Dhabay ki Daal

Dhabay ki Daal

Dhabas are north India’s greasy spoons– tiny roadside shacks that dot highways and mostly cater to weary truckers who pull in for a hearty, hot meal before heading over to the petrol pump (as gas stations are known in India) next door. Outside each dhaba are rows of charpoys, small Indian cots, where the truckers can nap awhile, right there under the open sky and by the dust-smothered highway, before getting back on the road.

If you’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant anywhere in the world, chances are you’ve already eaten some of the distinctive cuisine served by these otherwise unglamourous eateries: lassi, naan, aloo mattar, and, of course, this creamy, deceptively indulgent Dhabay ki Daal, one of my favorites.

There are perhaps a million different ways to make a dal, but Dhabay ki Daal has got to be one of the most special. It bursts with rapturous flavor from the few spices and the three different legumes that go into it. And its smooth, creamy, indulgent texture belies just how healthy this dish, made right, can actually be.
Dhabay ki Daal

Dhabay ki Daal is not typically a vegan treat– there is usually butter in the recipe which not just lends the dish additional flavor but also gives the dish a satiny texture. Because the butter plays such a crucial role, I added some vegan butter to round off the dish and mellow out the richness of the spices. You can leave it out but honestly, don’t. It’s just one tablespoon for more than eight servings, so it’s not like you’re eating a lot of fat. In fact, this dish is such a healthy one overall that your tastebuds and your waistline will be thanking you for the treat. Now how often does that happen?

To make this a true dhaba experience, serve this dal with a spicy veggie, like this Baingan Bharta, another popular dhaba food, some rice, or a naan. And a tall, cooling glass of Mango Lassi.

I am sending this dal to Nupur who’s hosting My Legume Love Affair 60 this month. This healthy event, the brainchild of Susan, the Well-Seasoned Cook, is now run by Lisa.Enjoy, all!
Dhabay ki Daal

Dhabay ki Daal
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
(Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's How to Cook Indian. Makes 8-10 servings)
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 10
  • ½ cup chana dal
  • ½ cup udad dal
  • ½ cup rajma or red kidney beans
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder, like paprika or cayenne if you like some heat
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated or ground into a paste
  • 6 cloves of garlic, grated or ground into a paste
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, minced
  • ¼ cup kasoori methi
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vegan butter, like Earth Balance
  1. Cook the legumes. I will share with you here my "shortcut" way of doing this-- because rajma takes much longer to cook than the two lentils, and because I don't always remember to presoak my beans, I faux-soak the rajma by covering it with 2 inches of water in a microwave-safe dish, zap it for about 10 minutes, add more water if needed, and then zap again for another 10 minutes. Then I place the legumes and the rajma in a pressure cooker and cook them together. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can cover the lentils and the soaked rajma with water in a large saucepan, slap on a lid, and cook about an hour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  3. Add the ginger and garlic, saute for a minute on a medium-low flame, and then add the onions.
  4. Saute the onions until brown spots appear, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric powders and salt to taste. Add the tomatoes and saute until they are cooked down, about five minutes.
  6. Now add the cooked lentils and stir well to mix. Add some water if the dal is too thick.
  7. Cover with a lid and cook about 8-10 minutes for all the flavors to meld together. Crush the kasoori methi with your fingers and sprinkle over the dal. Mix in the butter and stir until it's melted into the dal.
  8. Stir in the cilantro, turn off the heat, and serve hot.


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


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  1. says

    Oh I love dhabey ki daal. I was lucky to taste it a few times when I was traveling thru Punjab. Huge vats of daal are empty after lunch, a feat I would have thought impossible, until I saw it with my eyes!
    I bet, making this in a slow cooker will also taste FAB! Will try it, but with makhhan!

    • says

      Hi Manasi, sounds like such a lovely experience! One warning about cooking dal in a slow-cooker– it never seems to quite get done. The dal remains hard instead of turning mushy. Have you had better luck?

  2. says

    Oh gosh, I love any dhaba food. The flavor is unbeatable and unique. Have stopped many a time at these roadside eateries and come away stuffed. Have tried unsuccessfully to recreate many of the recipes at home, but they never quite have that same flavor. Will give this a try for sure. I’m a dal-phile, so I’m sure it will be amazing. Thanks V.

  3. says

    Ohhhhhh this looks soooo good. I’m just trying to figure out what the dals (lentils?) might be called here (I live in Greece). It must be annoying to have people ask for substitutions all the time but would regular lentils do? We have green and yellow here, we also have split peas (yellow or green) here also that look a bit like the chala dal. Maybe some time (when you have loads of free time lol) you could write a post on the various legumes with some pics 😀

    • says

      Melina, if you can’t find chana or udad dal use the yellow lentils and the kidney beans, if you can find them, or even pinto beans. The Dal will have a different texture and slightly different flavor, but it will still be delicious.

  4. Anonymous says

    So if preparing daal in pressure cooker for how many whistles we should cook it? And how much of water we should add?

    • says

      I use a Fagor pressure cooker which doesn’t “whistle” so I am afraid I can’t answer that question. In my cooker I usually cook the dal, unsoaked, for about 8 minutes on a high pressure setting. Maybe a reader who uses one of the cookers that “whistles” can help?

  5. says

    Am so trying this tonight! Love the mixture of dals, its really healthy…protein, fiber, everything!Also thanks for the quick soak method, I always decide my menu at teh last minute and this is a great trick!

  6. says

    I love the dhaba style Dal.. By Udad dal, do you mean the white or the black dal???? I may try this this weekend with Black udad dal, which I have on hand. About the whistles, I do use the Indian cooker that whistles, for Rajma and Black Udad Dal for makhani, I go for 3-4 whistles on medium and then 5 mins on the lowest mark. I have gas stove so this works for me. I also need to pre soak the lentils.
    Love Ash.

  7. says

    Hi Ash, I mean the regular white dal, although if you have the dal with the black skin on that would work too– in fact I think that’s more authentic but I didn’t have it on hand. Thanks so much for helping with the reader question– you rock!

  8. says

    Who doesnt love Dhabey ki Dal? And of course you are right, its just not the same without a good helping of butter to round of the spices 😀
    My favorite roadside dhaba dal, though, is the Dal Tadka made with toor dal, lots of jeera and garlic, and dried red chillies. Yumm!

    • says

      Thanks for this fantastic recipe, we all loved it! My son doesn’t always like curries but he really enjoyed this. I adored the kasoori methi in it which I haven’t used in many recipes previously.

      One question about the udad dal you used, is that the whole black lentils or split black lentils? I used whole black lentils and the dal turned out much darker than your photos so I was curious to know.

    • says

      Hi Mel, I used the split white lentils, although the ones with the black skin on are good too– in fact, the dhabas usually use the dal with the skin on, so you’d be closer to the original. :) Happy you and your family liked it.

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