Dal Tadka

Lentils tempered with spices and ghee, this Dal Tadka is one of the most popular Indian dishes and also my personal favorite.

This recipe uses burnt charcoal for that smokey flavor which makes the dal even more special!

dal tadka in a black bowl garnished with cilantro with a spoon and some spices in the background

Whenever we would eat out in India (when I was little), we would always order 2 types of dal for the table – dal tadka and dal makhani.

Most Indians I know prefer eating Dal Makhani when they are eating out, simply because it’s not something that you make everyday. Dal tadka on the other hand is made with toor dal which has to be the most common dal in Indian kitchens!

Toor dal (or arhar dal) was made in my house everyday. So obviously when you go out, you don’t want to eat what you anyway eat everyday.

But my dad loved Dal Tadka and so we always ended up ordering it. Actually the version that was made in my house everyday was super simple, with just a tadka of garlic and ghee on top of boiled dal.

Dal Tadka on the other hand uses a lot of ingredients and spices, making it a special dish. So even thought the lentil was same, the overall taste was very different.

This restaurant style Dal Tadka is my absolute favorite. I think I have inherited this from my dad, I really love dal tadka over any other dal. Sarvesh on the other hand, being a true punjabi loves his dal makhani!

The literal translation of Dal Tadka is Dal=lentil and tadka=tempering. Tadka or chaunk (in hindi) is a term we often use in Indian cooking for the process of adding seasoning to a dish.

It mostly involves adding spices like cumin seeds, mustard seeds, garlic, chilies, curry leaves etc. to hot oil or ghee.

bowl of dal tadka with roti, bowl of yogurt and salad

This Restaurant Style Dal Tadka

✓ tastes just like the dal tadka from your favorite restaurant

✓ has a smokey flavor which makes it more amazing!

✓ tastes amazing with plain rice or jeera rice

✓ bursting with some amazing flavors

Over the years, I have tried countless variations of dal tadka, both in India and then here in the US. Some people mix several types of lentils while other stick to only toor dal for the recipe.

Some make a tadka of onion only, while others go heavy on spices. As with most Indian recipes, there no right or wrong method or way here.

You make it in a way you like it. That’s always been my philosophy for cooking. After a lot of attempts, I have finally zeroed on my favorite version of dal tadka and I am really excited to be sharing this one with you guys.

How to Make the Best Dal Tadka

use fresh ingredients- yeah you always want to reach out for that store bough ginger-garlic paste but trust me, pound some fresh ginger and garlic in your mortar and pestle for this recipe and see the difference.

use ghee for cooking- if you are vegan then I understand that you would use oil for this recipe but if you are not vegan, please do use ghee for cooking the masala for the dal and also for the tempering.

Ghee really imparts so much flavor to the dal.

infuse smokey flavor to the dal through dhungar method- this is the real deal you guys! It just takes a simple dal from good to WOW! Seriously, I didn’t use to do it before but now I am hooked.

What is dhungar method you might ask? It’s the technique of infusing the flavors of burnt charcoal (smokey flavor) into a dish.

Piece of charcoal is heated on direct fire and then placed in a bowl which in then placed inside the dish. Then ghee or oil is poured over the hot charcoal, as the fumes begin to rise from the charcoal, it’s all enclosed with a lid.

The dish adsorbs the smokey flavor in that enclosed environment. The longer you close the lid for, the smokier the dish will become so remember to not over-do it.

I never go beyond 15 minutes. You can use the same method to impart smokey flavor to several other dishes like kadai paneer, panner tikka etc.

I hope you guys enjoy this dal tadka recipe, we sure did! Serve it with jeera rice for a perfect meal.

Method

1- To a pressure cooker add toor dal along with turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups water.

2- Pressure cook for 4 whistle on high heat then lower the heat and let it cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If using an Instant Pot, cook on high pressure for 8 minutes with natural pressure release.  Set it aside.

Meanwhile crush 4 large garlic cloves, 1-inch ginger and green chili in a mortar pestle and set it aside.

3- In a heavy bottom pan, heat ghee on medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds and cloves. Saute few seconds until fragrant.

4- Then add onions, cook for around 3 to 4 minutes until they are soft and start changing color.

step by step pictures of making dal tadka

5- Add the crushed garlic-ginger-green chili. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until raw smell goes away.

6- Add the chopped tomatoes along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix. Cover and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until tomatoes are very soft and cooked.

7- Then add the coriander powder, garam masala, kashmiri red chili powder, red chili powder, cilantro and kasuri methi. Stir the spices with the masala for few 30 seconds.

8- Add the boiled dal to the pan and mix. I also added 1/2 cup water here as dal looked very thick to me.

step by step pictures of making dal tadka

9- Let the dal simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.

