe that counts is here. Thank you.

By Meera on Jul 8, 2016

Tried and it turned out really nice. I added bit more garlic and ginger.

Thank you so much for the feedback :) --DK

By Laurie Lind on May 10, 2016

Is there an easy way to print this recipe? I want to add it to my cookbook! I did try it once and it turned out OK. I think I burned the mustard seeds in the oil, as that part of the mixture turned out very black. My friend from India said it should not be entirely black. I intend to try again and again until I master this, then move on to other Indian recipes. But would really like to locate printer-friendly versions if possible.

We are still in the process of revamping our site and hence this feature is taking time. Would appreciate your patience. Thank you so much --DK

By Love of Modern and Period Cooking on Jan 20, 2016

I tried this and it was amazing I used 1tbsp of ghee just cuz I love it but I made to much of the dal mix can keep in the fridge for a few days before reheating and adding tempering?

By muskan on Oct 3, 2015

it was v v v helpful to prepare wit ur site thanks

By Lee on Sep 23, 2015

Your recipes are always so tantalizing, and the ones I've made are amazing. Thank you! For this recipe, I have available all the ingredients except curry leaves (which are not for sale anywhere in our little town); are these critical to the success of this recipe? Can I substitute something dried?

Thank you so much :) And no, curry leaves isn't critical here. Would it enhance the taste? - yes. But you won't miss it without. --DK

By Farah on Sep 13, 2015

My dad always said never stir with a steel spoon the dal while it's cooking Once the wart has dried them mash (goto) the dal then add some water n allow to slowly cook on low flame

By Manjit on Sep 13, 2015

Being a North Indian I have cooked this in tradional punjabi way but I love South Indian food a lot so m going to definitely try it with curry leaves ...sounds interesting.Thank u.

By Julian vaz on May 11, 2015

anyone tried this recipe with mustard oil instead of ghee? It's an acquired taste, I personally love it.

By Devang on Apr 13, 2015

If you want to pressure cook it this receipe then how do you do it.

By James on Apr 5, 2015

It's good. Adding the ginger late brings up the freshness factor. Had it with tandoori roti, saag paneer, also gobi. Perfect :wink:

By Abid on Dec 18, 2014

:-P Hey I love Tadka Dal it is an awesome recipe i liked so much.

By Charles Rouse on Nov 10, 2014

:) Delicious, recommended, definitely cook it again.

By Asiya on Aug 23, 2014

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

By Aiza Jasmi on Jul 22, 2014

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

By Carol G on Jul 18, 2014

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

By Carol G on Jul 16, 2014

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

By Anu on May 16, 2014

: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:

By riya.chauhan on May 11, 2014

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

By yogesh on May 10, 2014

:) nice buddy

By nisha on Apr 16, 2014

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

By vani on Mar 29, 2014

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

By Jv Suresh on Mar 19, 2014

When should v add lemon juice to it?

By PB on Mar 10, 2014

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.

By shiny on Mar 10, 2014

:) one

By Danielle on Mar 5, 2014

: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

By MS on Feb 16, 2014

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?

By Anisha on Feb 10, 2014

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?

By MS on Feb 9, 2014

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

By dal tadka and naan | foodliography on Jan 12, 2014

[...] dal tadka, via ChefInYou [...]

By kate on Jan 7, 2014

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)

By Mbasu on Dec 28, 2013

Tried this and it came out awesome :lol:

By She S on Dec 10, 2013

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.

By kaukab husain on Nov 28, 2013

:lol: i tried today this recipe thanks

By Karan on Nov 10, 2013

Its a great explanation...:)

By chinmay on Oct 13, 2013

:-D Really this dal tadka make my day thanks alot for sharing

By yashasvi on Sep 28, 2013

:) thnx .... its really good.....

By Black Tarka Dal with Tamarind Sauce and Jhal Muri | food to glow on Sep 16, 2013

[...] Tadka Dal via Chef In You [...]

By Keerthi on Sep 12, 2013

Can v make dis wid toor dal?

By Dal | Pearltrees on Sep 7, 2013

[...] Punjabi Dal Tadka recipe | Tarka Daal Fry with Masoor Recipe [...]

By monalisa on Sep 2, 2013

:roll: my headace thinking about cooking good food husband and son like this masoor dal very much.thankyou.

