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.

Get new recipes by email. Sign up below.


  1. says

    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.

  2. says

    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.

  3. says

    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 :)

  4. says

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


  5. says

    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 :)

  6. says

    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.

  7. Raja says

    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!

  8. Anonymous says

    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.

Leave a comment!