10- For the tempering, heat 2 teaspoons ghee in a small pan. Once the ghee is hot, add 2 chopped garlic cloves. Also add hing and dried red chilies.

11- Cook for one minute until the garlic starts changing color. Add kashmiri red chili powder remove pan from heat.

12- Pour tempering over dal and mix.

step by step pictures of making dal tadka

This last step is optional but recommended.

13- For the dhungar method – place a steel bowl on top of a trivet placed inside the dal. Then heat a piece of charcoal over direct heat until its red hot.

14- Place hot charcoal in that steel bowl on top of the trivet. Pour melted ghee (around 1 tablespoon) on top of charcoal.

15- You will immediately see fumes coming out of charcoal.

16- Immediately close the pan with a lid. Let it remain like this for 5 to 10 minutes. After 5 to 10 minutes, remove lid and remove the bowl from dal.

The longer you keep the lid closed, the smokier dal will get, so don’t do more than 10 minutes.

step by step pictures of making dal tadka

Garnish dal tadka with more cilantro and serve!

bowl of dal tadka garnished with cilantro with a spoon

If you’ve tried this Dal Tadka Recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!

This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in 2014.

Dal Tadka

dal tadka in a black bowl garnished with cilantro with a spoon and some spices in the background
Manali
Restaurant style Dal Tadka (lentils) tempered with ghee and spices! This dal has a smokey flavor which makes it all the more special!
5 from 28 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 282 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup toor dal 200 grams, also known as arhar dal/split pigeon peas lentil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt divided, adjust to taste
  • 3.5 cups water divided
  • 4 large garlic cloves divided
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 green chili
  • 1.5 tablespoons ghee 22 ml, also known as clarified butter or use oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds crushed in mortar pestle
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 medium red onion 150 grams, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon red chili powder or adjust to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi crushed, dried fenugreek leaves

Tempering/Tadka

  • 2 teaspoons ghee 10 ml
  • 2 large garlic cloves chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon hing also known as asafoetida
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • 1/4 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder optional

piece of charcoal & melted ghee, for dhungar method, optional

    Instructions
     

    • To a pressure cooker add toor dal along with turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups water.
    • Pressure cook for 4 whistle on high heat then lower the heat and let it cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If using an Instant Pot, cook on high pressure for 8 minutes with natural pressure release. Set it aside.
    • Meanwhile crush 4 large garlic cloves, 1-inch ginger and green chili in a mortar pestle and set it aside.
    • In a heavy bottom pan, heat ghee on medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds and cloves. Saute for few seconds until fragrant.
    • Then add onions, cook for around 3 to 4 minutes until they are soft and start changing color.
    • Add the crushed garlic-ginger-green chili. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the raw smell goes away.
    • Add the chopped tomatoes along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix. Cover and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until tomatoes are very soft and cooked.
    • Then add the coriander powder, garam masala, kashmiri red chili powder, red chili powder, cilantro and kasuri methi. Stir the spices with the masala for few 30 seconds.
    • Add the boiled dal to the pan and mix. I also added 1/2 cup water here as dal looked very thick to me. Let the dal simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
    • For the tempering/tadka, heat 2 teaspoons ghee in a small pan. Once the ghee is hot, add 2 chopped garlic cloves. Also add hing and dried red chilies.
    • Cook for one minute until the garlic starts changing color. Add kashmiri red chili powder remove pan from heat.
    • Pour tempering over the dal and mix. 
    • This last step is optional but recommended.
      For the dhungar method - place a steel bowl on top of a trivet placed inside the dal. Then heat a piece of charcoal over direct heat until its red hot.
    • Place hot charcoal in that steel bowl on top of the trivet. Pour melted ghee (around 1 tablespoon) on top of charcoal. You will immediately see fumes coming out of charcoal.
    • Immediately close the pan with a lid. Let it remain like this for 5 to 10 minutes. After 5 to 10 minutes, remove lid and remove the bowl from dal.
    • The longer you keep the lid closed, the smokier dal will get, so don't do more than 10 minutes.
    • Garnish dal tadka with more cilantro and serve!

    Video

    Notes

    1. Use oil in place of ghee to make this vegan.
    2. Skip hing (asafoetida) to make this gluten-free or use gluten-free hing.
    3. You may use a combination of lentils to make dal tadka. Commonly used- toor dal + moong dal or toor dal + masoor dal (red lentils).

    Nutrition

    Calories: 282kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 13gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 935mgPotassium: 681mgFiber: 16gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 635IUVitamin C: 16.3mgCalcium: 68mgIron: 4.5mg
    Keyword dal tadka
    Tried this recipe?Mention @cookwithmanali or tag #cookwithmanali!

    67 thoughts on “Dal Tadka

    1. 5 stars
      Thanks for sharing this recipe Manali, it was so good, better than restaurants. Dhungar method really makes all the difference.

