This creamy, spiced, flavorful Dhaba style dal fry is inspired from the dal served at Punjabi dhabas. The recipe is made more healthy and protein rich as it features 5 different dals or lentils. Dhabas are hotels or restaurants alongside many Indian roads and highways.
We love the dal they serve at dhabas. The dhaba dal is usually made with chana dal, tuvar dal and urad dal. In my recipe, I have also included moong dal and masoor dal. Depending on the availability, you can vary the proportions of the lentils or make this recipe only with 1 type of lentil or combine two or three or four lentils.
I also use less oil as compared to the dhaba versions and yet the dal tastes so good. If you have ever got a chance to taste dhaba food then you know how much oil they often use in their recipes. Their food tastes good but at times too oily as well as spicy.
At times, I also smoke the dal with the dhungar method. If you want to give dhungar to this dhaba dal then check the method in this restaurant-style Dal Tadka recipe.
Its best to serve this dhaba dal with tandoori roti. Though even with plain steamed rice, jeera rice, peas pulao it goes well. You can also serve it with naan, parathas or phulkas.
How to make Dhaba Dal
1. Pick and rinse the lentils a couple of times. If you want you can also soak the lentils in water for an hour. Soaking the lentils helps them to cook faster. Also it is best to use fresh lentils and not the aged lentils as they take more time to cook.
2. Add the lentils to a pressure cooker along with a pinch of turmeric powder. You can also cook the lentils in a pot or pan or in an instant pot.
3. Also add 2 cups of water.
4. Pressure cook for 18 to 20 minutes on a low to medium flame. when the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid and check the dals. the lentils should be cooked very well and softened.
Depending on the quality of lentils, they may take less or more time to cook. lightly mash the dal and keep aside. If you soak the lentils, then it will take less time to pressure cook.
The lentils can also be cooked in a pot. Just add 2 to 2.5 cups of water and cook them covered in a deep and thick bottomed pot or pan. Though cooking in a pot or pan will take more time.
Sauteing Onions, Tomatoes, Spices
1. In a kadai or thick bottomed pan, heat 1.5 tablespoon oil or ghee. Add all the ‘whole spices’ and saute them till they crackle and become fragrant.
In this below photo the whole spices added are:
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ inch cinnamon
- 2 to 3 cloves
- 2 green cardamoms
- 1 tej patta or Indian bay leaf
2. Then add 1 medium sized chopped onions or ⅓ cup chopped onion.
3. On a low to medium flame, stir often and saute till the onions turn light golden. Keep on stirring often so that they cook evenly.
4. Then add 1 teaspoon crushed ginger, 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, 2 to 3 slit green chilies & 2 to 3 dry red chilies.
5. Mix well and saute till the raw aroma of ginger and garlic goes away. It takes a few seconds.
6. Add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and stir.
7. Now add 1 large size chopped tomato or ½ cup chopped tomato. You can also canned tomatoes or ¼ cup tomato puree.
8. Mix well and begin to saute the tomatoes on a low to medium flame.
9. Stir and saute till the tomatoes soften and become pulpy.
10. Then add the following spices one by one:
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon garam masala powder
- a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
11. Mix the spice powders with the rest of the onion-tomato masala.
Making Dhaba Dal
12. Add the cooked lentils.
13. Mix well.
14. Add ½ to ⅔ cup water or as required. For a thicker consistency add less water.
15. Stir and mix very well.
15. Season with salt as required and mix again.
16. Simmer the dal on a low flame for about 6 to 7 minutes or till the dal thickens a bit. Keep on stirring the dal at intervals so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
17. When the dhaba style dal is done, switch off the flame. Add about 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves. Reserve the remaining 1 tablespoon coriander leaves for garnish.
Garnish with some coriander leaves and serve the dhaba dal hot with roti or plain paratha or naan or tandoori roti. It can also be had with steamed basmati rice or cumin rice or peas pulao or ghee rice.
You can also do the dhungar method of smoking the dal if you prefer before serving.
