Spicy Urad Dal

Urad dal
In India’s multifarious regional cuisines, each ingredient chosen plays an important and intricate role in creating the complexity of any given dish.

Take dal, for instance. There are thousands and more ways to make a dal, and the diversity of flavor in each dal recipe begins, at the most basic level, with the choice of lentils used.

Most Indian cooks have a half a dozen or so lentils in their pantry, give or take a couple, each with a distinct flavor. But the ones you’ll find featured most commonly in dal recipes are chana dal, tuvar dal, masoor dal, udad dal and moong dal.

Each traditional dal recipe is associated with a specific lentil. For instance, dal makhani is made with udad dal while a Maharashtrian varan is made with yellow split peas or tuvar dal. Some South Indian kootus and masials use moong dal while some Bengali dals use chana dal as a base.

You could, of course, substitute other lentils in these recipes, and the results could be perfectly edible, but they wouldn’t be dal makhani or varan. Get it?

Each dal recipe, no matter what it’s called, usually starts with boiling the lentils to tenderness (I do this in a pressure cooker and sometimes in a microwave), and ends with a tadka, which is a process of heating oil and adding a few spices to it, like mustard or cumin seeds or garlic or curry leaves. The tempered oil is then added to the dal to give it a crowning dash of flavor.

I usually use tuvar dal, masoor dal or moong dal to make most of my dals. But the recipe I am about to share today is made with udad dal, a tiny white lentil with a black skin.

Udad dal has a mildly bitter flavor and a slightly slippery-sticky texture which makes it great as a binding agent in dishes like idlis, steamed rice cakes, and dosas, lentil and rice crepes that are popular in South Indian cuisine and restaurants around the world.

In this dish, the udad is combined with a number of spices, and their fire is toned down at the tail end with the addition of a dollop or two of vegan butter that also adds a smooth creaminess.

Here goes the recipe. Enjoy!
Urid dal

Spicy Urad Dal
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
  • 1 cup urad dal (black gram dal)
  • 3 tomatoes, pureed (I used fresh tomatoes because they're abundantly available in the market right now, but you can use 1½ cup of canned tomatoes)
  • 10 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp vegan "butter," like Earth Balance
  • 1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
  1. Cook or pressure-cook the dal along with the ginger, red chilli powder, turmeric and some salt until tender and mushy.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet or saucepan.
  3. Add the garlic and stir quickly for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until they express the oil.
  4. Add the cooked urad dal and garam masala powder and stir together. Check for salt and add more if needed.
  5. If the dal is too thick, add some water.
  6. Simmer for about 15 minutes on medium-low heat.
  7. At the very end, add the 2 tbsp of vegan butter. Stir in. Turn off heat.
  8. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
  9. Serve hot with rice or rotis.


(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

24 thoughts on “Spicy Urad Dal

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    July 1, 2009 at 7:17pm

    This daal is my husband’s specialty. He makes it with onion and kokum. I have been meaning to post it for so long … someday :)

    But I will definitely make this one soon. I like to slurp daals just like that. This will be perfect for that.

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    July 1, 2009 at 7:46pm

    not really a fan of urad dal..but anything spicy, i like it!!

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    July 1, 2009 at 7:53pm

    I dont usually cook much with urad dal, looking at this dal i must start using it, looks delicious!!

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    July 1, 2009 at 7:55pm

    That dal looks rich and inviting!
    Let me get this straight though- is this whole urad (with the black skin on) or is it the white urad dal, meaning split urad with the skin removed?

    I’d love to try your recipe but I want to be sure I’m using the right thing.

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    July 1, 2009 at 8:40pm

    Mints, thanks. I can imagine it would be delicious with onion and kokum. Will look forward to seeing your recipe when you get around to posting it.

    Superchef, Parita: Thanks, ladies.

    Nupur, Thanks. I used the split urad dal with the black skin on, which I found at the Indian grocery store here. I think the skin adds a bit more earthiness to the flavor. Hope you will try and like it :)

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    July 1, 2009 at 8:52pm

    Never made with urad dal but the curry looks so tempting!

  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    July 1, 2009 at 10:21pm

    Never tried curry with urad dal, healthy curry !

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    July 2, 2009 at 2:46am

    This dhal has been on my to do list for the longest time now, your perfect dal makes me want to make it soon !

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    July 2, 2009 at 3:17am

    This is a family favourite and you are right … the skin does give it a different flavour. Lovely with hot rotis. :-)

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Poornima Nair

    July 2, 2009 at 3:51am

    Urad dal is just for tadkas and idli batter in my kitchen…but this dal sounds super yumm.

  11. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    July 2, 2009 at 5:15pm

    that looks yum! i never buy the black urad daal. will give it a try. it should be more nutritious.

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    July 3, 2009 at 6:06am

    I make this the same way and just to add some more flavour, add split green mung beans with the skin on. Delicious!


  13. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Curry Leaf

    July 3, 2009 at 11:13am

    Always short of recipes with urad dal.Lovely dal.hearty and delicious

  14. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    July 4, 2009 at 1:06pm

    I really enjoy this as dal makhni (I make a butterless version too). Your version sounds good too.

  15. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    July 21, 2009 at 11:10pm

    Vaishali- I tried your spicy urad dal last night and we enjoyed it very much! The texture is definitely different from what we are used to- I liked it.

    I’m glad urad dal is now part of my pantry :)

  16. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 15, 2009 at 2:34am

    Hi Vaishali,

    Came by your site via Nupur’s — and I am glad to do so! Spicy urad dal looks delicious :)

  17. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    December 2, 2009 at 9:02pm

    I tried it and it has come out so delicious . I mmake it once a week ..

  18. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    October 17, 2011 at 3:32pm

    How much water do you use when you cook the urad dal in your pressure cooker? And do you soak the dal first?

  19. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    October 18, 2011 at 4:33am

    I know I commented with questions earlier but I couldn’t wait for a response and I went with it! I soaked my dal first (dry 1 cup) and then I drained them and added the dal and 2.5 cups to my pressure cooker. Once the dal and the other goodies (plus a green chili) were up to pressure I cooked them for 10 minutes and then let the pressure release naturally. It turned out perfect! I also added a pinch of hing and a few cumin seeds to the hot oil before sauteeing the garlic. I ate this with a side of tomatoey southern greens and some leftover brown rice.

  20. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 11, 2012 at 11:47am

    I tried the recipe yesterday and loved it! Thank you for posting it, I will certainly add it to my repertoire!

    I combined it with seasoned rice (first fried ground Cardamon, Black Cardamon & Turmeric, then added the Basmati,salt and, a couple of minuntes later, the rice) and Bhindi Masala. Again, my wife and I loved it.

    Since I am not vegan, I used ordinary butter. Also, I used the Urad Dal I had – which was the white, peeled variety. Finally, I held off somewhat on the garlic and used 4 instead of 10 cloves (to keep the Pitta under control).
    Next time I might add some lime juice, too, to add a little freshness, but in sum: a great recipe!

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    January 11, 2012 at 6:23pm

    Raja, that is one incredible meal. Love the seasoned rice. And some lime juice at the end sounds great. Thanks for your feedback.

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    September 24, 2013 at 11:33am

    This is my favorite dal recipe….I make it all the time…really spicy for me not too spicy for everyone else. I’m not Indian but I love cooking the food. I make this in a crock pot sometimes and it comes out like a rich delicious chili. The ghee at the end is really the crowning touch that makes this fabulous.

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