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Yellow Daal (Lentils)

March 20, 2009

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Lentils form an essential part of Indian cuisine due to the variety of the grain that grows in India. This is a high-protein, nutritious food, that is easy to cook and has many digestive attributes. Yellow Daal is specially my favorite because the preparation is packed with nutrition and healing herbs, which when eaten on a daily basis, leads to better overall health. This thick soup-like dish is a staple in most Indian homes, and is cooked in many different ways across geographic regions. In the state of Gujarat, in West India, jaggery or molasses are added to the daal to give it a savory-sweet flavor. North-Indians make it spicy with a heavy proportion of Ghee. My version is the type my mother makes at home. It’s mildly spicy, tangy and does wonders for me on those freezing Minnesota winter evenings. Serves 2.


1. 3/4 cup Toor daal (English: Pigeon Pea Gram). It looks like this:

Toor daal / Pigeon Pea Gram
Toor daal / Pigeon Pea Gram

2. 1/4 cup Orange Masoor Daal (English: Red split lentils). It looks like this:

Masoor Dal / Red Split Lentils

Masoor Dal / Red Split Lentils

3. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4. 1.5 Medium size tomatoes – washed & chopped
5. 1 medium size onion – chopped
6. 1 Garlic pod – thinly sliced
7. 1 small green chili – thinly sliced
8. 1 teaspoon Ginger & Garlic paste (50:50 ratio) – ready paste available at any Indian store or International food aisle of any supermarket
9. 2 curry leaves (Leave out if not easily available)
10. 3/4 teaspoon Salt
11. A handful of washed and chopped fresh coriander / cilantro leaves
12. A healthy spritz of lemon juice

Spices You’ll need: (Kohinoor or Swad brands are the best! 🙂 )

  1. 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  2. 1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  3. A pinch of Fenugreek seeds (These are bitter so use with constraint. It adds a pleasant frangrance to the food and has digestive and healing properties. Yeah!)
  4. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

(Spices 5 & 6 above are available as a blend in Indian grocery stores. The packaging may have ‘Dhania – Jeera‘ powder written on it.)


  • Wash the 2 daals together, drain and soak for 25 minutes in 2 cups of water. Keep 1.5 more cups of water aside and ready. (2 if you want the daal liquidy)
Soak the 2 lentils together for 25 minutes

Soak the 2 lentils together for 25 minutes

  • I make Daal in a pressure cooker because it’s quick and easy.  If you don’t have one, use any non-stick pot with a lid and a heavy bottom.
  • Start with heating oil in the pot / pressure cooker. As is with all my recipes, cook on a medium flame / stove setting.
  • Once the oil is heated, add the cumin seeds and the mustard seeds.
  • As soon as they begin to crackle and splutter, add the chopped garlic, chilies and curry leaves.
  • Immediately add the chopped onion. Let the onion fry till they become transparent and slightly brown.
Fry the onions till they are godlen-brown

Fry the onions till they are godlen-brown

  • Once this is achieved, add the ginger-garlic paste and let it fry and turn brown, while you stir it all together with the onions.
  • Now add the chopped tomatoes and let them cook till they get a little tender.
  • Add all the dry spices now, along with salt, and mix really well. Let the whole mixture cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Finally, add the soaked daal and the extra water. Mix well with all ingredients.
  • If using a pressure cooker – cover the lid and let cook on medium heat for 3 whistles.
  • If using a pot – cover the lid and let cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes, or till the lentils are very soft and disintegrate easily. While it cooks, add more water if you feel the daal is getting dry.
  • Once the lentils are cooked, take it off the heat. Now, take an egg-beater and gently swirl it around the daal to blend all the ingredients together roughly.
  • Add a healthy spritz of freshly squeezed lemon juice and garnish with coriander leaves.
A steaming bowl of yummy yellow daal

A steaming bowl of yummy yellow daal

Have it as a warm soup (excellent for an upset tummy / cold) or with Rice or Rotis (Indian bread).

24 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2009 10:15 pm

    I never did the last part of mixing it with an egg beater…interesting. Will try now.
    The other day my elder sister, who is a terrific cook herself, was asking how much Indian cooking/cook will be appreciated in U.S.? …….I believe and so I told her too, a lot!

