Dal Tadka (Curry Lentil Soup)

Dal Tadka served in a copper bowl with accompaniments including rice

Dal, known as Lentils in english, is a staple food in all Indian vegetarian households. For the same reason no matter where you are in the world you will always find Dal Tadka as one of the offerings in all Indian cusine restaurants. From Street side eatery joint, popularly known as Dhaba, to any fine dining place, Dal Tadka would always be the part of menu. Tadka is the hindi word for Tempering. Hence, Dal Tadka, as the name suggest is curry lentil soup topped with an additional tempering to enhance the flavors. Curry Lentil soup or Dal when tempered with ghee and spices becomes everyone’s favorite and especially kids. This Dal Tadka recipe is super easy to cook when prepared using Instant Pot.

Dal Tadka served with rice and other accompaniments

Dal Tadka tastes best when combined with Jeera rice or simply steamed rice. Garnish with lemon, cilantro and onions for added flavors. Serve hot!

Dal Tadka served over rice

Split Pigeon Peas Curry Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is a very popular healthy meal choice in the western world due to its great flavors, taste and ease of making. In curry lentil soup, the flavors are enhanced by using a blend of spices such as turmeric, cayenne powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, garam masala and others. However, do not fall into the trap of curry spice. There is nothing called curry spice. In fact, these are simply mixture of various spices. I prefer to add individual spices. This recipe is gluten free, rich in protein and high in fibers. You won’t be able to resist yourself to have multiple servings of this.

Freshly made Dal Tadka in a kadai or wok

Split Pigeon Peas (Toor Dal)

Split Pigeon Peas is not a very common lentil outside India, but most popularly used in Indian subcontinent. This is probably due to the fact that India is one of the main producers of pigeon peas where it has been eaten since ancient times. Split pigeon peas are also known as Toor Dal, Tuvar dal or Arhar dal in Indian subcontinent. Usually, I am not able to find it in local grocery stores and have to go to specialty stores. You can always find it online.

Toor Dal, Arhar Dal, Split Peigon Peas served in a copper bowl

What is exacly Dal Tadka?

Tadka or Chaunk, as we call in Hindi, is a term without which Indian cooking is incomplete. The word to word translation of Dal Tadka is Dal = lentil and Tadka = tempering. Tadka or Chaunk is a process of briefly cooking aromatic spices and herbs, like hing, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, carom seeds, fenugreek seeds, cloves, cardamom, dry red whole chilis, green chilis, ginger, curry leaves etc., in very hot oil/ghee so that they release the essential oil into the hot oil. The spices infuse hot oil with flavors, which when added to the dish enhances the aroma and makes any simple dish special!

Fresh cooked Dal Tadka in a wok or Kadai

Tadka makes any simple dish special!

Since, tempering/Tadka is an integral part of cooking Indian food. Infect most of the recipes start with making tadka first and then adding the rest of the ingredient to that tadka. But in this dish after the dal is cooked, it is topped with additional tadka right before serving and this double tadka process make this dal more flavorful, aromatically rich and distinct.

Dal Tadka served in a copper bowl

Variations of Dal Tadka

Lentils have been a part of the staple Indian vegetarian diet as they are a great source of vegetarian protein, inexpensive and also fills you up instantly. There are many different varieties of lentils available in Indian household kitchen. Some most popular ones are tuvar or arhar (split pigeon peas), dhuli moong (split & skinned moong), dhuli masoor (red lentils) and chana dal (Bengal gram). The most popular version of this dal tadka is prepared using tovar or arhar (split pigeon peas), but it can be made using dhuli moong and dhuli masoor or by mixing with each other.

Dal Tadka ingredients beautifully decorated on a platter

To make it even easier, Masoor dal is the same lentil as red lentils and easy to find at any grocery store in the US. So, if you don’t have tuvar or moong in hand just relish this dal tadka by subbing red lentils completely.

Dal Tadka served in a brass bowl with accompaniments

How is Dal Tadka different than household Dal Recipe?

Toor (Tuvar) dal (or arhar dal) is an everyday recipe. But when making Dal at home we don’t usually add the second tadka to it unless until serving to a guest or someone special. Actually, the version that used to made in my house for everyday meal was even simpler. Just pressure cook the dal with enough water, salt and turmeric in a pressure cooker. In a separate pan heat ghee add hing, cumin seeds, green chilies, ginger, and spices. As we use mainly ground spices which burn easily so just sizzle them very briefly and transfer the boiled dal from pressure cooker to the pan. Let the two simmer on low heat together for few minutes to help the flavors amalgamate into dal. Finally, add some lemon juice and cilantro home version dal is ready.

Compared to home version, restaurant style dal tadka is little elaborate to make. But at the same time much more flavorful and richer. As explained before, the tadka is where all the flavor comes in to the dal tadka. To make dal tadka is two step process when cooking using Instant Pot or similar smart pressure cooker

Tadka

First boil the dal using pressure cooker. Then the boiled dal is added to tadka. For the first (tadka) tempering, onion, tomatoes, chilies, and ginger are sauteed along with spices. Then the boiled dal gets cooked with the spices When the dal is cooked, then second tempering is added to dal. This addition makes it more appealing, aromatically rich and classic. Dal Tadka should be served immediately after second tadka.

