Dal tadka is the one of the great Indian lentil dishes. Restaurants serve it everywhere for a reason. It is just really, really tasty.

And you can make it at home. It’s not hard. You can even cook the lentils the day before and finish them off when it’s time to eat. Great fast food.

They call this Dhaba style in India. Dhabas are restaurants along highways. Comfort food done restaurant style. Cheap and delicious. Guess everyone wants that on road trips. Yabba doo.

Two blasts of flavour make dal tadka special

The two stage flavouring is what makes them. First you make a masala. A combination of tomatoes, chilies, onions and spices. Cook it up and mix it into the lentils.

At this point it’s already good. You could stop here and not care. Seriously.

Or you can hit them with an extra shot of flavour. Fried whole spices bloomed in a bit of oil. Drizzled over the lentils. A double blast. Mad scientist genius.

Dal tadka in a serving dish with parathas from above.

One little trick

The one blast of flavour I’m leaving out is charcoal. Dal tadka has an optional step. It involves using a burning piece of charcoal to infuse the lentils with a bit of smoke.

That’s a bit over the top. Even for me. So I cheat. A couple black cardamom in the tempering. Adds a bit of smoky taste. Without burning down the house. Fair trade I think.

You may think otherwise. And that’s OK too. I don’t think there’s a tadka dal police. But if there is I guess they are coming for me…

Close up of dal tadka with whole spices tempering.

Lentils matter

The other great thing about dal tadka is the texture. It’s soupy. The lentils are indistinct. Creamy even. I love that. It’s one of my favourite things about Indian food.

There are two lentils that always work. Masoor dal is one. Those are the little split pink lentils you see all over the place.

Toor dal is the other. That one will take a trip to an Indian grocer. It is perfect for dal tadka. Worth seeking out. Great in sambar too. Buy a big bag. If you are an Indian lentil fan you will use them up.

Dipping paratha into dal tadka.

Dal tadka makes the meal

It’s good enough to star as a main course in a vegetarian meal. Serve it with parathas or chapatis and you have a great dinner right there.

Or make it part of a larger menu. But if you do that make sure your other dishes are just as good. Or it will steal the show. Dhaba style dal tadka. Could be you’ve just met your new favourite lentil dish.

Dal tadka in a bowl with parathas in the background. From the front.
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5 from 4 votes

tadka dal

Tadka dal is a deeply satisfying and flavourful dish that's sure to become a family favourite.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword dal tadka
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 249kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The lentils

  • 1 cup toor dal
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 3 1/2 cups water

Dal tadka masala - the first flavour blast

  • 1 cup onion - diced
  • 2 tomatoes - chopped
  • 3 green chilies - diced (or more to taste)
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 tsp kasoor methi
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

Final tempering - the second flavour blast

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 4-5 red chilies
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 1 2 inch piece cinnamon bark


Cook the lentils

  • Combine the toor dal, turmeric, diced 1/2 onion and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer until the lentils disintegrate. This takes about an hour.

First tempering

  • While the lentils cook start your first tempering. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to brown. Add the green chili and garlic ginger paste. Stir and cook another minute or so.
  • Push the onion mixture to the side of the pan. There should be some oil in the middle of the pan. If there isn't add a little more. Add the cumin powder, kasoor methi, salt and chili powder. Stir. Pay attention. You don't want your spices to burn. If it looks like the mixture is dry add a bit more oil. Cook for 30-45 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes and stir to combine everything. Simmer until the tomatoes start to break down. Add a bit of water if it starts to get too dry.
  • Once the lentils have broken down add the first tempering to the lentils and stir to combine. Taste. Adjust salt as needed. You will probably need another half tsp or so. Simmer another 10-15 minutes.

Second tempering

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan (the same one as before if you've rinsed it out - why make more dishes) over medium low heat.
  • When the oil starts to shimmer add the black cardamom and cinnamon. Cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chilies and toast them quickly in the oil. Now add the mustard seed and cumin seed and cook for around 20-30 seconds. Watch the chilies. You don't want them to burn.
  • Transfer the tadka dal mixed with first tempering to a serving bowl. Drizzle the second tempering over top. Serve.


Calories: 249kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Sodium: 506mg | Potassium: 290mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 770IU | Vitamin C: 54.5mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 2.1mg
Make dal tadka - it's a delicious Indian lentil curry just like they serve in restaurants.

16 thoughts on “dal tadka restaurant style

  1. Do you think this would work well for the lentil part when making a dhansak?

    Seems like it might add a nice bit of extra flavour to a dhansak by adding a few tablespoons of this dish instead of plain boiled lentils.

    • It would definitely change the dhansak as the recipe flavours are quite assertive. Maybe the lentils with the first tempering would be a safer place to start.

  2. Cooked this amazing dish this afternoon! Wow, best dal ever! That last flavour blast hits the sweet spot! Another superb recipe Romain, thanks.

    • I would say yes if the onions weren’t in the initial mix. I don’t know. I’ve never tried. It’s probably OK but I can’t guarantee it.

  3. When we do the 2nd cup of onion and it says to put it to one side, it doesn’t state when to put it back in, we added it when we put the chopped tomatoes in.

    • You push the onions to one side of the pan. There’s no need to remove them. In any case, adding them back in when you added the tomatoes amounts to the same thing so I expect you got exactly the the same result. Just a little unnecessary work you can skip next time.

  4. This is a bit unrelated but what size balti dish should I buy to serve up this gorgeous curry? 32 oz (6″ diameter, or 40 oz 7″ diameter? And can you recommend any website or brand?

    Thank you – I’m loving your recipes.

    • I would think a 6 inch would be plenty large enough to hold most recipes on this blog. I get my Indian serving dishes at local Indian grocers. I don’t remember where I got the one in these pictures but I have been looking for more of them for a long time…

  5. I made this for lunch today, and everyone’s plate was wiped clean. I think this might be my favorite lentil dish so far. It came together very easily and those lentils…so deliciously creamy. Thank you for another amazing recipe. BTW I found the Balti serving dish on Amazon.

    • I love hearing that. Wiped clean is what I’m going for!

      Glad you found the Baltimore dish on Amazon. I’ll go hunting for that now myself.

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