Simple Lentil Dal with Fresh Ginger, Green Chiles, and Cilantro


Indian Home Cooking

Published by Clarkson Potter

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This tempering oil, with fresh aromatics as well as dried spices, gives the lentils a deeper, more complex flavor. I like using small hot Thai chiles for this recipe because they add a lot of flavor as well as heat. (If you can find them, use two.) Even finely chopped bell pepper will work well if you can’t find some kind of hot chile. As my grandmother always says, “Add nothing to your grocery list that will cause you angst; your frustrations will pour out into the food for your guests to take away with them.” I make this recipe with pink lentils (dhuli masoor dol). Pink lentils cook in about 15 minutes. You can also use yellow split peas, which cook in 45 minutes.


Cooking Methodsauteeing


Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseside dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian


Taste and Texturegarlicky, hot & spicy, spiced


  • 1 cup lentils, picked over, washed, and drained
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 4 cups water
  • 2½ tablespoons canola oil
  • 1¼ teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 whole dried red chiles
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 fresh hot green chile, minced
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of ½ lime or lemon


  1. Put the lentils into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt, and water. Bring to a boil and skim well. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Add water during cooking, if necessary. Taste for salt and add more if you need to.

  2. Ladle about ½ cup of the lentils into a small bowl and mash them with a spoon. Return the mashed lentils to the pot and give the dal a stir. Then continue cooking at a simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to thicken. If you like a thicker dal, use a whisk to break up the lentils into a puree. If you like a thinner dal, add water.

  3. For the tempering oil, heat the oil with the cumin seeds in a small frying pan or kadai over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the cumin turns a light brown color, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the dried chiles, ginger, garlic, and green chile and cook, stirring, until the garlic no longer smells raw and turns a golden brown color, about 30 more seconds. Remove the pan from the fire, add the cayenne, and sprinkle in a few drops of water to stop the cooking.

  4. Stir half of the tempering oil, half of the cilantro, and all of the lime or lemon juice into the dal. Simmer very gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Transfer the dal to a serving bowl. Pour the remaining tempering oil over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cilantro. Serve hot.

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