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Mixing bowl of tarka dal with tarka mixed in partially from above.
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4.69 from 22 votes

tarka dhal

Tarka dhal is a delicious complement to any Indian meal. It also makes a great main for any vegan Indian menu. If you can't get the curry leaves, just leave them out.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: indian
Cuisine: side
Keyword: dhal, tarka dal
Servings: 6
Calories: 196kcal
Author: romain | glebekitchen


The dhal

  • 1 cup masoor dahl
  • 3 1/2 cups water plus more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt

The tarka

  • 3 tbsp oil vegetable or other neutral oil
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 2 kashmiri chilies optional
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 4 green chilies de-seeded and chopped
  • 10 or so fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tsp dried methi - dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste in 2 Tbsp water or some fresh tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice - about 1/6 of a lemon
  • handful of cilantro chopped


The dahl

  • Combine the masoor lentils, water and turmeric.
  • Bring to a lively simmer uncovered. Uncovered is key. I've had lentils boil over on me more times than I can count. Now I start them uncovered. Problem solved.
  • Once the lentils come to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cover.
  • Cook lentils until they completely break down into a creamy consistency. You will not be able to discern individual lentils. This should take somewhere around 40 minutes.
  • Add the salt. You will adjust the seasoning at the end.

The tarka

  • Heat the oil over medium heat.
  • Add the kashmiri chilies if using. Cook until the edged just start to bubble.
  • Flip the kashmiri chilies. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seed and fry briefly. They should crackle a bit and dance around.
  • Turn the heat down a bit and add onion. Cook until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the green chilies, curry leaves and methi and continue to cook for around 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste or fresh tomatoes if using. Cook for 20-30 seconds then add the tarka to the dahl..
  • Stir to thoroughly combine.
  • Adjust consistency to your taste with little bit of water (I like it a bit runny).
  • Add the cilantro and lemon juice to taste.
  • Adjust salt. Around a half a tsp give or take. Creep up on it. You can add salt. You can't take it away.
  • Enjoy.


Serving: 6servings | Calories: 196kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 325mg | Potassium: 347mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 160IU | Vitamin C: 41.2mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 2.7mg