Dal Tadka Recipe
Restaurant style dal tadka made with a blend of three types of healthy lentils -- toor dal, moong dal and masoor dal. It's creamy, garlicky and smoky, and it's perfectly spiced. The tadka or tempering of mustard seeds and ginger stirred in at the finish takes this dal from gorgeous to sublime.
Servings: 6 servings
- ⅓ cup toor dal (arhar dal or toor dal or split pigeon peas)
- ⅓ cup masoor dal (pink lentils)
- ⅓ cup moong dal (split mung lentils)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 6-8 large cloves garlic (crush each clove by smacking it with a knife, then thinly slice it)
- 2 green chili peppers (like serrano, minced or finely chopped. For less heat in the recipe deseed or simply split the pepper in half instead of mincing it)
- ¼ cup cilantro (divided. Chop the cilantro, also called coriander leaves, finely)
- 1 large tomato (finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon amchur (dried mango powder. You can sub with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, but if using lemon add it at the end of cooking)
- 1 tablespoon kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves. Crush in your palms when adding)
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1-inch piece ginger (julienned, or cut into thin strips)
- 2 dried red chili peppers (like Kashmiri red chili peppers or byadgi chili peppers, each broken into two. You can use Mexican arbol peppers, but they are spicier.)
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder (like paprika, optional)
Cook the dal: Place the dals (rinse first) in a pressure cooker with turmeric and 3 cups water. Cook for three whistles if using an Indian style pressure cooker or for 10 minutes in an Instant Pot set to pressure-cook. Allow the cooker to release manually or force-release after 10 minutes. Follow manufacturer directions on how to force-release safely. (See FAQs for instructions on cooking dal without pressure cooker)
Whisk the dal. Whisk the dal so it becomes smooth and creamy. Set aside.
Make the first tadka. In a saute pan or Dutch oven heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add cumin seeds and, when they begin to darken, add the garlic. Saute the garlic for a few seconds until it turns lightly golden, then add in the green chili peppers followed by half the cilantro. Stir-fry for a few seconds.
Add tomatoes, dal and water: Add the tomatoes and saute a minute or two. Pour in the cooked dal and add a cup of water. Mix. You can add more water if you want a thinner consistency. I would advise adding at least a cup because dals tend to thicken as they stand.
Add flavorings: Add the amchur and the kasoori methi. Add salt to taste. Mix well and bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for five minutes. Stir a couple of times in between to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.
Make the second tadka: Make the final tadka by heating the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small skillet. Once the oil is hot (not smoking) add the mustard seeds. They should begin to sputter rightaway. Add the julienned ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds. You can also add some red chili powder (like paprika) to the oil if you want a bit more color and heat in the recipe, but this is optional.
Pour the tadka over the dal and mix. Add remaining cilantro.
- Cook the lentils until they are mushy. In most Indian dals you are not looking for the lentils to hold their shape -- you want them to blend into a creamy consistency. This gives you the best flavor and texture. There are a few exceptions to this, like cholar dal and panchmel dal, where chana dal, which tends to hold its shape, is used. A pressure cooker or an Instant Pot does a great job of cooking dals perfectly and if you make dals often it's worth investing in one.
- Don't overcook the tomatoes. In many Indian recipes we reduce the tomatoes until the oil separates, but you don't want to go that far here. You want the tomatoes to retain their sweetness and their natural tanginess, so cook them for just a minute or two before adding the next ingredient.
- Make sure the tadka oil is hot. When you heat oil for tadka, make sure it is very hot, but not smoking, before you add mustard seeds to it. Mustard seeds and cumin seeds and other spices won't crackle and sputter in lukewarm or inadequately hot oil and will leave a bitter aftertaste in your recipe. If the oil is smoking, on the other hand, you could burn the spices and herbs before they release their flavors into the oil. The oil is at the perfect temperature if the mustard seeds begin to sputter as soon as you add them to the skillet.
- Don't walk away when making the tadka. A tadka is a quick process, usually taking no more than a few seconds. Don't begin heating the oil or add spices to it and walk away--you will almost certainly burn the tadka.
- Don't wait for everything to sputter. If you wait to hear every mustard seed you added sputter and crack open you will likely overheat and burn the tadka. Add the other ingredients, in this case the ginger, as soon as the seeds first begin to sputter.
- Turn down the heat when you begin adding seeds and spices to the hot oil. Yes, the oil should be very hot when you add the spices and seeds to it. But once the oil has heated turn down the heat to low and then add the tadka ingredients. Otherwise the sputtering seeds, and the oil coating them, can start a fire in your skillet.
Calories: 165kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Potassium: 215mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 423IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 2mg