An easy, garlicky Indian style Moong Dal that is super easy to make with just seven ingredients. Perfect for a weeknight meal -- just serve it with basmati rice or roti! A soy-free, gluten-free, nut-free and vegan recipe.
I once read a magazine article where the writer asked a number of Indian celebrities what their favorite meal was--their comfort meal. Most of these people were not vegetarians (most Indians aren't). But the reason their responses stuck in my memory was that they were, in most cases, the same: dal chawal, they said. Cooked by mom.
Dal chawal (dal and rice) sits at the core of every Indian meal and to so many of us, no matter where in the world we live, it really is comfort food. It is what we grew up eating, thanks to our moms, and it is what we eat most days, regardless of where we fall on the veg-nonveg spectrum.
Dal is, of course, not one recipe. The word "dal" simply translates to "lentils" and it is a collective term used around parts of India for lentil dishes that are usually soupy and eaten with rice or roti.
Not all dals are called dal, depending on where you are in India. A sambar or kuzhambu in Tamil Nadu, a varan in Maharashtra, a pappu in Andhra Pradesh and a dalitoy in the Konkan are all dals by other names.
One of my comfort dals, and one of Jay's too (dals tend to be very kid-friendly), is this extremely simple and tasty Moong Dal.
This dal is made with moong lentils or moong dal--split yellow mung beans without the skin on. They're tiny and yellow and you can easily find them online or in Indian grocery stores. They are not to be substituted with the whole green mung bean which has its skin on, or with moong dal chilka, which is the split bean but with the skin still on.
Moong dal is packed with protein and fiber, like other lentils. When cooked up, it becomes very creamy and has a really pretty yellow color that looks extremely appetizing. It also has a unique flavor that shines through in this simple dish.
Ingredients for moong dal
- 1½ cups mung lentils (split yellow moong dal, without the skin)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 2 green chile peppers (like serrano, split down the middle, deseed for less heat)
- 1 tbsp ginger (grated)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 10 cloves garlic (you can use more for an even more garlicky dal. Peel the garlic cloves and crush the whole cloves with the flat portion of the knife, then chop roughly. You don't want to mince them--there should be some big pieces of garlic in the dal)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp cilantro (optional, for garnish)
How to make moong dal
- Begin by boiling the lentils (rinse them first) with the turmeric, green chilies and ginger so the flavors of the spices and herbs infuse the lentils.
- You can cook the dal one of three ways--in a pressure cooker, in the Instant Pot, or on the stovetop. The pressure cooker and IP are the quickest, so use them if you have them.
- In a pressure cooker, cover the dal with two inches of water and cook for three whistles, or for approx 10 minutes after it reaches pressure depending on your model (check your manufacturer instructions).
- In an Instant Pot, pressure cook the dal, again covered by at least two inches of water, on the "manual" setting for 10 minutes.
- On the stovetop, place the rinsed lentils, turmeric, chile peppers and ginger in a saucepan and cover with at least two inches of water. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat to a simmer, and let the lentils cook until they're really soft. Check frequently and add water if the lentils dry up. There should always be enough water in the pan to cover the lentils while they cook.
- Once the lentils are cooked, I like blending half of them to a smooth puree and mixing them back with the remaining lentils. This gives your dal a really creamy texture, while still retaining some complexity. You can skip this step, but I really advise it. (You can fish out the green chile peppers before blending--at this point they've given up most of their flavor to the dal).
- Make the tempering or tadka by heating the coconut oil in a saucepan.
- Add the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to sputter, add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes until the garlic pieces turn golden but don't let them burn. Burnt garlic will taste bitter.
- Add the dal to the pot and mix well. Add more water if needed. One of the most common mistakes I see cooks unfamiliar with Indian cooking make is making their dal thick and gloppy. Dal is not meant to be thick in most cases--it should be soupy but creamy so you can mix it into your rice.
- Once the dal comes to a boil and has the right consistency, let it continue to simmer for five more minutes. Check salt, turn off the heat, and garnish with the cilantro, if using.
