Masoor Dal Recipe (Indian Red Lentils Recipe)

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Masoor Dal is a creamy spiced lentil dish that’s delicious to enjoy over rice. This popular Indian recipe features lovely red lentils cooked with onions, tomatoes, and lots of rich and savory spices. Follow my simple steps to make a healthy, tasty Masoor Dal recipe for a satisfying and healthy meal.

masoor dal in a bowl with spoon.

About Masoor Dal

Masoor Dal is Hindi for ‘orange lentils’, ‘red lentils’ or ‘pink lentils’. Basically these are the same lentils with different names. But note that these are not the same as Puy lentils, which are a green French lentil.

masoor dal or red lentils in a white bowl.

The Masoor Dal lentils can be split or whole, and both types are used in Indian cuisine. The split and husked red lentils are called Dhuli Masoor Dal in Hindi.

Split and husked lentils have an orange-pink color. However, the whole Masoor Dal with the husks have a dark brown color and thus called Brown Lentils.

While wonderfully unique, both of these lentils are equally delicious and easy to make with whatever pantry staples you have. Keep reading for step-by-step photos and instructions for making this tasty Indian Red Lentils.

If interested, you can have a look at a comforting and healthy North Indian style Brown Lentils recipe that I have also posted.

This Masoor Dal recipe is a creamy spiced preparation made with the husked and split red lentils (also known as orange lentils or pink lentils).

The recipe is very easy to make and is ready in about 30 minutes. It’s perfect for a hearty and healthy weeknight dinner or to enjoy during a relaxing weekend.

I have cooked these red lentils in a pressure cooker to save time. You can even cook them in a pan on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot.

The Red Lentils recipe is easily adjustable and scaleable. You could any time tone down on the usage of various spices and seasonings.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Masoor Dal

Preparation

1. To start, rinse ½ cup of masoor dal (split and husked red lentils) under cool running water for a minute or so. Drain the water.

Then add the rinsed red lentils to a 3-litre stovetop pressure cooker along with 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of water.

You can opt to cook the lentils in the Instant Pot, adding water as needed. These lentils also cook easily in a pot or pan on the stovetop. Add about 1.5 to 2 cups water or more when cooking in a pan.

masoor dal being rinsed with water.

2. Pressure cook the red lentils on a medium to medium-high heat for 5 to 6 whistles, or until they become soft and mushy.

Let the pressure drop naturally in the cooker, then only open the lid. Check the cooked red lentils.

The lentils have to be tender and softened completely. Mash lightly with a wooden spoon or a whisk lightly with a wired whisk. Set aside.

cooked masoor dal being mashed with wooden spoon.

Make Onion Tomato Masala

3. In another large skillet or pot, heat 2 tablespoons of your preferred cooking oil on medium heat.

Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and fry until they crackle and change color.

cumin seeds crackling in oil in a pan.

4. Next add ⅓ cup chopped onions. Stir and sauté the onions on low to medium-low heat.

onions being sautéed.

5. Continue to sauté and stir for some minutes until they are light golden. Do not burn or you’ll wind up with an unpleasant bitter taste.

sautéed onions in pan.

6. Then add 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger and 2 or 3 peeled and crushed garlic cloves (small to medium-sized).

Stir and sauté them for 10 to 15 seconds, or until the raw aroma of both ginger and garlic goes away.

onion, garlic and ginger mixture in pan.

7. Add 1 green chili (chopped or slit) and 1 or 2 whole dry red chilies (broken and seeds removed), optional. Stir and mix well.

chopped green chillies and red chillies in pan with the onions.

8. Next add the following ground spices:

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1 generous pinch of asafoetida (hing)

Skip adding asafoetida if you do not have it.

ground spices in the pan.

9. Stir and mix well. Next add ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes.

chopped tomatoes in pan.

10. Stir the tomatoes and mix them well with the onions and spices. Sauté the tomatoes on medium-low heat until the oil separates and the tomatoes become soft.

tomatoes softened.

Make Masoor Dal

11. Now add the cooked and lightly mashed lentils to the skillet.

lightly mashed red lentils on top of onion-tomato masala in pan.

12. Mix thoroughly.

masoor dal mixed with onion-tomato masala.

13. Pour in 1 to 1 ½ cups water, depending on how firm, thick or thin you like your masoor dal.

Start with just 1 cup and stir, and then add more water bit by bit as needed. Taste and season with salt.

water being added to masoor dal in pan.

14. Simmer the dal for 6 to 7 minutes more on a low or medium heat. The dal will get thicker as it cooks, so simmer just until you get the desired consistency.

masoor dal or red lentils simmering in pan.

15. I prefer my dal as shown, with a medium consistency that isn’t too thick or thin.

consistency of red lentils being shown with a wooden spoon.

16. I also like to add 1 teaspoon of crushed dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) for a slightly nutty and earthy bite. Feel free to leave out if you prefer.

crushed dry fenugreek leaves added to masoor dal.

17. Simmer for 1 more minute to combine the flavor of the leaves.

simmering red lentils in pan.

18. Once the dal has reached desired consistency, stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves. Give another stir and turn off the heat.

coriander leaves on top of dal.

19. You can also garnish with coriander leaves if you prefer while serving the dal.

red lentils in a bowl with spoon.

What does the word Dal mean?

There are a lot of lentils used in Indian cuisine in a variety of ways. They are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals for vegan dishes. Therefore they’re often treated as the star main dish of a meal.

Dal is the generic term used for all lentils in India. Also the soup or stew like preparation made with any lentil is called as dal.

So there are many many variations of dal with different lentils being used. Each region of India has their own variations.