    2. 5 stars
      I made this for dinner tonight and it was absolutely brilliant. Lovely flavours and simple to make. I didn’t have the things for the dhungar method so I’ll have to try in the future. Thanks Manali

    3. Hey. Your recipes have helped me get much closer to being able to cook like my mum since I moved out! I would be so grateful if you could conjure up a version if this daal without using a pressure cooker

      1. Bhavesh, just soak the dal for 1-2 hours then drain the water. Put it in a pan, add water, turmeric and salt and cook the dal until it’s done. It will take some time on stove-top but will get cooked eventually. Then, just follow the rest of the steps as it is..hope this helps!

    4. 5 stars
      Hi there, I was wondering, rather than using charcoal, is it possible to just put in some liquid smoke to achieve the same effect? I’ve never used charcoal like this so I’m a little reticent. Thanks a lot.

    5. 5 stars
      Hi Manali.Cooking dal’s which are rich and flavourful was never my forte.This Dal Tadka recipe was just awesome.I have followed so many recipes, but this one takes the cake.Thank you.I would love to have the recipe for dal makhani and a ‘whole ‘ moong dal recipe.

    6. 5 stars
      Thank you for sharing this receipe…it was SO good. I can’t wait to try more of your dishes.

      This one is definitely on our heavy rotation list.

    7. 5 stars
      absolutely delicious! I will double the recipe next time, it doesn’t make a lot and it’s a bit of work and clean up, but it’s SO worth it! I didn’t try the charcol, I just made the simpler version, but it is better than our local Indian restaurant! Thank you

    8. 5 stars
      I haven’t bothered making dal in ages because it was always a bit dull when i made it myself. But this is now my favourite dal recipe! Although I cheated by just adding liquid smoke at the end.

    9. 5 stars
      Hi! I tried this recipe for guests who came for dinner and it turned out to be fabulous! Simple and tasty! Restaurant style!

    10. 5 stars
      I made this recipe last week, and my husband, my son, and I really loved it! The flavor was amazing! I’m trying your Dhaba Dal recipe tonight!

    11. 5 stars
      Love this recipe, and your recipes in general.

      I’m in Canada, in my apartment in self-imposed seclusion, so don’t have the ability to use the dhungar method. I’ve tried adding a bit of liquid smoke, as the commenter above asked about, and it really is a pretty good substitute.

    12. 5 stars
      I made this for dinner tonight. It was yummy and liked by all. Though smokey effect will try next time. Thank you for the recipe.

    13. I tried this dal recipe….. I was amazing 😋… yummy…. actually like dhaba…. my husband really loved it…. Shared the recipe with my sister also.

    14. 5 stars
      I tried this dal recipe….. It was amazing 😋… yummy…. actually like dhaba…. my husband really loved it…. Shared the recipe with my sister also.

    15. Going to try this Saturday! Do you end up mixing the ghee you pour over the charcoal into the actual dal? Or does it just smoke the inside and you discard the charcoal and the ghee you poured over the charcoal? I assume the ghee collects in the bottom of the small steel bowl.

    16. 5 stars
      Can you please share the link to what kind of charcoal to buy for this? Thanks ! Made the dal today and it was very yummy wo the charcoal but I do want to try with it too 🙂 THANKS!

    17. 5 stars
      Just made this tonight. I didn’t have methi so omitted that. Didn’t have green chilis so added a little extra chili powder and also added in some kale and chard from our garden. This was absolutely fantastic and growing up eating Indian food my whole life I know a good dal when I taste one!

    18. 5 stars
      Hello Manali
      Today I was hunting for Dal tadka recipe. Found yours. Made it exactly your way.
      You have explained it beautifully that it was easy for me to make. Second, smoked it..oh wow! It was superb. Third it was delectable. Not a drop was left. Though I added little more water than half a cup to make it the consistency of what we have. I have been asked to cook it again in the future. Thank you so much.

    19. 5 stars
      Just found this today and made it for lunch. Sooo good! I didn’t have a lot of time so I didn’t follow this method at all and it was STILL delicious! Next time I will follow step by step. I can only imagine how good it will be when I do.

    20. Dear Manali – We live in USA. In this time of restricted life , I try to make lunch and dinner out of what I have, and avoid frequent grocery shopping. Daal is my favorite dish and I am trying variety for a change of taste! I liked your tarka daal recipe. It came out very well. I used one time ghee during tempering only for health reasons.
      I do not have options for charcoal method here. Thank you very much for this recipe. I will look for more in future.

    21. That little stand you put the steel bowl on during the Dhungar method , does that have a name? I could improvise but I’d like to get one of those eventually too.

    22. 5 stars
      Simply the best dall I have ever eaten. I have used the smoking charcoal on tikka before but never dall. A revelation.
      Thanks🙏

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