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.
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.
How to make Dal Fry
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.
2. Then add the lentils in a 2 litre pressure cooker. Add a pinch of turmeric powder and 1.5 cups water.
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.
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.
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.
6. Then add 1 medium sized chopped onion – about ⅓ cup chopped onions.
7. Sauté until the onions become translucent or lightly browned.
8. Then add ginger-garlic paste (½ inch ginger + 3 to 4 garlic, crushed to a paste in a mortar-pestle).
9. Sauté until the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic disappears.
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.
11. Sauté for a minute.
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.
13. Now add 1 medium sized chopped tomatoes – about ⅓ to ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes.
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.
Making dal fry
15. Add this sautéed onion-tomato masala mixture to mashed lentils or add the mashed dal to the sautéed mixture.
16. Mix everything evenly with the rest of the masala mixture.
17. Then pour 1 to 1.5 cups water. You can adjust the consistency by adding more or less water.
18. Mix and stir thoroughly to get a smooth & even consistency.
19. Season with salt. Mix again.
20. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes on a low to medium flame.
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.
22. Then sprinkle ¼ to ½ tsp garam masala powder. If using homemade and a strong garam masala, then add ¼ tsp.
23. Stir and simmer for a minute.
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.
25. Stir one last time.
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.
- 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.
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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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
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