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A bowl with rice and Masoor Dal topped with crunchy vegetables.

My Go-To Masoor Dal Recipe (Red Lentil Dal)

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Here's a Masoor Dal recipe that can be prepared quickly and easily with ingredients you likely have on hand! Pair with white rice for a wholesome, comforting, yet light weeknight dinner.
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Keyword Easy Red Lentil Curry - Masoor Dal, masoor dal
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 4 servings
Calories 346

Ingredients

  • 1 cup masoor dal (red split lentils)
  • 3 1/4 cups water (for stovetop) 1 1/2 cups for Instant Pot
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small to medium yellow onion finely chopped
  • 4-5 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger crushed
  • 2 small tomatoes (I use Roma or Vine) finely chopped
  • 1 small green chili (such as Thai or Serrano) chopped or sliced lengthwise (chopped for more heat, sliced for less)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red chili powder or cayenne or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 1/8 tsp sea salt or table salt
  • 1 tbsp ghee or butter omit for vegan dal
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi or dry fenugreek leaves optional
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala optional

Instructions

To Wash

  • Place lentils in a small-medium bowl and fill with water. Use your hand to swirl the dal around until the water becomes murky. Tip the bowl to take out the excess water and repeat until the water runs clear. Remove any debris and strain the excess water.
    Raw masoor dal soaked in a bowl of water.

Stovetop Method

  • In a medium pot, add dal along with 3 1/4 cups (~769 ml) of water. Bring this to a boil over medium-high/high heat. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low-medium so that it simmers. Use a slotted spoon to remove any white scum that rises to the top of the pan. Cover with the lid ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes (See Note 1), until the dal has no bite to it and can easily be mashed. Top with 1/4 cup water if you feel the dal is getting too thick. Turn off the heat.

Instant Pot Method

  • Add lentils along with 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) of water. Select Pressure Cook - Low setting and set the timer to 7 minutes (See Note 1). Manually release the pressure.

For the Tarka (or Tempering)

  • In a separate large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and sauté for about 15 seconds. Add the onions and sauté until slightly golden, about 7 minutes (See Note 2). Add the garlic and ginger and continue to sauté until the raw smell disappears (~30 seconds). Add the tomatoes, green chili pepper, and spice powders (cumin, coriander, red chili, turmeric) and salt. Cook until soft and you see the oil leaving the sides, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir the cooked dal into the tarka. Add 1 cup water (more or less), depending on how thick the dal got while cooking and how runny you like the consistency. Mix to combine.
    Cooked Red lentil added to tarka dal.
  • Bring the dal to a simmer. Allow the dal to reduce and the flavors to meld for about 5 minutes, or until you achieve the desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt, if needed.
    Cooked Masoor Dal in a Dutch oven.
  • Add in the ghee or butter. If using fenugreek leaves, crush them between your hands and sprinkle into the dal. Turn off the heat. Add lemon juice, chopped cilantro, and garam masala, if using. Give it a stir.
    Masoor Dal garnished with cilantro.
  • Serve dal hot with rice, roti, naan or anything else your heart desires. I like to serve it with a mix of chopped onions, carrots, and cucumber on the side.
    A bowl with rice and Masoor Dal topped with crunchy vegetables.

Video

Notes

Note 1: The age of lentils will determine cook times. Older dried lentils can take up to 40 minutes, while very new can take 20-25 minutes. Treat cooking lentils is like cooking pasta. Just cook until they can easily be mashed, adding water if needed.
Note 2: At any point if the onions start to brown too quickly or the tomatoes or spices stick to the pan, deglaze with a splash of water. 
Storage: Store in the fridge for 3-4 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw and then (ideally) reheat over the stove. Depending on how thick the dal gets, you may need to add more water when reheating.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 346kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 712mg | Potassium: 624mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 451IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 4mg