Tadka poured over dal

Tips to make Best Dal Tadka?

  • Use ghee to make Dal Tadka or in that instance any dal recipe. Ghee really imparts flavor to the dal. If you are vegan then it’s a different scenario but if that is not the restriction then please do use ghee for cooking. Ghee being put in IP
  • Always use fresh ingredients instead of any store bought ginger paste or canned tomatoes. Fresh ingredients for Dal Tadka
  • Always give two tadka to the dal to give it a dhaba like taste.
  • In the second tadka, make sure the ghee is very hot before adding the cumin seeds. It will make sure to release all their flavor in the ghee. Tadka
  • To add smokey flavor to this dal tadka add smokey fumes by placing a hot coal pieces in a small plate on top of the dal. Pour a spoon of hot ghee and covered the dal pot with lid and let the dal get infused with the charcoal smoke for few minutes.
  • Don’t forget to add handful of chopped cilantro at the end as cilantro adds to the fresh flavor. Cilantro being added to dal
  • Consistency of dal tadka is neither thick nor very runny. But go for the consistence you personally prefer. If you prefer you can go for a slightly runny consistency as well.
  • Dal tadka tastes best when served hot.
  • One last tip though double tadka adds lot of flavor to the dal but to keep it low on calorie graph skip the second tadka, it is still be delicious.

Dal Tadka Ingredients

Dal Tadka Ingredients

Produce

  1. Tomato: 2 medium size/200 gms, diced
  2. Onion:  1 small size/150 gms, diced
  3. Ginger: ½ inch/10 gms, minced/grated
  4. Green chili: 2-3 (adjust as per your spice level), chopped
  5. Lemon juice: 1 Tbs
  6. Cilantro: 2 Tbs

Protein/Pantry

  1. Dry Pigeon Peas Lentis/ Toor/Arhar Dall: 1 cup/200 gms, washed and drained
Toor Dal, Arhar Dal, Split Peigon Peas being measured in a cup

Spices

  1. Ghee/oil: 1 tbs
  2. Asafoetida/hing: 1/8 tsp
  3. Cumin seeds/jeera: 1 tsp
  4. Salt/namak: 1 tsp
  5. Turmeric powder/haldi: ½ tsp
  6. Red chili powder/laal mirch: ½ tsp
  7. Coriander powder/ dhaniya powder: 1 tbs
  8. Garam masala: ¼ tsp

For second tempering

  1. Ghee: 2 tbsp
  2. Hing: ¼ tsp
  3. Cumin Seeds: 1 tsp
  4. Red chili/cayenne powder: ¼ tsp
  5. Dry Red Chillies: 2 – 3

Dal Tadka Method using Instant Pot

  1. Start the instant pot in SAUTE mode and heat the oil. Ghee being put in IP
  2. Add asafetida, cumin seeds, green chili and ginger.
    Hing being added to IP Cumin seeds being added to IP
    Green Chillies being added to IP
  3. Sauté for 30 seconds more and then add diced onion. Onions being added to IP
  4. Continue to sauté until onions are translucent. Diced onion being sauted with spices
  5. Now add tomatoes and continue to sauté until soft and mushy. Tomatoes being added to IP
  6. Add all the spices except garam masala and lemon juice into the pot.
    Salt being added to IP Red pepper being added to IP
    Spice being added to IP
  7. Mix them well. Dal Tadka tomato gravy
  8. Add washed and drained lentil into the pot. Washed lentils being added to pot
  9. Add 3 cups water for thick consistency, 3.5 cup water for medium and 4 cups for little soupy consistency. Give it a good mix after adding water.Water being added for cooking lentils
  10. Press CANCEL and close the instant pot lid with vent in sealing position. Set MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK mode for 6 minutes. 
  11. Let the pressure release naturally (NR). When float valves pops down, open the lid and add garam masala. 
  12. Now switch off the IP, add lemon juice and chopped cilantro.
    Lemon being added to dal Cilantro being added to dal
  13. Serve hot as a soup or with rice. Or you may choose to add second tempering per the steps below.
Dal Tadka being scooped in a serving spoon

Method for second tempering:

  1. In a tadka pan heat 2 tablespoon ghee. Adding ghee for tadka
  2. Now add a pinch of asafetida, cumin seeds.
    Adding hing for tadka Adding jeera for tadka
  3. Next, add dried red chilies and sauté for another minute. Adding dry whole red chilies to tadka
  4. Switch of the heat and let oil cool down just a little bit to prevent cayenne powdere from burning.
  5. Add red chili (cayenne) powder and cook for a few seconds.
    Adding cayenne powder to tadka Tadka
  6. Now pour the hot tadka over hot dal.
    closeup of dal with tadka
  7. Mix thoroughly and serve hot with chapati or jeera rice.
Dal tadka served with rice

“For pleasure has no relish unless we share it.” 

― Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader

If you like the post, please show your support by sharing it with others via your social media accounts or other venues. If more people visit our blog, we can bring more content to you faster.

Other EYP repies to make a complete meal with Dal Tadka:

Other Instant Pot Lentil Recipes on EYP: