Indian dal, so nutritious, so comforting. It is one of my go-to vegetarian comfort food. I usually serve it with rice but whenever I can afford the extra step, I make garlic naans. So flavourful and filling! If you are like me, quickly grab my easy and super quick dal recipe!Jump to Recipe
Is it Indian dal, daal, dhal, dahl???
Are you as confused as me? I wonder why we couldn’t come up with just one universal spelling. From my little research, the correct spelling is dal with a long “a” sounding. Dal generally refers to split legumes like lentils, peas and beans. When the legumes are sold whole, they are called sabut dal.
No matter its spelling, if you are a bit familiar with Indian cuisine I am pretty sure when you hear the word dal you know it is about the Indian lentil curry. Am I right? Fair enough since lentil dals are the most commonly known. However, dal can be made with other legumes than lentils.
What is an Indian dal made of?
There are so many dal recipes out there. While some are only made with one variety of lentil, others use two sorts of lentils. Some dal recipes are just made with split chickpeas, others use a mix of lentils and chickpeas or another legume.
Contrary to North of India, Southern dal recipes call for coconut milk. And while turmeric is the essential spice, many recipes will use other spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander etc. Or even ready to use spice mix like garam masala. You got it, there are probably as many dal recipes as Indian households!
What you’ll need for my delicious dal recipe
As for today’s recipe, I am using a mix of sabut chana dal and masoor dal (split red lentils). I published my original dal recipe where I use a mix of moong dal (yellow split mung beans) and masoor dal. Since I know moong dal are not easily available for some of you, here I am with another version of dal that uses more common ingredients. Moreover, it cooks faster!
A small can of cooked chickpeas – when drained it should give us 265 g of cooked chickpeas. Using cooked chickpeas is a total time saver and as a mum of three, I’m all for it! Beware that the salt content varies from brand to brand so better drain and rinse them well.
Red lentils – masoor dal cooks relatively fast. It takes around 25 minutes to get a mushy consistency when simmered. Here I want them on a firmer side, so I count 15 minutes in total.
Spice blend or masala – in addition to turmeric, I like to add cardamom, coriander and curry powders that spice up the entire dish.
Aromatics – onion, garlic, ginger are the aromatics I reach to when I cook Asian food. Add a pinch of salt when cooking them to help get the moisture out and long enough in the oil to the point the onion is tender and becomes sweet. Adding bay leaves helps to deepen the overall flavour.
Tomatoes – do you know tomatoes are naturally high in glutamate? In addition to upgrade the dish to a vibrant golden colour, it enhances the overall flavour.
Leafy greens – most of the time I like to toss in some baby spinach that quickly melts. Whenever I have chards, they can be a great substitute. My kids are not fans of the strong earthy taste of the chards, luckily the spices will overpower.
Why does the dal sometimes taste bitter?
There are two reasons why your dal tastes bitter. The first reason lays in the saponin content of the legumes. Dietary saponins are not toxic but they can give an unpleasant taste to your food. To remove as much saponin as possible, wash the legumes very well, soak them for few hours to overnight, and/or cook them in enough water. I personally do not soak red lentils but wash them thoroughly in cold water. Then I like to precook the lentils in enough water so I can remove the soapy foam that forms on the surface.
The second reason is when you overcook the spices. Once I clearly overcooked them. My toddler kept coming back and forth to me while I was trying to cook lunch. I had to turn off the heat several time in between. It resulted in overcooked spices and it wasn’t the most delightful culinary experience. Make sure to add the spices when the onion is tender and stir for a couple of minutes until they become fragrant. Then add the diced tomato and so on.
Super tasty, nutrient packed and hearty, the perfect family meal. Now that you know everything (I know) on Indian dals, are you going to try my recipe? You can make it entirely plant-based by skipping the ghee. Now tell me, what is one of your go-to vegetarian comfort food?
Super easy Indian dalCourse: MainCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy
This Indian dal is with red lentils and cooked whole chickpeas. It is nutrient packed and super delicious, the perfect vegetarian comfort food
1 small can of cooked chickpeas
200 g of red lentils
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp of freshly grated ginger
1 small jalapeño – optional
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp curry powder
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Water – adjust quantity to meet the desired consistency
- Prep the ingredients: thoroughly wash the lentils, drain and rinse the chickpeas, chop the onion, mince the garlic, grate the ginger, remove the seeds of the jalapeño, dice the tomatoes, get the leafy greens ready put all the spices in a small ramekin
- Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the lentils, cook for 5 minutes. Skim the foam
- In the meantime, heat the oil and ghee in a cast iron casserole over medium heat then add the onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño as well as a pinch of salt
- Stir for a couple of minutes or until onion turns translucent then add the spices, constantly stir for a couple of minutes or until fragrant
- Add the tomatoes, stir and cover for a couple of minutes
- Remove the lid and transfer the red lentils from the pan into the casserole with a skimmer
- Add the chickpeas and bay leaves, cover with water (at 1 inch above the level). Put the lid back and lower the heat, cook for about 10 minutes or more if you want a more mushy consistency
- Add the spinach, more water if you want a more soupy texture
- Season with salt and pepper to your liking, combine well and cover for 2 more minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with rice
- Check my amazing garlic naan recipe on my Instagram for more yumminess
- You can add some coconut milk for more creaminess
- The dal taste ever better the following day