By Week 16: August 19-24: First Week of Student Presentations | Community Teaching Garden on Aug 25, 2013

[...] Next, Anu presented on the art and memory of Indian cooking. He talked us through the process of making a staple in the Indian diet: dahl. Anu told us that before coming to the US, he would eat this once a day at least. When dal is eaten with a bread or grain, you are able to access the essential proteins and vitamins. Here is a link to Anu’s recipe: [...]

By John on Aug 21, 2013

:mrgreen: delicious! yummy, simple and moreish

By Ketki on Aug 13, 2013

Really good recipe!! A good variantion from the regular Punjabi dals..Bt one q!! Do Punjabis really add Curry leaves to their dals??? :)

Kindly refer my Tips section --DK

By Subhash on Aug 3, 2013

DK, I just made this, and am eating it while writing this comment. It is SO good! Thanks so much for the delicious recipe. I can't wait to try more :-D

By ghata on Jul 5, 2013

awesum reciepe yaar, mah family is surely gonna love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! waiting 4 next reciepe

By ghats on Jul 5, 2013

:wink: \awesum

By Fiona Barnes on Jun 27, 2013

I have not tried this one yet but I made a different version today and soaked my peas for 24 hours before hand - they were soft but still very firm. With this recipe - I am just curious but how can they cook enough in under 30 minutes?

What kind of lentils are you using? This one is Red Lentils (Indian name: Masoor Dal) and requires no soaking. It cooks pretty fast as well.--DK

By Tadka Dal (Masoor Dal) | | The Social bookmarking Site on Jun 24, 2013

[...] Links Tadka Dal (Masoor Dal) Read More >> [...]

By farmeen ashraf on Jun 18, 2013

I like this recipe :-P

By farmeen ashraf on Jun 18, 2013

I like this recipes 8)

By divya on Jun 14, 2013

This is a good tadka our family loved it :-P I'm waiting for your other new Punjabi recipes:-):-):-):-):-)

By Lauren on May 14, 2013

Do you use red lentils from the can, or the ones that are dry and require soaking?

I use the dry red lentils. They do not require soaking. You can see that I don't soak them in the step by step pictures. --DK

By Gayathri on Mar 31, 2013

Hi, I was browsing through the Feb 2013 issue of Siliconeer magazine and saw this recipe in there , verbatim...was it printed with your permission? Just wanted to let you know

Nope, I am not aware of it. This is sad! --DK

By Sharon on Mar 28, 2013

Asofoetida is also called Hing. Hope that helps.

By » Fiery cravings: dal tadka, bhindi curry & coconut basmati candids by Jo on Mar 25, 2013

[...] for each of the dishes can be found in the below links: Dal Tadka Bhindi curry Coconut basmati [...]

By Alan on Mar 23, 2013

What is asafoetida in English? Great recipe, I am gonna make one.

By Noya Almira on Mar 10, 2013

:wink: Very good receipe

By ashu on Mar 8, 2013

Superb. :D :) :) :) :)

By Mandy on Mar 7, 2013

Great website cooked this today. Used a hand blender slightly to thicken it. Love this website! :)

By verity on Feb 22, 2013

thanks :)

By sangita Halder on Feb 22, 2013

why different restaurants have different taste of same dal tadkaa & dal fry

By JOVIS on Jan 31, 2013

delicious! Just made it tonight and we absolutely loved it! This will now become a favourite and regular meal. Thank you very much for a lovely meal. :) :-P :lol:

By RANI PARVATHI on Jan 25, 2013

oh,i will definitely try this.i once tried it from a Punjabi dhaba at manglore.

By smitha on Jan 14, 2013

Cant we pressure cook the dal

Oh yes definitely you can --DK

By Manju Mital on Jan 13, 2013

I love this recipe, I use it all the time. It is my favourite recipe.

By Jennifer on Dec 14, 2012

Thank you so much for posting this! I have made it many times now and it has become a family favorite. Keep the yummy recipes coming, please!

By tancy on Nov 30, 2012

:wink: :lol: :-D 8) :arrow: good accommpaniment to rotis, i remember mum make it and we all loved it.

By Tina on Nov 16, 2012

I made this recipe and the Dal Fry recipe both with toor dal and they both turned out delicious! Thank you.

By Anna on Nov 15, 2012

:) Was searching for a different dal recipe and this sounded different. I was right. My family loved it, thanks

By Khalid on Nov 3, 2012

This is the most beautiful Receipe, I have ever seen on Internet :-P

By verity on Oct 4, 2012

so which colour / type of mustard seeds do you use?

