Making dal requires a surprisingly simple cooking process and over-delivers with a thoroughly comforting dish that you can easily batch cook. The word 'tarka' refers to the cooking of base vegetables and spices that form the foundation of Punjabi cooking. In the case of Tarka Dal, the 'tarka' is prepared separately and then combined with the lentils. Enjoyed in Indian homes the world over, there are many variations and cooking methods worth trying. Here we focus on my (Reeta's) favourite version that's proved extremely popular with friends and family. This is also a handy recipe if you fancy a curry and don't want to have to go to the shops as you'll probably have the ingredients in the kitchen. Perfect with some chapatis or rice.


    Greater London, England, UK
    3 people made this


    • Oil, butter or ghee
    • 1 onion
    • 8 garlic cloves
    • Fresh ginger (a piece about an inch and a half in size)
    • Green chillies (4 or 5)
    • Salt (heaped teaspoon)
    • Garam masala (heaped teaspoon)
    • Turmeric (level teaspoon or one inch piece if using fresh)
    • Ground coriander (1 heaped teaspoon)
    • Fenugreek (teaspoon of dried leaves)
    • Lemon juice (half lemon)
    • Fresh coriander leaves (handful, chopped)
    • Fresh tomatoes (3 medium sized, chopped)
    • Red lentils (200g, but just add more lentils if you want to make a larger batch)
    • Green lentils (100g)
    • Optional: handful of fresh spinach to add to the pot towards the end of cooking and some greek yoghurt to serve


    1. Wash the lentils thoroughly and leave in a pan of water for 20 mins. Then drain the water away, add fresh water and put on to boil.
    2. Skim off any froth from the boiling lentils, then add the turmeric. Make sure it's blended, grated or finely chopped if using the fresh stuff. Let this simmer.
    3. For the tarka, chop and cook the onions in some oil, butter or ghee and blend or finely chop the other vegetables (ginger, chillies, garlic).
    4. Once the onion has softened but before it browns, add the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes on a medium heat to let the flavours infuse. Turn the heat right down then add spices (salt, masala, cumin, ground coriander) and mix together.
    5. Add the tarka to the lentils and give the pot a good stir.
    6. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add fenugreek leaves, fresh coriander and tomatoes and leave to simmer with the lid on for about 30mins. Check and stir after about 15 mins.
    7. You're aiming for a fairly thick consistency to the dhal will be packed with flavour and have a lovely texture. So reduce down for another 15mins or until you're happy with it. Add a handful of fresh spinach in the last 15mins if you have some. Taste along the way and then enjoy!


    Serve with dhay/yogurt/raita and a chapati or rice.

    See it on my blog


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    Did this with Pakoras and Chilli Paneer for family. Interesting and tasty alternative for our family veggie night. Really easy and most of the items were in the cupboard.  -  10 Mar 2017

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