This dhaba dal tastes best when served straight away. After refrigerating, the taste and the consistency changes. We always prefer to eat the lentils fresh as soon as they are cooked. It is a healthy practice and also gives the best taste.
- Lentils: Remember to use lentils that are fresh and within their shelf period. If possible use unpolished lentils for better taste and nutrition. You can vary the proportion of lentils according to your preferences. This recipe is very versatile and can be made with just one lentil also.
- Spices: This recipe makes for a faintly spicy dal. If you cannot tolerate spicy food then reduce the amount of ginger, garlic, red chillies, green chillies and red chilli powder.
- Fats: For a richer version you can make the recipe in ghee or butter. Usually the dhaba food has more oil or ghee. So you can add a total of 3 tablespoons ghee or oil.
- Gluten free option: Omit adding asafoetida in the recipe or use gluten free asafoetida.
- Scaling: The recipe can not be doubled as it is. You have to use the method of approximation and your own judgement when cooking it.
More dal recipes
Please be sure to rate the recipe in the recipe card or leave a comment below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Dhaba Dal (Made with 5 Lentils)
For cooking dal (lentils)
- 2 tablespoons chana dal husked & split bengal gram
- 2 tablespoons tuvar dal husked & split pigeon pea lentils
- 2 tablespoons urad dal split urad dal with their husks (chilkewali urad dal)
- 2 tablespoons moong dal split mung lentils with husks (chilkewali moong dal)
- 2 tablespoons masoor dal (pink lentils)
- 1 pinch turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- 2 cups water for pressure cooking
- 1.5 tablespoons oil – can use ghee or butter
- 55 grams onion or 1 medium onion or ⅓ cup chopped onion
- 4 grams ginger or ½ inch ginger or 1 teaspoon crushed ginger
- 4 grams garlic or 6 to 7 small garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 2 to 3 green chilies slit
- 2 to 3 dry red chilies
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi, crushed
- 115 grams tomatoes or 1 large tomato, chopped or ½ cup chopped tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne pepper or paprika)
- ½ teaspoon Coriander Powder (ground coriander)
- ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
- ½ to ⅔ cup water or add as required
- salt as required
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ inch cinnamon
- 2 to 3 cloves
- 2 green cardamoms
- 1 tej patta or indian bay leaf
- Pick and rinse the lentils a couple of times. If you want you can also soak the lentils in water for an hour.
- Add the lentils in a pressure cooker along with a pinch of turmeric powder. Also add 2 cups water.
- Pressure cook for 18 to 20 minutes on a low to medium flame.
- When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid and check the dals.
- The lentils should be cooked very well and softened.
- Lightly mash and keep aside.
Making dhaba style dal
- In a kadai or pan, heat 1.5 tablespoon oil or ghee.
- Add all the whole spices and saute them till they crackle and become fragrant.
- Then add the chopped onions.
- Stir often and saute till the onions turn light golden.
- Then add 1 tsp crushed ginger, 1 tsp crushed garlic, 2 to 3 slit green chilies and 2 to 3 dry red chilies. Mix well and saute till the raw aroma of ginger & garlic goes away.
- Add crushed kasuri methi and stir.
- Now add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and saute till the tomatoes soften.
- Then add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala powder and a pinch of asafoetida.
- Mix the spice powders with the rest of the onion-tomato masala.
- Add the cooked dal and mix well.
- Add water and stir very well.
- Season with salt and mix again.
- Simmer the dhaba dal on a low flame till the dal thickens a bit.
- Keep on stirring at intervals so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- When the dal is done, switch off the flame. Add chopped coriander leaves. Reserve some coriander leaves for garnishing.
- Garnish with some coriander leaves and serve the dhaba style dal hot with rotis or parathas or steamed rice or cumin rice or ghee rice. You can also do the dhungar method if you want and then serve the dal.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This dhaba dal recipe post from the blog archives (August 2009) has been republished and updated on 21 May 2021.