This tadka dal is a ground turkey curry with vegetables and tempered spices. Make this turkey lentil soup for a flavorful, comforting meal!
I think Indian cuisine has some of the world’s most delicious curries. Many of them include lentils, known in India as dal (also spelled dahl). Red lentil curry is the most popular, but black dal is used for recipes like black dal makhani, and yellow lentil curry is another favorite.
Meat is often included as well, but most often, an Indian dal curry includes lamb, beef, or chicken.
This recipe for turkey lentil soup uses lean ground turkey. This reduces the calories and fat in the dish, while still delivering flavor.
Indian Tadka Dal Curry
Cuisine: Asian / Indian
One reason why the dal curries in Indian cuisine are so incredibly delicious is because of a cooking method and its resulting mixture, both known as Indian tadka. The preparation involves blooming spices (either whole or ground) in a pan of hot oil to release their essence.
With your first taste of tadka, you’ll likely be hooked. It’s possible that you’ll start frying spices to add flavor to nearly everything you eat. You've been warned. 😉
Alternate Names/Spellings: Red lentil curry, tadka dal curry, dal tadka
Difficulty: Medium 🥄🥄
Description: Flavorful ground turkey curry with red lentils and vegetables, topped with a tadka of tempered spices.
To learn more about the art of tempering spices and how they’re used, read my article on Indian tadka.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Note: This is only a partial list of ingredients; a full list and amounts needed are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Ground/minced turkey- Ground turkey curry is delicious but if you prefer to use a different protein, any ground meat will work with this recipe. If you prefer a vegetarian curry, that’s fine too.
- Vegetables- I use a combination of diced carrot, celery, red onion, and fresh roma tomatoes. If you’d like to use canned diced tomatoes, be sure to drain them thoroughly first or they’ll water down the soup.
- Red lentils- Traditional Indian dal tadka is made with masoor dal, which are split red lentils. You could use whole red lentils if you prefer them, but they don’t blend into as creamy of a consistency.
- Ghee- This is similar to clarified butter, but despite what you may read elsewhere, they are not identical. You could also use a neutral flavored oil like vegetable or canola. You can make ghee at home or purchase it in jars. It's usually kept near the bottled oils in most grocery store.
- Cumin seeds
- Black mustard seeds- As you might guess, these whole seeds are either black or brown in color. Black mustard has a pungent flavor.
- Yellow mustard seeds- This variety can be yellow or white in color. In comparison to black mustard seed, yellow mustard seeds are smaller, and they have a milder flavor.
- Turmeric powder- This spice is a powerful antioxidant and medical studies show that turmeric may help reduce inflammation, making it heart healthy and a pain reliever for conditions like arthritis.
- Paprika- either smoked or sweet (Hungarian) paprika can be used.
Notes for Making Turkey Tadka Dal Curry
- Have all spices prepped and ready to use. Creating a tadka happens very quickly, and stopping to measure ingredients can cause the spices to burn.
- Using a different protein? If the meat you use has a lot of fat in it, you may need to drain the grease after cooking it. Otherwise, it could affect the flavor and texture of the curry.
- Use ghee or clarified butter for the best flavor tadka.
Want a chunkier curry?
If you like curry with a ittle texture, reserve up to one cup of cooked lentils. Puree the remainder, then stir the reserved lentils back into the pot.
As long as there isn’t any tadka in the curry, it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freezing tadka dal is not recommended, as the tempered spices can separate from the ghee and may become rancid as they thaw.
Other Indian Curry Recipes to Make
As the weather becomes cooler, make curries part of your weekly menu rotation. They're comforting and will warm you up from the inside out!
Butter chicken is a family favorite, as is Instant Pot lamb stew.
Indian Tadka Dal (Turkey Lentil Soup)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb ground turkey or other ground/minced meat
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp ghee or clarified butter or vegetable oil
- 1 medium red onion diced
- 1 large carrot peeled and diced
- 3 stalks celery chopped
- 4 cloves garlic crushed and chopped
- 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger or ginger paste
- 2 Roma tomatoes diced
- 1 serrano chile finely diced
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 4 cups chicken stock
Tadka - Spice Tempering
- 2 tbsp ghee or clarified butter or vegetable oil
- 2 kashmeri chiles broken in pieces
- 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- Chopped cilantro leaves
- Add 2 tsp. oil to a preheated skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add and brown ground turkey and kosher salt until meat is no longer pink. Set pan of turkey aside.
- Preheat dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. When pot is hot, add oil and sauté the onion, carrot and celery for 6 minutes. Add garlic and ginger. Stir to combine and continue to cook for 2 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic
- Add the Roma tomatoes, Serrano chili, lentils and chicken stock. Stir and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine cumin and mustard seeds. In another bowl, combine the spice powders. Have all of your spices ready because this will move quickly.
- In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering, add chiles, cumin and mustard seeds (be careful as this splatters in the hot oil ). Add turmeric and paprika spices. They should sizzle and bubble a little, that's the spices blooming, and it's exactly what you want. Do not burn them, cook 10 seconds tops as you shake the pan back and forth slightly. Pour into a dish and set aside.
- Either keep the lentil soup chunky or use immersion blender (blending stick) or high speed blender to puree until smooth. Add cooked turkey to the lentils. Stir to incorporate and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and pour tadka over each.
*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.