- Dal always thickens on standing, and moong dal especially so. So if you don't serve the dal right away, you might find it gets quite thick. It is perfectly fine to thin it out with more water and reheat it. But always check for salt and add more if needed after reheating the dal.
What to serve with the dal
- Plain white or brown rice are perfect. Add a vegetable side or sabzi like my Bombay Potatoes, Aloo Gobi or Baingan Bharta for a wholesome and delicious meal.
- You can also serve this dal with an Indian roti or vegan naan and a sabzi.
- If you're nursing a cold, this dal, as garlicky as it is, makes a perfect, comforting and even healing soup to slurp up by itself.
More dal recipes
- 1½ cups mung lentils (split yellow moong dal, without the skin)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 green chile peppers (like serrano, split down the middle)
- 1 tablespoon ginger (grated)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 10 cloves garlic (you can use more for an even more garlicky dal. Peel the garlic cloves and crush the whole cloves with the flat portion of the knife. Chop roughly--there should be some large pieces of garlic in the dal)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon cilantro (optional. Chopped, for garnish)
- Wash the lentils in running water, then place in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot with the turmeric, chile peppers and ginger. Add water to cover by two inches. Cook the lentils for three whistles in the pressure cooker or 10 minutes in the Instant Pot set to manual pressure.If you don't have an IP or pressure cooker, you can cook the dal on the stovetop. Place the lentils in a pan with the ginger, turmeric and water. Bring to a boil, cover, and let the lentils simmer until done. Check frequently and add more water if it starts to look dry.
- Once the lentils have cooked, remove half of them to a blender and puree until creamy. Add water if needed. This is not absolutely necessary but it gives the dal a really creamy, velvety texture that's amazing.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the black mustard seeds and, when they sputter, add the garlic. Saute the garlic over medium-low heat until it begins to turn golden-brown and fragrant, but don't let it burn. Stir constantly.
- Once the garlic turns brown, add the cooked moong--both the blended and non-blended portions. Mix well and add more water if needed. Dal should be a little runny and soupy--it shouldn't be too thick and gloppy.
- Bring the dal to boil and add salt to taste. Let the dal continue cooking another 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and garnish with cilantro. The dal thickens quite a bit as it stands, so add water if it thickens too much before serving. Always check for salt and add more if needed after you add water to the dal.
Another impeccable recipe, Vaishali.
I used about half of the suggested amount of garlic, cooked it on the stovetop for about 20 mins and left the daal grainy (that's the way I like my daal). My family loved the way this turned out. This has now been added to our regular lentil rotation. Thanks!!
So happy you and your family loved it, Deb!
This turned out delicious with one minor problem. When I released the pressure on my Breville pressure cooker, dal was expressed through the steam valve. Fortunately, what was left in the pot was completely usable. I used the two inches of water you recommended. I will definitely make this again, but perhaps not in the pressure cooker.
Oh no! 🙁 Some pressure cookers do specify that you should not cook lentils in them, probably because of problems like these where the tiny lentils clog up the valve. You can definitely use the Instant Pot for dal, if you have one, or just boil the lentils in a pot with enough water. I am happy the dal turned out well despite the trouble.
This is just fantastic! I don't miss my ghee flavour at all! I added some curry leaves, cumin seeds and dried red chillis to the tarka. Thanks for a fabulous easy dal recipe!
This recipe is proof that your blog is a gift to the world. So many thanks to you.
Awww, Shawna, you're the sweetest. Thanks for your kind words. ❤️
I don't have mustard seeds or powder. I do have spicy brown mustard or regular yellow. Can I use either and how much?
Hi Peggy, that kind of mustard is not a good substitute for mustard seeds. Skip the mustard seeds. Do you have cumin seeds? You can use those instead, or just proceed with the garlic.
Could this recipe be made using black lentils? I have them in the pantry already. ☺️
You could but urad dal or black lentils have a different texture and they are earthier so it prob won’t taste as good with a simple treatment. If you’re looking to use up black lentils try this spicy urad dal or dal makhani.