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Namaste. Enjoy Some Tasty Indian Dal.

This recipe is not only quick (once you get the hang of it) and low-cost (yes!), it’s easy to make a LOT, so think about dal for your next gathering.  In addition to being super-tasty, this dal is loaded with healthy spices including the powerful anti-fungal and anti-bacterial  agent turmeric, the anti-cancer properties of hot chilies, the beneficial gastrointestinal effects of ginger, the many health properties of garlic, and the antioxidant coriander plus way more we’re told by the experts. Tastes better the next day as flavors will blend.  Freezes well too.

As with many of our recipes, this is just a guide.  Yes, there are a lot of ingredients but it’s easier than it looks.  The key is to have all your ingredients ready before you start.  You can even do the prep in the morning and cook later on if that’s easier. This recipe can also use a pressure cooker if you have one, which makes it super-fast.  

As with almost all Indian recipes, follow this order of adding spices and seasonings when cooking: First, the seeds; Second, the pastes; Third, the powders; and Fourth the leaves.


1 cup moong dal (or other type such as red lentils, toor dal, chana dal – purchase online or in an Indian/Asian store).  You can use ordinary lentils if you must.

2 tsp. cumin seeds (regular and optional black if available)

2 tsp. mustard seeds (black or yellow or both)

1 tsp. ajwan seeds (optional – purchase online or in an Indian/Asian store)

1 tsp. black onion seeds – kalonji (optional – purchase online or in an Indian/Asian store)

Small piece asafoetida/hing, about two rice grain size, crushed (optional – purchase online or in an Indian/Asian store)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

2 tsp. ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground red hot pepper (optional for the heat lovers)

1-3 whole cloves (optional – add with leaves at the end)

2 tsp. fenugreek leaves (optional – purchase online or in an Indian/Asian store)

10 curry leaves (optional – purchase online or in an Indian/Asian store)

1 tsp. salt

1-2 medium hot chilies such as jalapeno (how spicy do you like it?)

5 cloves garlic

2 inch piece ginger

1 tbsp. cooking oil (peanut is best but not required)

1 cup chopped tomato (canned or fresh)

1 medium onion chopped

4-6 cups water


First, soak the dal:

In a small bowl, soak the dal with warm water to cover 1-2″.

Second, make the paste:

Using a food processor, a hand mixer, a blender or even a mortar/pestle, combine ginger and garlic to make a smooth paste.  We often make extra and store it for other recipes.

Now it’s time to cook:

In a medium pot (or a pressure cooker – see note), heat the oil and when its hot, add all the seeds and crushed asafoetida if using.  Be careful as the mustard seeds will pop so act fast and use your lid to keep the mess down!  Add the ginger-garlic paste, chilies and onions and cook until fragrant and just barely brown.  Add the powdered spices except for the salt, stir well and add chopped tomatoes.  After a minute or so, add the lentils, leaves and 4 cups water.  Cover, reduce heat, and cook for about 30-45 minutes or until dal is fully cooked.  Add salt and adjust seasonings.

It’s almost impossible to screw this up because it can be adjusted as you go.  If it’s too thick, add more water.  If it’;s too thin, cook uncovered until it reduces.  If using a pressure cooker, try the following guide:  For small dal like moong dal, cook at high pressure about 6 minutes; for larger dal, like chana dal (both pictured above), cook at pressure 12 minutes.  For more about pressure cooking, check out The Veggie Queen.

Serves 4-6.  Enjoy with hot naan or chapati, saffron rice and your favorite chutneys and pickles.