Dhal (also known an dal, daal, or dahl) is a staple dish in Indian cuisine, and has traversed the world over to become one of the healthiest and easiest dishes to make. Perfect for vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, it is gluten free and clean eating. Now, while there are many different kinds of dhal that can be made using various legumes, for this recipe I’ll be using a yellow lentil to create a deeply rich yellow dhal that can be classified as either a sauce, dip, or soup (depending on how you eat it or what you pair it with). Honestly, this hearty recipe is so easy to make. Don’t believe me? Let me show you…
Nine ingredients, that’s we’ll need, and one of those ingredients is optional. Yellow split peas (also called “dal”) will be cooked with a blend of spices including salt, ground roasted geera (cumin), turmeric powder, onions, garlic ,and an optional touch of a sweet pepper called “pimento”.
Preparation is beyond simple. These ingredients are thrown into a pot and boiled together until they’re cooked and soft enough to be blended into a smooth and thickened sauce using an immersion blender or even a potato masher or hand mixer.
To finish, we’ll do what’s called a chonkay in the Caribbean or a tadka, baghaar, vagarne, or oggarane depending on what region of India you’re in. This means we’re going to temper or quick fry garlic and/or other spices (see notes) in very hot oil for just a few seconds until browned and fragrant. This oil blend will then be poured directly over the dhal and left to infuse. Be aware guys, this step will produce a loud hissing sound, and since it does involve hot oil, caution is recommended. Cover the pot with the dhal immediately after adding the chonkay and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
The thickness of the dhal is entirely up to you. Some people like it thinner and runnier, like a soup, while other (like myself) prefer it a bit thicker and slightly chunky as it hits my hearty comfort food checkbox that way. Top with fresh cilantro and serve with your favorite sides including rice, curry or this Quick and Easy No Rise Garlic Naan! However you decide to enjoy it, I guarantee you’ll be making this time and time again.
Clean and Simple Dhal (Indian Lentils)
- Thoroughly pick through the yellow split peas to ensure there are no sticks or stones. Wash and drain the peas and place it into a deep pot.
- Add the salt, pimento pepper (if using), diced onion, two cloves of sliced garlic, turmeric powder, and ground roasted geera (cumin) to the split peas and cover with 6 cups of water.
- Boil the ingredients uncovered or partially covered until the peas are soft. Keep adding more water if needed.
- When the peas are soft and are beginning to fall apart, blend it all into a smooth sauce using either an immersion blender or a swizzle (cooking) stick. (see notes).
- In a separate pot or frying pan, add the oil and heat until very hot. Add in the remaining 2 cloves of sliced garlic and fry for a few seconds until they brown. Then, carefully pour the hot oil and garlic over the smooth and blended dhal and cover immediately to allow the flavors to infuse. Note that when you add the oil a loud hissing/frying sound will be made.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference and serve with rice or roti or naan.
- Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to four months.
- Optional add-ins while boiling include hot peppers, finely chopped culantro (aka Chadon Beni or Mexican Coriander)
- Optional add-ins when doing the tadka include: whole geera (cumin) seeds or curry leaves.
- The reason for using a deep pot is that split peas has a tendency of boiling over when cooked, using a deep pot prevents this from happening. Similarly, do not cover the pot fully with a lid. If needed you can partially cover it by placing the lid at an angle so steam can freely escape.
- In the event that you don't have an immersion blender or swizzle stick you can use a hand mixer to blend the dhal together, just be careful as the dhal will be VERY hot (the deep pot comes in handy here too) or you can allow the mixture to cool down halfway and then blend it in a blender.
- Note that as the dhal cools it will continue to thicken up.