Every Indian restaurant has Dal Tadka on their menu for good reason. Creamy lentils cooked with aromatics, spices and tangy tomatoes and topped with a final ‘Tadka’ or seasoning of spices, chili, garlic. Delicious comfort in a bowl, Dal Tadka to me is like coming home.
Before we dive into the recipe this is your PSA reminder to add lentils and beans to your daily rotation. We now have scientific evidence linking lentil and bean consumption with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and inflammation. These simple peasant foods nourish our gut microbiome setting us up for vibrant overall health.
If you find beans and lentils hard to digest, go slow and start with small amounts but don’t eliminate them all together! Also, the digestion boosting spices in this recipe will help them be properly assimilated. Soaking, sprouting and pressure cooking legumes can also help digestibility. Final tip if you struggle with digesting beans and lentils is to eat them for lunch instead of dinner as your digestive fire is more robust midday, aligned with your circadian rhythm.
Now let’s get cooking!
- 2 cups split skinless red (masoor ) or yellow (mung) lentils (you can also use a 1:1 mixture of the two kinds)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 3 tablespoons oil (I like avocado oil for its neutral flavor and high heat stability)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- A pinch of hing (optional, but available at most Indian grocery stores or online and great for digestion!)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 inch knob ginger root, peeled and minced
- 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (or sweet paprika)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped or puréed tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- 2 dried red chilis (optional)
- Fistful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- Lime juice to finish
Cook the lentils with 4 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric in a pot with a lid on medium low flame or pressure cooker until softened, adding more water if needed. This should take 10-15 minutes in a pressure cooker and 30 minutes in a regular pot with a lid.
Prepare the masala. Heat 1.5 tablespoons of the oil on medium high heat until it shimmers. Add 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle, 30-60 seconds. Add a pinch of hing and the chopped onion and 1/2 the minced garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the ginger and cook for a minute. Add the ground cumin, coriander and cayenne and sauté for a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5-8 minutes. Add salt and pepper and transfer the masala into your cooked lentils, stirring well and adding more water if necessary. Simmer on a low flame for 10-15 minutes and adjust the salt to taste.
Finish with your final seasoning or Tadka. Heat the remaining oil on medium high heat and add the remaining cumin seeds and dried red chilis and allow them to sizzle for 30-60 seconds. Add the remaining minced garlic and cook until it just starts to turn pink. Add the Kashmiri red chili powder or sweet paprika and allow it to bloom for 30 seconds then tip the Tadka into your cooked Dal.
Top with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime, stir well to incorporate and serve with rice or roti and a vegetable of choice.