Dal Fry

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Make the perfect Dal Fry with my video and step by step photos. Dal fry is a popular Indian lentil recipe made with tur dal (pigeon pea lentils), onions, tomatoes and spices. Relish this delicious, mildly-spiced and creamy lentil dish with roti, naan or steamed rice. This dal fry recipe is more of a restaurant style version.

dal fry recipe

About this recipe

Dal fry is usually prepared with arhar dal also known as tur, toovar or yellow lentils or pigeon pea lentils. In my recipe I have used an equal mix of masoor dal (pink or orange lentils) and tuvar dal (pigeon pea lentils).

This dal fry recipe is easily adaptable with any lentil you have. You could also use moong dal (yellow mung lentils) to make this recipe.

I have cooked the lentils in a stove-top pressure cooker. If you do not have a pressure cooker, then do not worry. You can easily cook them in a pan or in an Instant pot. I have mentioned on how to cook the lentils in a pan in the tips section below.

Both dal fry and Dal Tadka are two popular lentil dishes served in Indian restaurants. Dal fry is not thin and usually has a medium to a thick consistency. You can adjust the amount of water you want when you prepare it.

These two recipes are also famous in the road side Dhabas (roadside eateries) of India. The dal fry served in the Dhaba has a different taste.

I had recently posted a Dhaba Style Dal Fry recipe which is awesome too. There are many ways of making lentils in the Indian cuisine and I will keep on sharing different kinds of Dal Recipes.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Dal Fry

Cooking lentils 

1: Take ½ cup tuvar dal (arhar dal or pigeon pea lentils) or half-half of tuvar dal and masoor dal (pink or orange lentils). Rinse the lentils in water for a couple of times.

lentils for dal fry recipe

2. Then add the lentils in a 2 litre pressure cooker. Add a pinch of turmeric powder and 1.5 cups water.

lentils and water added in a pressure cooker for dal fry recipe

3. Pressure cook the lentils for 8 to 9 whistles on a medium flame until they are cooked completely. Once lentils are cooked, then you mash them with a spoon or wired whisk. Set aside. You can see the consistency of the cooked lentils in the photo below. The lentils are cooked until completely soft. There should be no separate grains visible.

cooked lentils in a spoon

Sautéing onions, tomatoes, spices

4: in another pan, heat 2 to 3 tablespoon oil or ghee or unsalted butter. Add ½ or ¾ tsp black mustard seeds.

mustard seeds frying in ghee in a kadai (Indian wok)

5. Once the mustard seeds start crackling, then add 1 tsp cumin seeds and fry them for some seconds until they change color and crackle.

cumin seeds getting fried

6. Then add 1 medium sized chopped onion – about ⅓ cup chopped onions.

onions added

7. Sauté until the onions become translucent or lightly browned.

sautéing onions

8. Then add ginger-garlic paste (½ inch ginger + 3 to 4 garlic, crushed to a paste in a mortar-pestle).

ginger-garlic paste

9. Sauté until the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic disappears.

sautéing ginger-garlic paste

10. Add 10 to 12 curry leaves, 2 to 3 dry red chilies, 1 or 2 green chilies. I have added curry leaves as they give a very nice flavor. If you don’t have curry leaves, you can skip them.

red chillies, green chillies anc urry leaves added

11. Sauté for a minute.

sautéing the spices and herbs

12. Now add all the spice powders – ½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp red chili powder, 1 to 2 pinches of asafoetida and mix again. Skip asafoetida (hing) if you do not have it.

spice powders added

13. Now add 1 medium sized chopped tomatoes – about ⅓ to ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes.

tomatoes added

14. Stir and sauté until the tomatoes become soft and pulpy. The oil should also start to leave the masala mixture. This an indication that the onion-tomatoes base mixture is cooked.

tomatoes sautéed for dal fry recipe

Making dal fry

15. Add this sautéed onion-tomato masala mixture to mashed lentils or add the mashed dal to the sautéed mixture.

added mashed dal to the sautéed tomatoes, onions and spices mixture

16. Mix everything evenly with the rest of the masala mixture.

dal mixed evenly to make dal fry recipe

17. Then pour 1 to 1.5 cups water. You can adjust the consistency by adding more or less water.

water added

18. Mix and stir thoroughly to get a smooth & even consistency.

water mixed throughly

19. Season with salt. Mix again.

salt added

20. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes on a low to medium flame.

simmering dal fry

21. Next add 1 tsp crushed kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves). You can also substitute kasoori methi with a pinch of fenugreek seeds powder. If you don’t have either, then just skip.

crushed kasuri methi added to dal fry

22. Then sprinkle ¼ to ½ tsp garam masala powder. If using homemade and a strong garam masala, then add ¼ tsp.

garam masala added to dal

23. Stir and simmer for a minute.

simmering dal

24. Switch off the flame and lastly add 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves. You can also add ½ to 1 tsp lemon juice at this step if you prefer.

coriander leaves added to dal

25. Stir one last time.

dal fry ready to be served

26. Serve dal fry hot with paratha, roti, jeera rice or plain steamed basmati rice accompanied with onion-tomato raita, papad, lime/lemon slices or mango pickle or onion salad or kachumber. You can also garnish with some more coriander leaves while serving.

dal fry in a small wok (Indian kadai) with a bowl of sliced red onions and a square plate of steamed rice on a cream jute table cloth
Tips

