Masoor Dal, or Indian red lentil curry, is one of the most classic dal recipes and a standard and favorite all across India — and the world. It accompanies almost any excellent Indian meal, and goes well with rice, chapati, naan, roti and all of your favorite breads. You can even serve it in a bowl with crackers or croutons and be a true East-West fusion superstar.
There are endless variations on this dal recipe. The tomato is optional but improves the flavor dramatically, going well to smooth the Indian spices and compliment the fresh ginger. Many Indian cooks make an even simpler, stripped-down version of dal, relying only on the key spices: cumin, coriander, and turmeric — possibly with a dash of garam masala. The smooth texture is obtained by cooking the lentils long enough that they literally fall apart. You can speed things up with an immersion blender, as noted below. (You might need to start with less water, as immersion blending a hot, liquidy soup is a messy and dangerous matter.)
Even when cooking non-Vedic, I do use asafoetida and mustard seeds. Many Indian lentil and bean dishes just don’t need the strong garlic and onion flavors, especially if one or more vegetable dish you’re serving with the meal does rely on garlic and onion. Garlic quickly overpowers other tastes. I encourage you to experiment with less – or even none – and discover the true flavors of the more exotic spices.
With some practice it’s quick and simple to make and perfect when you want a nutritious meal and haven’t got much in the kitchen. You do always keep plenty of lentils, spices, and rice, right? Exactly.
Masoor Dal – Indian Red Lentils
serves 4 / time 60 min
- 3/4 cup / 125 g red lentils
- 1 medium tomato chopped
- 5 cups water
- 2 Tbs oil
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 small onion or shallot finely chopped
- 3/4 in / 2 cm fresh ginger finely chopped
- 1 tspn brown mustard seeds
- 2 tspn cumin ground
- 1 tspn coriander seed ground
- 3/4 tspn turmeric ground
- 1 small green chili or 1/2 tspn red chili flakes
- pinch asafoetida (hing)
- small piece cinnamon stick or 1/4 tspn cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 tspn salt
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- fresh coriander or dried fenugreek (methi) leaves for garnish
- Rinse lentils well. Bring 4 cups water to boil in a large pot or pressure cooker, add lentils, chopped tomato. Reduce heat, simmer covered until soft, well cooked, about 15-25 min.
- Heat 2 tbs oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add mustard seeds, after they start to pop (about 30 sec) add garlic, onion, ginger, coriander, cumin, chili, asafoetida. Fry, stirring constantly, 3 min.
- Add cooked garlic, onion + spices, cinnamon, bay leaf, turmeric, salt to lentils.
- Simmer partially covered for 10 min, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed for desired consistency.
- Remove cinnamon stick, bay leaf. Stir in lemon juice.
- Serve with rice or chapati. Garnish with sprinkled paprika and coriander / fenugreek leaves.
Vedic style (No garlic or onions): increase asafoetida to 1/4 tspn, consider adding 1/2 tspn garam masala. Creamy: add 1 Tbs vegan margarine, add 1/2 cup soy cream or coconut milk instead of more water in last steps. Pure Veg power: Add 1 cup chopped carrots and 1 cup chopped potato to cooking lentils after 10 min. Increase water as needed.