This easy dal tadka recipe is for an Indian soup featuring filling lentils, bold Serrano and Kashmiri chilis, vegetables, and a smattering of flavorful spices. It’s an excellent dinner option for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike!
One of the things I love best about Indian-inspired recipes is the fact that I can serve them up when my vegetarian friends come over. And, most recipes are so satisfying and hearty that my meat-eating pals enjoy them too.
Some of my go-to’s include this gobi masala (cauliflower curry), my paneer butter masala, this kala chana (black chickpea curry), and dal makhani (my favorite). Today I want to add another dal to the line-up: my dal tadka recipe. It’s made with lentils and a healthy helping of spices, seasonings, and herbs.
This comfort food meal should be eaten like soup or stew, and believe me, it will fill you up. You’ll start by preparing the lentils, and then you’ll make your tadka. Tadka is an Indian technique to temper spices — you can learn more about the process here.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Lentils - You can use either all red lentils, or you can use a combination of two: half split pigeon pea lentils (arhar dal) and half red lentils (masoor dal). I personally prefer to use the mixture of two for a more traditional take on this recipe!
- Ghee - You can use ghee or vegetable oil here. You’ll need it to sauté the onions and chiles, and to make the tadka.
- Serrano Chilis - Make sure to seed and dice the chilis before you get started. They will serve as the flavor base for the lentils.
- Onion - I like using white onions for this recipe. Again, they help to add flavor to the lentils!
- Tomatoes - My preference is Roma tomatoes, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
- Ginger - Use fresh instead of ground. You’ll add it to your lentils.
- Ground Turmeric - This spice is earthy and slightly peppery.
- Garam Masala - You can find this in stores, but I love making it myself at home with this recipe.
- Salt - Use to taste.
- Asafoetida - This ingredient is optional, but I love to include it. It’s savory and works almost like salt.
- Stock - To keep this recipe vegetarian, use water or vegetable stock. If you do eat meat, you can use chicken instead.
- Cilantro - For a garnish!
- Cumin Seeds - On to the tadka ingredients. Start with cumin seeds, which boast a citrusy and warm flavor.
- Garlic - Use minced garlic for your tadka.
- Red Chilis - I always prefer Kashmiri chilis, but you can use your preference. Break them and remove the seeds before roasting them.
- Fenugreek Leaves - This is another Indian spice that works great in this dish. It is sweet and earthy.
- Red Chili Powder - For a bit more added heat.
- Liquid Smoke - This is another optional ingredient, but I enjoy the added smokiness it adds to the final results.
HOW TO MAKE DAL TADKA
1. Prepare & Make The Lentils. Before getting started, make sure to rinse and soak your lentils in cool water for 30 minutes and then drain. Add your ghee or vegetable oil to a Dutch oven or a large soup pot and heat. Sauté the onions and Serrano chilis for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ginger, ground turmeric, garam masala, salt, asafoetida (if using), stock, and lentils to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat. Allow it to simmer (covered) for 30 minutes.
2. Make The Tadka. Add more ghee to a large skillet and heat over medium. Add the cumin seeds — when they begin to crackle, add the garlic, red chilis, fenugreek leaves, red chili powder, and liquid smoke (if using). Stir and allow to sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Blend the tadka with an immersion blender (you can also simply use a potato masher) to your desired consistency. I personally like to leave mine a bit chunky and loose.
3. Season & Serve. Season the tadka to taste and spoon over the lentils. Add a bit of chopped cilantro to the top and serve!
What Is Dal Tadka Made Of?
The primary ingredient in this dal tadka recipe is lentils. You also can’t forget about the importance of the tadka itself — which is a mixture of spices and seasonings that have been tempered in ghee, or sometimes oil.
What Is the Difference Between Dal Fry And Dal Tadka?
The ingredients in dal fry and dal tadka are fairly similar, but the cooking methods are different. A dal tadka recipe must include the tadka method of tempering spices. A dal fry doesn’t include this method, with the spices and seasonings simply added to the lentils.
What Does Dal Tadka Taste Like?
This Indian dish boasts a spicy, smokey, and earthy flavor. It has a bit of heat, thanks to the addition of the red chilis and the red chili powder! The rest of the spices bring an earthy and warm taste to the mix. Comfort food goodness!
Dal Tadka Recipe
- 1 cup red lentils (See Note 1)
- 1 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
- 2 serrano chilis seeded and diced
- ½ cup white onion chopped
- 1 cup Roma tomatoes seeded and diced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon asafoetida optional
- 4 ½ cups water or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoon cilantro leaves chopped
- 2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 3 dried red chilis kashmiri preferred, broken and seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves crushed
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke optional
- Rinse and soak the lentil for 30 minutes.
- To a Dutch oven or large soup pot heat the ghee and saute onions and chiles for 2 minutes and add remaining Soup ingredients along with drained lentils.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- In a large skillet over medium heat add the ghee and cumin seeds. When they begin to sputter and crackle, add remaining tadka ingredients, stirring and saute on low for 2 minutes.
- Using a potato masher or immersion blender (stick blender) mash to desired consistency. I like to leave it slightly chunky and loose. Season to taste.
- Serve with cilantro and tadka spooned over each bowl of lentils.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.