Indian style flavorful and nutritious Dal Tadka is deliciously tempered with herbed oil and perfectly spiced. It’s an excellent comfort food that pairs well with steamed rice.
It’s a very popular dish In India and we often order it in restaurants. It’s a delight to be able to make restaurant style dal tadka and it’s a delicacy in every Indian household.
There are many variations and some even prefer to give it a smoky flavor by using charcoal.
Here, I have used very simple and easy method to make the best dal tadka at home without hassle.
Traditionally, ghee is used in tempering this dal recipe but I made it in oil so that its vegan dal tadka.
About Dal Tadka
It is a lentil curry made mainly with Toor dal (yellow split pigeon peas). This lentil is first cooked in Indian pressure cooker with water, turmeric and salt. Then, its sautéed in onion tomato tempering and is topped with second tempering herbs and spices fried in ghee. A burnt charcoal is also used in restaurants to give it a smoky flavor.
However, I have made it with a combination 3 types of lentils to bring the nice texture and flavor very similar to restaurant style dal tadka.
What is tadka?
Tadka is tempering in English. It basically means sautéing boiled lentils or dal in onion tomato and some spices along with asafetida. The more common tempering ingredients are oil/ghee, asafetida ( Hing ), cumin seeds , garlic, onion, tomatoes.
In this recipe I have tempered the dal twice for the utmost delicious and satisfying tastes and flavor. It makes this recipe a bit more exotic. However, I have used minimum oil to keep it light and low in calories.
Health benefits of dal tadka
It’s basically a dish of lentils. Lentils are commonly known as dal in India and dhal in the west. Its protein rich ingredients with many health benefits. Lentils are versatile too and can be used in various ways. These are a great source of folate, potassium and fiber too. However, dal tadka is an Indian style recipe which has become very popular in the west as well.
My other Indian recipes that you might like:
Tofu Tikka Masala
Cauliflower Tikka Masala
Jackfruit Turmeric Masala Curry
Kidney Beans Spinach Masala
Ingredients for dal tadka recipe
Ginger garlic paste
Kashmiri chili powder
Kasoori methi (fenugreek seeds)
Dry red chilies
These ingredients are absolutely Indian pantry staple and I have tried to keep this recipe as simple as possible.
Toor dal – also known as arhar dal or tuvar dal. In English it is called yellow split pigeon peas. Rinse it well before using in this recipe.
Masoor dal – Its also know as red lentils and is very popular in vegan recipes. My vegan moussaka and red lentil tortilla is quite popular and healthier as well.
Moong dal – I used yellow moong dal here and is also known as petite yellow lentils or split yellow lentils. Its easier to digest and lighter on the tummy.
Spices and herbs – I have used simple Indian spices in this recipe which you can find easily in any local store.
Olive oil – if you are not a strict vegan, then ghee works very well here. Vegan ghee is also available in few stores. For me oil works great and brings out the same traditional flavor.
For detailed measurement of ingredients, please scroll down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to make Dal Tadka
Step 1: prepare lentils/dal
Firstly, in an Indian pressure cooker or in an instant pot, I combined all the 3 lentils (rinsed) along with turmeric, salt and water.
Secondly, I cooked it until soft and mushy. Then, I stirred it to mash the lentils nicely and kept it aside. (For instant pot turn it on at high manual for 15 minutes. Release it pressure and open the lid. For Indian pressure cooker, let it pressure at high on stove top until 3-4 whistles and let it release its pressure naturally).
Step 2: prepare first tadka/tempering
Firstly, in a nonstick pan, I heated oil and let cumin seeds crackle in it. Immediately I sauteed ginger garlic paste in it until golden brown.
Secondly, I sautéed onions in it until golden in color.
Thereafter, I tossed in chopped tomatoes and cooked they were mushy. Then, with the back of the spatula, I mashed tomatoes and mixed it well with onions.
Afterwards, I seasoned it with spices like chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and kasoori methi and mixed it well.
Next, I folded in cooked lentils and stirred it well. At this stage, I added some more hot water and adjusted the salt as per taste.
I let it cook at low-medium covered for few minutes.
Step 3: prepare second tadka/tempering
In the meanwhile, in another small pan or tempering pan, I heated oil and added asafetida to it followed by dry red chilies, garlic, chili powder, and garam masala. I let it cook properly and turned off its flame.
Step 4: how to assemble
Then, I removed the lid from the lentils and stirred it once again. I turned off its flame and topped it with the cooked second tempering.
Later, I gently stirred the top of the lentils with a spoon to spread the tempering all over.
Lastly, I garnished it with chopped cilantro and served it hot with steamed rice.
We love this combination and often make this easy dal tadka at home.
How to make dal tadka in an instant pot?
Turn on your instant pot at sauté mode and heat 1 tbsp. oil in it. Add cumin seeds and crackled. Sauté ginger garlic paste. Then sauté onion until golden and toss in tomatoes. Cook until mushy and add turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and kasoori methi. Now add rinsed lentils (Toor dal, Masoor dal, Moong dal) to it and sauté for 1 minute. Add water and salt and stir well. Cancel the sauté mode close the lid and seal the valve. Turn it on at high manual for 15 minutes. Once done, turn it off and release the pressure. Open the lid and stir. You may add more hot water at this stage and adjust salt as per your taste. In the meanwhile, prepare the second tadka or tempering in another small pan and top lentil curry with it. Garnish and serve.