    • May 12, 2009 4:59 am

      Yup. The egg beating blends the cooked daals together with the spices and veggies really well. Thanks for reading!

  2. Akhila permalink
    November 27, 2009 3:49 am

    I am VERY impressed.
    When are you inviting me over for dinner?

  3. Kickshaw permalink
    February 26, 2010 6:33 pm

    Hi there. I notice that you don’t have a printer-friendly version of this recipe, yet we shouldn’t copy text to print the recipe. Any suggestions on how to print without ending up with too many pages? Thanks so much for this informative site!

    • February 26, 2010 6:40 pm

      Thanks for the great feedback! The text copying is applicable for people trying to plagiarize my content and use it on other websites. Copyscape tracks that.

      However, you are free to copy the text on a word processor and take a printout. Glad you liked my recipe and want to try it out! Feel free to write back if you have any more questions. 🙂

      • Kickshaw permalink
        February 27, 2010 8:54 am

        Thanks for explaining about copying for personal use. We tried your recipe last night — even though I had no fresh curry leaves — and loved it! Can’t wait to get the curry. Most cooks writing recipes assume readers understand the basics about cooking dal, so your your instructions are immensely helpful to those of us just starting out with new ingredients. (One dreams of guided tours of Indian or Korean or Chinese markets!) Thanks so much for a wonderful dinner and new understanding!

      • February 27, 2010 1:12 pm

        You have no idea how much your comment means to me 🙂 This blog started out as a hobby and has grown to become much more to me. Comments from readers such as you keep me motivated 🙂 Thank you so much! Hope you come back for more!!

        Since making Daal was such a breeze for you, you must give Chicken curry a try. Check out my recipe for making the curry base here:

  4. February 27, 2010 2:54 pm

    I need to learn how to use Indian spice combinations. I have most of the spices you listed but have not used them together. Have never made daal (I know I have to remedy this) but added red lentils to rice yesterday (Iraqi recipe which came out a bit bland I must say). Your house must smell so good after you make this!

    • February 27, 2010 3:51 pm

      Hi Sarah! Daal is one of the simplest things you can make. The first few steps are common for most Indian vegetable preparations. So it’s a good starter dish if you’re learning how to make Indian food.

      The house does smell nice when I’m cooking but unfortunately after it sits in the house for a few hours, it stinks! It’s quite a chore airing out my home in the winter 🙂

      Let me know if you have any questions while attempting to make yellow daal.

  5. March 24, 2010 10:28 pm

    i tried your yellow dal last night! (decided i needed to feed my husband something other than pizza), and everyone really liked it! I have always been so scared of making dal, since last year when my dal panchmael somehow ended up looking (literally) like shit. Thanks for inspiring me! im going to try some more recipes from you now, probably chana or dal makhani!

    • March 24, 2010 11:52 pm

      So happy you liked the dal Chandani! Yellow dal is the easiest thing one can make. Hope my blog inspires you to prepare many more Indian dishes 🙂

  6. David N permalink
    July 25, 2010 12:01 pm

    Sabera, i have just stumbled across your blog and its great. I was looking at Chana dal and was to cook it. I am now happily experimenting with your dishes. Great blog and even better basic explanations for those of us who are starting out and new to Indian/ Asian cooking.

    • July 25, 2010 1:28 pm

      So happy you liked OneLifeToEat David! Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions about Indian cooking.

  7. Yvonne Lee-Balakrishnan permalink
    August 14, 2010 5:08 am

    I recently married a Indian guy. Now I need to learn how to do some Indian cooking before he arrives in the USA. Your recipes seems very tasty with the herbs and spices used in your cooking.

    • August 14, 2010 2:38 pm

      Glad you like my recipes Yvonne. Feel free to browse my recipes and contact me if you have any questions. Indian cooking is really simple once you familiarize yourself with the basic methods. I’ve tried my best to explain them in my blog.

  8. March 13, 2012 3:28 pm

    thanks for adding the pics of the dals. i always get confused between the dals.

  9. susan permalink
    July 30, 2013 7:14 am

    Hi sahera
    Just made the yellow dall and looks an taste fab


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