Dal Tadka – Your Restaurant Style Lentil Curry For A Scrumptious Meal

Dal Tadka
Image credits: Jade Aucamp via Unsplash

Dal tadka is a favorite amongst many Indus families. It is a lentil curry enjoyed with naan bread and good conversation. While there are two types, namely dal tadka and dal makhani, most families enjoy tadka while reserving the makhani version for eating out. 

If you want to learn how to make this delicious South Asian dish, then carry on reading for more insightful information. 

Getting To Know Dal Tadka

As mentioned before, dal tadka is a very popular Indian cuisine and loved by many families. What makes this dish so amazing and special, if you will? 

When it comes to dal tadka recipes, you have to know the elements involved. So, before we crack on to the part of how to make dal tadka,let’s first go over why it’s worth making this meal at home. 

Dal tadka is lentils cooked, and ghee is used for the tempering process. In this recipe, there is also a smoking process or dhangar that creates another flavor dimension. 

Since thedal tarkais tempered, which in Indus cuisine is a special and common technique used throughout food creations. Tadka or chaunk is the process by which fresh spices and dried spices are fried in ghee or oil for a brief period. This technique is done to enhance the flavor of the dish. 

When spice is fried in this tempering technique that you’ll later see when we go through the easy dal tadka recipe, you’ll see that in doing so, the warm oil releases the oils from the spices and herbs. 

The most simple dal tadka may seem so easy to make, but when done just right, you’ll taste that restaurant-style goodness. 

Lentil Options

When it comes to lentils, two of the most common are used in dal tadka, namely Moong dal and Tuvar dal. In some instances, people prefer using both lentil types to give it an extra special charm. 

You don’t have to eat at a restaurant to get this easy dal tadka recipe bang on. Simply master a few steps, and you’re all good. You can just imagine how pleased your guests will be when they’re able to sink their teeth into this delicious dinner or party meal.

Restaurant Style Dal Tadka To Try For Yourself 

Here’s how to make dal tadka in the comfort of your home and yet get the restaurant quality and flavor you’d like. Spoil your family with this meal and impress your guests when they come visit. 

What you’ll need – Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup tavar dal
  • 1 or 2 chillies as hot as you want it (use green chillies but remove the seeds) slit them through
  • ½ cup chopped onions (large onion or use a whole small x2 onion) 
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger 
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala 
  • 1 pinch of hing (asafoetida)
  • 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups of water 
  • 2 tablespoons of cream 
  • Salt to taste

Tempering Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons of ghee or oil 
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds 
  • 5 to 6 medium garlic cloves 
  • 3 dried chillies
  • ½ teaspoon paprika cayenne pepper

Garnish – coriander leaves 

For the dhangar use a tiny piece of charcoal and ¼ teaspoon of oil or clarified butter (ghee)

Method:

Follow this easy dal tadka recipe and before you know it, it will become so easy to master and recreate from scratch even without the recipe instructions. For now, here’s what to do when making the simple dal tadka recipe. 

  • Rinse the cup of tuvar dal thoroughly. Another method would be to split the lentils by cooking it in a pressure cooker with water for the “husking” effect. 
  • If you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t worry. Simply use a pot and cook the lentils in the pot for two hours. This will result in a similar, if not exactly the same husking or splitting effect.
  • Next, add the green chilli, onions, tomatoes, peppers and ginger
  • Add 2.5 cups of water to the pressure cooker. When using a pot, add some more water 4 cups
  • At this point, add the asafoetida and turmeric powder. (asafoetida is optional)
  • Mix this combination well 
  • Once the lentils are soft and mashy, then they’re ready to mix with a whisk. If the dal is too thick, add a bit of water, mix and allow it to simmer for two minutes
  • Once you like the consistency (not too thin, not too thick) you can add cream
  • Also add the garam masala, coriander leaves, salt to taste and then turn off the heat
  • Always taste the mixture throughout the process

The next step is smoking the lentils (dunghar). This part is completely optional but oftentimes this step is included in the restaurant style dal tadka. If you’re feeling up to it, carry on and see how easy it is to do. 

Getting The Smokiness Into The Dal Tadka

Here’s what you need to do for that smoky taste effect in your dal tadka:

  • Using a grill pan to hold the natural charcoal, place the burning charcoal onto the grill pan for it to burn
  • Allow the charcoal to burn red and hot before transferring it to the steel bowl
  • Pour some ghee or oil onto the charcoal, approximately a ½ teaspoon
  • You will notice fumes coming from the charcoal after adding the oil. This is correct and should happen.
  • Next, take the steel bowl with the hot and now smoky charcoal in it and place it on the dal
  • Since you need the smokiness to work its magic, cover the pot or the pressure cooker (whichever one you’re using) with the lid. This will infuse the smoky char flavor into the dal 

Note: Be careful when working with the hot coal and steel bowl as well as the lids because it is extremely hot and can scald and burn. Use tongs. 

