Red Lentil Dal
Photo Credit: Lucy Schaeffer

Red Lentil Dal

These lentils are a favorite among the northern communities in India.

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Red Lentil Dal

Red Lentil Dal

These lentils are a favorite among the northern communities in India.
Course: Dinner
Keyword: lentils, red lentil
Servings: 4
Author: Raghavan Iyer


  • 1 cup red lentils (also called Egyptian lentils)
  • 2 teaspoons black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 fresh green serrano chiles, stems discarded, thinly sliced crosswise (do not remove the seeds)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with their juices
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems


  • Place the lentils in a medium-size sauce- pan. Add water to cover and rinse the lentils, rubbing them between your finger- tips (I just use the fingers of one hand to do this). The water will become cloudy and may have some debris like the odd skin from the lentils (even though they are skin- less) or dust from the packaging. Drain this water. Repeat 3 to 4 times until the water, upon rinsing the lentils, remains clearer.
  • Add 3 cups of water to the pan with the lentils and let it come to a boil over medium-high heat. You will see some foam rise to the surface; scoop it out and discard it. Reduce the heat to medium and let the lentils simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they are very tender and almost mushy, about 15 minutes. You will see the lentils change from a salmon color to a pale yellow once they begin to cook; that’s just the nature of this particular variety of legume.
  • Meanwhile, place 1 teaspoon of the mustard seeds in a spice grinder (you can also use a coffee grinder) and grind them to the consistency of finely ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the remaining teaspoon of mustard seeds, cover the skillet, and wait until the seeds have stopped popping (not unlike popcorn), about 30 seconds. Add the ginger and chiles and cook, stirring, until they are browned and smell pungent, about 1 minute. Stir in the ground mustard seeds, cumin, salt, and turmeric, which will instantly sizzle and cook. Very quickly add the tomatoes with their juices, which will stop the ground spices from burning. Let the tomato mixture simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and the flavors mingle, 5 minutes.
  • Once the lentils are cooked, don’t drain them. Just add the robust and chunky tomato sauce to the pan with the lentils and give them a good stir. Let the spiced dal sim- mer over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the cilantro.


Excerpted from: Indian Cooking Unfolded: A Master Class in Indian Cooking, with 100 Easy Recipes Using 10 Ingredients or Less by Raghavan Iyer. Photography by Lucy Schaeffer. Workman © 2013.
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