Skip to main content

How to Make Dal

Learn how to make dal from cookbook author Maya Kaimal in this Howcast Indian food video.


  • Step 1: You will need: 1 c. thoor dal, masoor dal, or yellow split peas
    2 tbsp. vegetable oil
    1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
    1 dried red chili
    1/4 c. finely chopped onion
    1 tsp. minced garlic Spice Blend
    1/2 tsp. cumin
    1/4 tsp. turmeric
    1/8 tsp. cayenne
    1 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
    10 fresh curry leaves (optional)
    1 tsp. Ghee (optional)
  • Step 2: Wash the dal In a large bowl wash the dal in several changes of water and drain.
  • FACT: Cook the dal Place the dal and 2 1/2 cups water in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the peas break up under pressure from a spoon. Check to make sure it doesn't boil over.
  • Step 3: Add mustard seeds When the dal has finished cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the mustard seeds to the oil and heat until they pop. When the popping subsides, toss in the dried red chili and curry leaves. After a few seconds, add the onion and fry until light brown. Put in the garlic and fry 1 minute.
  • FACT: Add spices Add the spice blend and fry for another minute. Stir this mixture into the dal along with l/2 cup water (if needed) and the salt. Partially cover and continue simmering another 10 minutes, adding more water if the mixture is too thick. It should be the consistency of thick pea soup. Remove from the heat.
  • FACT: Add finishing touches Stir in the lemon juice and ghee. Taste for salt. Recipe may be prepared in advance and reheated.


Hi, I'm Maya Kaimal, and I'm going to show you how to make dahl. Dahl is a term that refers to the dried beans, peas, or legumes of India. It also refers to the finished dish that you make with those beans.

There's a whole variety of dahls. We have tur dahl which is a very flat yellow, yellowish dahl. We have masoor dahl, also known as red lentils. These are green split peas. This is urad dahl that still has the skin on it. So it's got a black husk, and when you take the husk off it's actually a nice creamy white bean inside. And then this is moong dal which is a nice small dahl that is excellent toasted before it's cooked.

Today we're going to cook with masoor dahl, also known as red lentils. I like this one because it cooks fairly quickly, because you can see the beans are very small. And it also has a really nice creamy texture when it's cooked.

The first thing we need to do, though, is we need to wash the dahl. Because it does get rather dusty, so you want to make sure that you wash it in a few changes of water until the water starts to run clear.

Okay, now we've washed our dahl and we're going to put it in our pot. This is one cup of dried red lentils. And we're adding two cups of water. So we're going to bring this to a boil. We're going to slightly cover it. It'll boil over if you don't and make a big mess. So we'll turn the heat down to low and we're going to simmer it for about 20 to 25 minutes.

The dahl we're making today is a seasoned dahl. You can have a lot of flavor in your dahl. You can have a little bit of seasoning in your dahl. It's excellent with rice and, say, one or two curries on the side. Dahl is an important staple in the Indian diet. It's flavored with fresh curry leaves, mustard seeds, dried red chile, onion, garlic, some salt. We've got cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and we're going to finish it with a little lemon juice and some ghee.

Okay, so our dahl has been simmering about 20 minutes. And it's getting nice and soft. The way you can test it is to see if the little beans smash under the pressure of a spoon. And they do, so we know it's finished. We're going to take it off the heat, and I'm going to mash it with a potato masher. You can use a spoon, too but we want to get a nice soft consistency.

Now, we're going to do our seasoning. And the way we're going to do that is heat some oil in a pan and, one by one, we're going to add these aromatic ingredients that we have. And then we're going to put the whole thing into our dahl.

Popular Categories