How to serve this best dal tadka
It goes very well with jeera rice or steamed rice. However, to make it a complete meal you may serve it with rice and a side vegetable of bhindi masala, or with chana pulao, or with palak rice and a side vegetable air fryer sweet potato.
- Make sure to start making second tempering after the dal is completely cooked in onion tomato gravy.
- It is important for dal to be hot while you add the top tempering to it for the best results.
- If you add more water to the dal to get a desired consistency, it is important to add hot water for the best taste and before you add the tempering to it.
This taste best when served hot. However, the leftovers can be refrigerated in an air tight container for about 4-5 days. When ready heat it on the stove top and add up to 2-3 tbsp. of warm water to it.
You may boil lentils and keep it ready ahead of time. Then, 30 minutes before serving you may prepare onion tomato gravy and top it with second tempering. Another option is to cook the lentils in onion tomato gravy and keep it ready. Just before serving, warm it and top it with second tempering. Serve hot.
Dal makhani is a lengthy lentil recipe that is made with black urad dal. It requires more planning and overnight soaking. Dal tadka on the other hand is made with toor dal and can be made in short notice and in simple steps. It does not require soaking.
My other dal/lentil recipes that you might like:
Red Lentil Dal
Instant Pot Chana Dal
Lentil Cilantro Soup
Masala Lentil Curry
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to pressure cook
- 3/4 cup Toor dal ( yellow split pigeon peas )
- 2 tbsp Masoor dal ( red lentils )
- 2 tbsp Moong/Mung dal ( split yellow lentils )
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped tomato
- 1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp asafetida (Hing)
- 1-2 whole dry red chilies
- 4 garlic cloves (thinly sliced)
- 1/4 tsp kashmiri chili powder (for color)
- pinch of garam masala
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- Rinse all the lentils together, toor dal, masoor dal and moong dal. Combine them in your instant pot with water, turmeric powder and salt. Close the lid and seal the valve. Turn it on at high manual for 15 minutes. One done, release its pressure and open the lid. Stir it vigorously with the spatula to get a mashed look. You may use Indian pressure cooker also to boil the lentils. Make sure to give 3-4 whistles and let the pressure cooker release its pressure naturally. Open the lid and stir with the spatula vigorously. At this point lentils might have medium thick consistency which is fine.
- In the meanwhile, in a nonstick pan heat 1 tbsp. oil and let cumin seeds crackle. Immediately add ginger garlic pasta and sauté for 30 seconds or until it starts to brown.
- Sautee onion in it until golden and toss in tomatoes. Sauté for 2 minutes until all tomatoes are mushy. With the back of your spatula mash all the tomatoes in the pan and mix.
- Add chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and kasoori methi and mix well.
- Fold in cooked lentils into the pan and mix well until all the ingredients all well blended. At this stage you may add ½ cup more hot water into the pan and adjust salt as per taste. Let it cook covered at low– medium flame for 3-4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, In another small nonstick pan or any tempering pan, heat 1 tsp oil and add all the second tempering ingredients (Hing, dry red chilies, garlic, red chili, garam masala ) and cook it well for 1 minutes on a high flame until bubbles form. Turn off its flame.
- Now, open the lid of the lentil curry pan and turn off its flame. Stir with a spatula and top it with hot tempering (second tempering/tadka). Lightly stir the tadka/tempering on the top of the dal so as to spread it well in it.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot.
- You may cook lentils ahead of time completely except tempering it for the second tempering and keep it at room temperature for 1 day. When ready warm the lentil. Prepare the second tempering and assemble as explained.
- The leftovers can be refrigerated in a container for about 4-5 days. Warm it well on the stove top and feel free to add little more hot water while warming it if it gets too thick over time.
- Whenever adding more water to cooked lentils make sure to add hot water for the best results.
- Kashmiri chili powder is preferred in this recipe for the beautiful color.
- Instant pot option: Turn on your instant pot at sauté mode and heat 1 tbsp. oil in it. Add cumin seeds and crackled. Sauté ginger garlic paste. Then sauté onion until golden and toss in tomatoes. Cook until mushy and add turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and kasoori methi. Now add rinsed lentils (Toor dal, masoor dal, moon dal) to it and sauté for 1 minute. Add water and salt and stir well. Cancel the sauté mode close the lid and seal the valve. Turn it on at high manual for 15 minutes. Once done, turn it off and release the pressure. Open the lid and stir. You may add more hot water at this stage and adjust salt as per your taste. In the meanwhile, prepare the second tadka or tempering in another small pan and top lentil curry with it. Garnish and serve.
I love lentil dahls and this one really struck me. Unfortunately cannot try it immediately since I have fenugreek leaves and a couple of other items missing in my pantry at the moment. Well done for the great work!
Thank you Caroline!
This looks so delicious! I’m adding all of the spices to my grocery list so that I can try this recipe out soon. Thank you for giving such thorough directions!
Hope you like it 🙂
I love recipes with lentils and will definitely be trying this. It looks so utterly delicious and easy to follow.
Thank you Claire!
Tried this last night and it was surprisingly super easy to make! Thanks for your recipe!
Yay! so glad you like it 🙂