Indian Tarka Dal, a spicy lentil stew.

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Indian Tarka Dal with Basmati Rice

Indian Tarka Dal with Basmati Rice

Prep 5 mins   Cook 20 mins   Eat 25 mins

This Indian Tarka Dal has become my go-to dish when I’m in a hurry and my fridge is bare. It is spicy delicious and wakes up my taste buds. Tarka refers to the combination of spices and onion that are toasted in oil and that create an irresistible aroma in your kitchen.

Cook the diced onion in a skillet, then add the spices and then the lentils.

Cook the diced onion in a skillet, then add the spices and then the lentils.

I always have the lentils – Masoor Dal (orange or red) and Moon Dal (yellow) – in my pantry, along with a collection of Indian spices. Using these spices, this simple lentil stew is transformed into one of my favorite dishes with an amazing flavor profile. The fire from the red chile powder is addictive (I used Resampatti Chilli Powder from my local Indian store, which has medium heat), and the ginger root, garlic, mustard seeds and turmeric all join in the flavor party.

Cooking with Indian spices like turmeric, red pepper, cumin seeds and cardamom.

Cooking with Indian spices like turmeric, red pepper, cumin seeds and cardamom.


Ever since cooking with my Indian friend, Zenith, who has guest chef-ed at our Indian cooking classes, cooking with Indian spices now comes easily to me. Add in a fresh onion and tomato and dinner will be on the table in minutes.  Serve it with some steamed basmati rice and you have a nice meal.

The colors of the lentils and spices are beautiful!

The colors of the lentils and spices are beautiful!

Stir the lentils with the spices, then add the water.

The Indian Tarka Dal is nearly ready.

The Indian Tarka Dal is nearly ready.

Cover and cook until the lentils soften and you have an aromatic stew.  Add the diced tomatoes after simmering the lentils for 10 minutes.

Indian Tarka Dal with Basmati Rice

Indian Tarka Dal with Basmati Rice

Delicious Indian Tarka Dal is ready for your table in about 20 minutes.  Serve with steamed basmati rice and fresh cilantro.

Print Indian Tarka Dal Recipe.

Print Basmati Rice recipe.

Indian Tarka Dal with Basmati Rice

1  cup  basmati rice, steamed (Get recipe here)
2 Tablespoons oil
1 onion, diced
1 Tablespoon ginger root, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon medium heat red chili powder (I used Resampatti Chilli powder from my local Indian store)
1/4  teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 cup Moong Dal
1/2 cup Masoor Dal
2 1/2 cups  water
1 tomato, diced
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, leaves only

1. Begin to make the basmati rice.  See separate instructions for cooking.

2. On medium low heat, cook the diced onion in oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the ginger root, garlic, turmeric, red chile powder, mustard seeds and stir for 30 seconds, just until you begin to smell the aroma of the spices. Immediately add the masoor dal, moong dal. Stir to combine, then add the water, cover and bring to a boil. Turn to low heat and cook for about 15 minutes.  Add more water if mixture looks dry while cooking.

3. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the diced tomatoes.  Season with salt to taste and serve with basmati rice and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Servings: 4     425 calories per serving

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

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