Expert Tips

  • Type of lentils: Usually dal fry is made with pigeon pea lentils (tur dal). With lentils like moong dal (yellow mung lentils) and masoor dal (orange lentils), you could also make this dal fry recipe. You could even use a combination of these three lentils.
  • Cooking lentils in a pan: I suggest to soak the lentils first in water for an hour. Drain all the water with a sieve or colander. In a pan, add 2 cups of water and the soaked lentils. Cook on medium heat with or without lid until the lentils are softened.
  • Consistency: You can alter the consistency of dal by adding less or more water. If you prefer a thinner consistency, then increase the amount of water a bit and not too much. If dal becomes thin or runny, the flavors will get diluted and it won’t taste good. Keep checking and if needed, add more water. 
  • Spicing: If you prefer, you can reduce or increase the quantity of red chilli powder and green chillies in the recipe.
  • Fats: Dal fry always taste better when made in ghee. But you can make it with oil or butter. For oils, you can use sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, mustard oil or coconut oil. Note that mustard oil and coconut oil will give their taste and flavor in the dal – so add according to your preferences.
  • Gluten-free version: To make a gluten-free recipe, simply skip the asafoetida (hing) or use a gluten-free asafoetida.

More Indian Lentils Recipes

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dal fry recipe

Dal Fry

4.87 from 119 votes
This restaurant style dal fry is a popular Indian lentil recipe made with pigeon pea lentils (tur dal), onion, tomatoes and spices.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins

Cuisine Indian
Course: Main Course
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian
Difficulty Level: Easy

Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

For pressure cooking lentils

  • ½ cup tuvar dal (tur dal, arhar dal, pigeon pea lentils) or half-half of tuvar dal and masoor dal
  • 1.5 cups water for pressure cooking

Other ingredients

  • 1 medium sized onion – finely chopped or ⅓ cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 medium sized tomato – finely chopped or ⅓ cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 2 green chilies – slit or chopped
  • 2 to 3 dry red chilies – kept whole or halved and deseeded
  • 10 to 12 curry leaves
  • ½ inch ginger + 3 to 4 garlic crushed or made into a paste in a mortar & pestle or 1 to 1.5 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 to 2 pinches asafoetida powder (hing) – if using a strong asafoetida, then just one pinch is enough
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons oil or unsalted butter or ghee (clarified butter)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon lemon juice – optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro leaves) for garnish
  • 1 to 1.5 cups water or add as required
  • salt as required

Instructions

Cooking lentils

  • Take tuvar dal (arhar dal or pigeon pea lentils) or half-half of tuvar dal and masoor dal (pink or orange lentils) in a colander or sieve.
  •  Rinse the lentils in water for a couple of times.
  • Then add the lentils in a pressure cooker. Also add a pinch of turmeric powder (haldi) and 1.5 cups water.
  • Pressure cook the lentils for 8 to 9 whistles on a medium flame until they are cooked completely.
  • Once the lentils are cooked, then mash lentils lightly with a wired whisk or with a spoon and set aside.

Sautéing onions, tomatoes, spices

  • In another pan heat oil or ghee or unsalted butter. Add the mustard and let them splutter.
  • When you hear the spluttering sound of the mustard seeds, add the cumin and fry them.
  • Add the onions and fry until they become translucent or light brown.
  • Now add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for some seconds until their raw aroma disappears.
  • Add the green chilies, red chilies, curry leaves and stir.
  • Add all the spice powders – turmeric powder, red chili powder, asafoetida powder. And fry for some seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften and you see oil releasing from the sides of the masala.

Making dal fry

  • Now add the cooked and mashed lentils. Mix thoroughly. Add water, salt and mix again.
  • Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes more or till you get a smooth and slightly thick consistency, stirring in intervals.
  • Dal fry is not thin and is usually has a medium to thick consistency. So you can adjust the amount of water you want.
  • Keep the dal to a medium consistency if you prefer. Making it very thin will ruin the taste.
  • Lastly crush the kasuri methi in the palms of your hands and add. Then add garam masala powder. Simmer for a minute. Switch off the flame and add chopped coriander leaves. Add lemon juice if you want, at this stage and stir well.
  • Now you can garnish dal with some more coriander leaves while serving.
  • While serving top it with some ghee or butter if required.
  • Serve dal fry hot with steamed basmati rice, biryani rice, jeera rice or saffron pulao. It also goes well with roti or naan.

Video

Notes

  • Lentils: You can also make dal fry with moong dal (yellow mung lentils) and masoor dal (orange lentils) or you can opt for a combination of these three lentils.
  • Cooking lentils in a pot or pan: Rinse and soak the lentils in water for an hour. Later draining all the water using a sieve or colander, add the lentils in a wide enough pot or pan. Pour 2 cups of water and cook on medium heat with or without lid until the lentils are softened. Keep checking and if needed, add more water. 
  • Consistency: For a thicker dal, add less water. For a slightly thinner consistency, add a bit more water. But do not make the it very thin as it will dilute the flavors. 
  • Spicing: For a less spiced dal, add less chilli powder and green chillies. For a spicy tasting dal fry, increase the amount of red chilli powder and green chillies.
  • Fats: Dal fry always taste better with ghee. But you can make it with oil or butter. Use sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, mustard oil or coconut oil. Note that mustard oil and coconut oil will give their taste and flavor in the lentils – so add according to your preferences.
  • Gluten-free version: To make a gluten-free recipe, simply skip the asafoetida (hing) in the recipe or use a gluten-free asafoetida.

Nutrition Info Approximate values

Nutrition Facts
Dal Fry
Amount Per Serving
Calories 120 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 382mg17%
Potassium 203mg6%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 491IU10%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 29mg145%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 59mg72%
Vitamin E 3mg20%
Vitamin K 4µg4%
Calcium 36mg4%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 327µg82%
Iron 1mg6%
Magnesium 19mg5%
Phosphorus 43mg4%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Dassana Amit

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Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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