Tarka Dhal Recipe

Dhals (dal, daal, dahl) are perfect comfort food for the winter months.  Dahls, made with lentils and spice, make a healthy meal providing a source of  protein, while the vegetables, spice and herb ingredients supply valuable vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

To create a warming dahl, it is recommended that it is cooked long and slow for maximum creaminess.  Spicy, aromatic tarka can be added to make a tasty garnish.  You can experiment with this recipe, you can make it as thin as soup or as thick as porridge.  You can add spices and vegetables to this versatile dish.

Serves 4

Prep 15-2o mins / Cooking 1.5 hours


400g mung dal (skinned yellow split mung beans)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4cm piece of root ginger, peeled and cut into 4
1 tbsp turmeric
4 small green chillies, 2 finely chopped, 2 left whole
2 tbsp ghee or groundnut oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp crushed chilli
Fresh coriander, chopped to serve


1. Wash the dal until the water runs clear, then drain and put in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

2. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric and chopped chillies to the pan with a pinch of salt, turn down the heat, cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and simmer very gently for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the dal has broken down completely and become creamy.

3. Add boiling water or reduce the dal further to achieve your preferred consistency if necessary, and season to taste.  You can add 1 tsp salt but season to your taste.  Add the whole chillies and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat and add the shallots. Stir until golden and beginning to crisp, then add the dried spices and cook for a couple of minutes until the mustard seeds are beginning to pop. Tip over the dal, stir in, and top with chopped coriander.

5. You can add vegetables to this recipe if you wish to experiment, sweet potatoes, potatoes, spinach.  Or oven-roast a whole cauliflower, chopped into small pieces, for 15-2o minutes and stir the roasted cauliflower into the cooked dhal, top with the tarka and serve.

6. Serve with plain rice or flatbreads.