bengali masoor dal

If you like lentils this is a dish for you. Bengali masoor dal belongs on the menu whenever you are cooking Indian for dinner. Creamy texture. Bold flavours. Who cares that it’s healthy? It’s just delicious.

The Bengali in this dish comes from panch phoran. That’s a spice mix that figures highly in Bengali cooking. Mustard seeds are big in Bengali cooking too. Double blast.

If you can’t get panch phoran you can make this a half and half mix of mustard seeds and cumin seeds. It will still be tasty stuff.

Bengali masoor dal is a great addition to any Indian meal.

Indians have pretty much mastered the art of cooking lentils. Just visit an Indian grocery sometime. There’s must be 20 different types of lentils. Maybe more.

There’s a lot of vegetarians in India and they have been cooking for thousands of years. No wonder they are so good at it.

The key to a good masoor dal is the tarka

They have an interesting way of approaching it too. A lot of western recipes  cook the beans along with the aromatics. Basically chuck everything into a pot and simmer. Think vegetarian chili.

Indians do it differently. The lentils cook with a minimum of other ingredients. They fry up the rest of the ingredients separately.

They call that a tarka. At the last minute everything gets mixed together in a big jumble of delicious.

Bengali masoor dal from above in Indian bowl

A big part of it is frying the spices in oil. Tempering them if you want the lingo. Many spices have fat soluble compounds that come out during this step.

Doesn’t work with water. Has to be fat. It’s just one of those things. Until you start doing that your Indian cooking is never going to really get there.

This is one good bowl of lentil curry

I love lentils. Beans in general. And one of my favourites is the humble split red lentil. Masoor dal in India. In general, I am strongly opposed to cooking things until they absolutely fall apart.

But something magical happens when you cook masoor dal to death. It goes from distinct lentils to this soupy mess of wonderful.

Until you try it you have no idea. And until you have an idea I sound nuts. I know.

But you need to try this. You really do…

Close up of bengali masoor dal.

Bengali masoor dal in Indian bowl from the front.
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4.58 from 14 votes

bengali masoor dal

Bengali masoor dal is a simple but delicious lentil dish that will complement any Indian meal. 
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword lentil curry, tarka dal
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 189kcal


  • 1 cup masoor dal - split red lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp panch phoran - bengali whole spice mix
  • 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp paprika - optional for colour
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1 Tbsp garlic ginger paste - so much better when you make it yourself
  • 1-2 green finger hot chiles seeded and minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt plus more to taste


  • Combine the water with the lentils in a pot large enough to hold the ingredients plus some extra room. Lentils can boil over if you don't watch them closely...
  • Bring the water and lentils to a boil, uncovered and then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils completely lose their shape. This takes about 40 minutes.
  • While the lentils cook, heat 3 Tbsp oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seed and panch phoran. Wait for them to start to crackle. This takes 20-30 seconds.
  • Add the onions and minced green chili, reduce heat to medium low and cook until the onions soften and turn translucent. This takes about 8-10 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium and add the garlic ginger paste. Stir into the onion chili mixture and cook for about a minute. 
  • Add the paprika and 1 tsp salt. Stir to mix evenly and cook another minute or so. 
  • Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes soften. You know you are done when the skin starts to come off the tomato.
  • Fold the tomato mixture into the lentils. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the salt. You will probably need another 1/2 tsp or so. Creep up on it, adding a bit at a time. You can add salt. You cannot take it away.


Serving: 6servings | Calories: 189kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 425mg | Potassium: 437mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 540IU | Vitamin C: 9.8mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 2.7mg

22 thoughts on “bengali masoor dal”

  1. 5 stars
    Another great recipe! Panch phoran is such an interesting blend and I am really enjoying it. I am really enjoying Glebe Kitchen dal (and other) recipes.

    • Awesome. I’m just addicted to panch phoran. The more people I can get into it the happier I am!

  2. 5 stars
    Another excellent recipe, thanks so much. Your Tarka Dal recipe is great and I think this is a close second. Got to love masoor dal! I have to add extra as I end up eating a fair amount before I even add the spices.
    Any other dal recommendations?
    Thanks again

  3. The best dahl Ive made.
    Thank you!
    I think the tip of cooking the aromatics separate and adding at the end
    makes all the difference !

  4. I was a bit surprised at first with the ginger garlic paste thing, because I have never seen any relative/friend put that in musur dal but am sure this will taste great as well. Musur dal is a comfort food even without any spices, just boil it mushy and add salt and butter. I just temper it with cumin and/or panch photon, chillies and onion. Will try this 😛

    • Urmi, I don’t always put garlic ginger in my masoor dal. I love it in bengali masoor dal but I like it the way you describe too. Sometimes tempered with dried chiles. Sometimes I go with tomato and green chili. It is really versatile that way.

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