Black. The one you get from Indian groceries/market. --DK

By Paddy on Oct 4, 2012

Delicious, thanks!

By jatin on Oct 3, 2012

well explained!i will definitely try to make it !

By jatin on Oct 3, 2012

nice recipe,i like to make it thanks for this information

By hbg on Oct 2, 2012

Why do the tomatoes have to be added twice? :-? :?: :?:

That was a mistake. Have rectified it. Thanks for bringing it to my notice. --DK

By verity on Sep 2, 2012

hi there, which type of mustard seeds do you use (which colour) :-D

By rumpa on Aug 25, 2012

nice :)

By Merryl on Jul 11, 2012

:-D I'm So Happy That I Made This Recipe Last Night... My Husband Loved It Too..

By sajeda on Jul 2, 2012


By pralaya on Jun 19, 2012


By Priya Pitale on Jun 13, 2012

The coolest recipe Nicely shown understandable :-P

By Shweta on Apr 30, 2012

nicely explained

By suman on Mar 26, 2012

loved it :!:

By Bharati Bhattacharyya on Feb 5, 2012

All other things remaining same, I also add finely chopped onions in the tempering!! 8)

By PrairieGirl on Jan 18, 2012

Made Dal for the first time last night, glad I tried your recipe, it was delicious! Could not find curry leaves nor Asafoetida so added 1 tsp garam masala in both the base and the tempering. Used EV olive oil.

By Dhanya on Jan 12, 2012

masoor dal has cholesterol reducing properties. infact this is the only dal with this special quality. so its defly very healthy as compared to tuvar dal. mung and chana dal are also very healthy.

By padmini rajagopal on Nov 16, 2011

Hi I mix the masoor and moong dal and cook them in the pressure cooker with ginger , green chillies and turmeric. Once cooked, just a few minutes on the stove to get the thick consistency and add saltand lime juice (to taste). Tadka is optional, but I just take tsp of oil and add jeera and when golden brown add it to the dal. Sprinkle coriander (finely chopped)just before serving. This is quick and tasty.

By Tess on Sep 19, 2011

Heya! I must say your recipes are awesome. I was wondering if you know the number of whistles required to cook the lentils in a small pressure cooker.

I am assuming it varies from the cooker brand? I can tell you for me (for 1 cup lentils), I usually let the steam come out in full force and then put the weight on. Then I wait for 2 (at times 3, no special reason!) and let the cooker cool down before I take the weight off

By Tres Delicious on Aug 6, 2011

I've never tried lentil, my friends told that it's really great. The looks of it makes me say "I will love it"

By Meera on Aug 4, 2011

Masoor dal cooks so fast. I soak it a bit to make the cooking go a bit faster (even if I just soak it for 5-10 minutes). I make this almost twice a week for my son. healthy and gives you that feeling of comfort food. :-P

By sailaja on Jun 10, 2009

as kids we used to eat masoor dal. then some study came which associated it with some disease. henceforth it was stopped from eaten. i also that is reason it is eaten less frequently compared to the other dals. I haven't yet heard anything bad about Masoor dal - All I read about is how healthy it is! Will check on it more before I come to a consensus

By Kalai on Dec 9, 2008

Quick and delicious! Looks beautiful, Dhivi! :)

By raaji on Dec 9, 2008

i love this dal which my MIL yummy.....i miss this

By DEESHA on Dec 9, 2008

I love masoor dal .. yes a great way to remind us of comfort food at home

By karuna on Dec 9, 2008

nice recipe. i make this dal too, but i add a little bit of moong dal too. i must try it just with masoor. pic looks really tempeting

By Vaidehi on Dec 9, 2008

Tadka Dal really goes great with plain rice.


By Aparna on Dec 9, 2008

This is what I make when I'm short of time and ideas. I vary the dal and the spices for tadka and its a winner everytime.:)

By Priya on Dec 9, 2008

Nothing will beat dal tadka na!!!!i love them with anything...can have them at anytime too..

By Alka on Dec 9, 2008

Looks tempting....i usually make whole massor dal ,and the only way i use red masoor is a handful of it in sambhar along with toor dal...wud try this out coz it really sounds yummy !

By Curry Leaf on Dec 8, 2008

DK, also sent it to TastyPalettes-Legume affair 6th helping.It surely is delish and healthy

By Arundathi on Dec 8, 2008

i love masoor dal - its my favorite type of lentil.