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  • Writer's pictureAlissa Love

South Indian Dal Tadka (Lentil Curry)

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Dal is a yellow lentil and tadka is a mix of spices that's been tempered in hot oil and poured over it. Mom makes a killer lunch combo of dal, fried fish and papadums. This was exactly what I was craving one evening when I decided to explore cooking this dish.

What's interesting is that I've learnt that this dish has very simple beginnings, and gets its full flavour from the tempered onions and spices poured over it after cooking. The dal itself is basically just a simple lentil porridge of sorts that's made with not much spices. The dal gets to shine in this dish, full of protein and relatively healthy.

Recommended pairing with a bowl of white rice and turmeric fried fish.

Recipe makes 4 portions. 10 minutes prep time, total cook time 60 minutes


For the Dal

1 cup Dal channa (soaked in water for 60 minutes)

1 medium onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, whole

1 tomato, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic ginger paste

1 spring curry leaves

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

2 tablespoon coconut oil (I try not to use Ghee)

3 whole chili padi

1 potato, cubed

1 carrot, cubed

4 cups water

Salt to taste

For the tadka

2 tablespoon oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

4 dried chili, halved



For the Dal

1. Soak 1 cup yellow lentils in water for 60 minutes, drain and set aside.

2. In a pot, heat up 2 tablespoons coconut oil and fry onions until translucent.

3. Add 1 tablespoon garlic ginger paste, 1 spring curry leaves, 3 whole chili padi and cook until combined and fragrant.

4. Add 1 chopped tomato and 1 teaspoon cumin powder. Cook until tomatoes break down and becomes soft and paste-ey.

5. Add the strained lentils, 4 cups water, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala. Stir and simmer.

6. Reduce heat to low and cover with lid, bring to a boil for 30 minutes.

7. Remove lid, add chopped potatoes and carrots and cook for another 20-30 minutes or until the dal becomes a porridge consistency and the potatoes are cooked - some lentils would have broken down at this point.

For the tadka

1. In a pan over medium heat, heat up 2 tablespoon of oil.

2. Add 1 small chopped onion, 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds and 4 dried chili until onions are soft and dark brown.

3. Pour hot oil over the dal. Stir in before serving.



1. The dal curry thickens further after it is cooled down so I'd recommend turning the heat off minutes before the consistency you are happy with it. If you find your dal too thick, simply add some water and heat up again - great tip for leftovers!

2. Adding potatoes and carrots is optional, but I grew up eating it this way and you don't have to make a vegetable side!

3. As with all Indian recipes, be patient with the browning of your onions. Do not use too high heat or it will burn - burnt onion is not good!

4. The original recipe uses ghee however I am not a very big fan of ghee and have substituted it with coconut oil instead.

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