Also, note that the smokiness or dhangar is not compulsory for this recipe and you can go ahead to the husking part. 

Make the Tempering or Tadka

The next step is making the tadka or chaunk

  • In a  small-sized pan, heat some oil or ghee, whichever one you have or use
  • Using low-medium heat to get the pan ready for the tempering 
  • Pour in the cumin seeds, allowing it to crackle. Fry the cumin and make sure that it isn’t raw, but also be careful not to burn it. 
  • Next, add two to three chillies, asafoetida, onion rings, and garlic cloves (be careful not to burn anything)
  • Fry these ingredients until the chilli changes color ad the garlic goes a bit brown in color
  • Next, add cayenne, chilli powder and crushed kasuri. Mix everything and then turn off the heat. 
  • Now pour the tempering along with the ghee or oil it was fried in, into the dal
  • You can also choose to serve the dal with the tempering on top 
  • Garnish and serve

Serving suggestions for dal tadka include jeera or steamed basmati rice, naan or roti. 

You can enjoy dal tadka all year since it is so versatile and consists of all-year-round ingredients. 

Using An Instant Pot To Make Dal Tadka

Instant pots make life in the kitchen a lot easier as every cooking setting is at a simple reach of a button or turn of a knob. Whether you need to saute, steam, or blanch, you can do so much cooking with an instant pot. 

We’ve decided to try the famous and much-loved dal tadka recipe in an instant pot and give a brief verdict. 

Instant Pot Style Dal Tadka 

  • Rinse the lentils in a bowl. When finished rinsing it, strain the water in a colander or strainer.
  • Put the clean lentils into an instant pot
  • In your instant pot, also add the onion, green chilli and tomatoes
  • Add the turmeric, kashmiri red chilli powder and hing (asafetida)
  • Add 1.5 cups of water and mix this mixture well
  • Set the instant pot to cook the lentils for 15-20 minutes
  • If the dal looks to thick, you my add some water
  • Add salt to taste and then cook some more

Notes: While the dal cooks in the pressure cooker, proceed to the tempering process.

Tempering

  • Using a small non-stick pan or a kadai, heat some oil or ghee for the tempering procedure. 
  • Add ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • Cook the mustard seeds in the oil and allow it to crackle 
  • Add cumin seeds and cook until you see their color change 
  • Add the crushed cloves (be careful not to let them burn. They can be light brown)
  • Add the chillies deseeded and cut through
  • Next, add the curry leaves, you’ll notice how the leaves becomes crisp
  • Pour this tempered mixture of spice into the cooked dal 
  • Mix and then top with coriander leaves and mix again 

Note: You can serve the instant pot dal tadka with rotis and top it with extra coriander leaves. 

Nutritional Value Estimate for Dal Tadka Recipe 

When it comes to dal tadka, you’ll note that it is low in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and more good stuff. 

  • Calories 193
  • Fat 10g 
  • Sodium 473mg
  • Potassium 93mg 
  • Carbohydrates 21g 
  • Fiber 5g
  • Sugar 3g 
  • Protein 6g
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1, B3, B6 
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E 
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin B
  • Iron
  • Magnesium 8g
  • Phosphorus 19g

Tips For Making The Dal Tarka

Tip #1 Keep the ingredients fresh – The fresher the ingredients, the better the dish at the end. Fresh ingredients don’t contain the preservatives and sodium quantities as for example canned products do. 

Tip #2 Ghee VS Oil – Ghee tends to bring out the flavor of other ingredients and is often a first choice when cooking South Asian dishes. Oil might not have the same effect like ghee, but it will also get the task done. 

Tip #3 Dhungar smoking – Using the dhungar method will help to create that rich smoky flavor and take regular dal from meh to yeah! You can smoke it for 15 minutes. 

FAQ

What dal should I use to cook dal tadker?

To cook dal tadka, you can use Tuvar dal, as seen in the recipe and also Moong dal. Some people also like mixing both types.

What goes well with dal tadka?

You can enjoy dal tadka with rice, rotis or naan.

Is dal tadka healthy for dieting?

Dal tadka is low on calories and rich in fiber because of the dal. The dish also contains good spices.

How many calories are there in dal tadka?

There is an estimate of about 193ckal and because of the vitamins, minerals and fiber present in this dish, we agree, dal tadka is healthy.

Conclusion To Making Dal Tadka

Dal tadka is super healthy, and because of the lentils, it is packed with fiber, iron, protein, vitamins and more. It is a delicious meal for the family and even if you’re having people over. Now that you can make a restaurant dal tadka recipe, you can save on expenses to eat out and still enjoy the flavors and dining experience in the comfort of your home.