Many times I mix or combine different lentils to make Dal Tadka or combine it with spinach to make Dal Palak. Another well known dish made with 5 lentils is Panchmel Dal.

FAQs

What goes well with Masoor dal?

Serve Masoor dal with some steamed basmati rice, pickle and papad and you have a comforting Indian meal.

Even a side of Onion Raita or Cucumber Raita or a Vegetable Salad or Kachumber Salad can be accompanied with the masoor dal.

It’s also perfect for enjoying with Indian flat breads like Chapati for scooping.

How long do leftovers keep well?

The consistency and the flavor of Red lentils change over a period of time. I would suggest to eat them as soon as you prepare the dish. Try to consume the lentils on the same day.

Can I freeze Masoor dal?

I would not recommend to freeze masoor dal. Lentils are best eaten when they freshly cooked. Freezing cooked lentils or storing them in the refrigerator for a few days is not considered a healthy practice according to Ayurveda.

Can I make larger batches or halve this recipe?

Yes. As-is this recipe is enough for 4 servings, but can be halved for 2 or doubled to make a large batch.

More Lentil Recipes To Try!

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cooked masoor dal or red lentils in a bowl with spoon.

Masoor Dal Recipe (Indian Red Lentils Recipe)

Masoor Dal is a spiced lentil dish that's delicious to enjoy over rice. This Red Lentils recipe is made with husked and split pink lentils or red lentils cooked with onions, tomatoes and lots of rich and savory spices.
4.90 from 57 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Cuisine North Indian
Course Main Course
Diet Vegan
Difficulty Level Moderate
Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

For stovetop pressure cooking

  • ½ cup masoor dal or red lentils (husked and split)
  • 1.5 to 1.75 cups water for pressure cooking dal

For making masoor dal

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • cup chopped onions or 1 medium-sized
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves (small to medium-sized), crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger finely chopped or 1 teaspoon
  • 1 to 2 green chillies chopped or slit or ½ to 1 teaspoon
  • 1 to 2 dry red chilies – broken and seeds removed, optional
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes or 1 medium-sized
  • ¼ or ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 generous pinch asafoetida (hing)
  • ¼ or ½ teaspoon Garam Masala (homemade garam masala powder can be just ¼ teaspoon)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • 1 to 1.5 cups water or add as required
  • salt as required
  • 1 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) – crushed, optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • ½ or 1 teaspoon lemon juice or as required
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves for garnish, optional

Instructions
 

Cooking Lentils

  • Pick and rinse the red lentils (masoor dal) a few times in water.
  • Drain the water and add the lentils to a 3-litre stovetop pressure cooker. Also add 1.5 to 1.75 cups water to the lentils in the cooker.
  • Pressure cook for 5 to 6 whistles on medium heat until the lentils become soft and mushy.
  • Let the pressure drop naturally in the cooker, and then only open the lid.
  • When the lentils are softened and cooked well, mash lightly with a wooden spoon or whisk lightly with a wired whisk.
  • Keep the cooked red lentils aside. If lentils are undercooked, then add some more water and pressure cook for a few minutes more. 

Making onion-tomato masala

  • In another pan or pot, heat oil. Keep the heat to a low. Add cumin seeds and fry the cumin seeds till they crackle. 
  • Then add onions and sauté stirring often till they are light golden on low to medium-low heat.
  • Add chopped ginger and garlic. Stir and fry for 10 to 15 seconds or till the raw aroma of ginger and garlic goes away. 
  • Add green chilies and red chilies. Stir to mix.
  • Add all the ground spices – turmeric powder, red chilli powder or cayenne pepper, garam masala powder one by one including asafoetida (hing) and stir to mix on a low heat.
  • Add the finely chopped tomatoes and sauté on medium-low heat till the oil separates and the tomatoes become mushy and soft.

Making Masoor Dal

  • Add the cooked and lightly mashed red lentils. Pour 1 to 1.5 cups water depending on the consistency you prefer. So you can adjust the quantity of water as required and add bit by bit as you go on mixing.
  • Add salt as required and stir again. Simmer for 6 to 7 minutes more on a low to medium heat till you get the desired consistency in the dal.
  • Masoor dal is neither thick nor thin and has a medium consistency.
  • Add crushed dry fenugreek leaves and simmer for 1 minute.
  • Lastly add lemon juice and 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and stir to mix. Switch off the heat.
  • You can also garnish the Masoor Dal with coriander leaves while serving. Serve the Red Lentils hot with steamed basmati rice or roti or chapati.

Notes

  • The red lentils can also be cooked in a pot or pan. Just soak the dal for 30 to 40 minutes, so that they cook faster if cooking in a pot. Adjust the quantity of water as required.
  • Add less or more of the spices and seasonings in masoor dal according to your taste preferences.
  • If you have the Instant Pot, then cook the red lentils in it adding water as needed. 

Nutrition Info (Approximate values)

Nutrition Facts
Masoor Dal Recipe (Indian Red Lentils Recipe)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 162 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Sodium 342mg15%
Potassium 309mg9%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Fiber 8g33%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 228IU5%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 0.2mg13%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.1mg6%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 0.2mg10%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
Vitamin E 3mg20%
Vitamin K 4µg4%
Calcium 32mg3%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 114µg29%
Iron 2mg11%
Magnesium 36mg9%
Phosphorus 116mg12%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This Masoor Dal Recipe from the archives first published in July 2013 has been republished and updated on November 2022.

Meet Dassana

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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82 Comments

  1. Hi, can you kindly upload the whole masoor dal recipe. I have been following your recipe and would appreciate if you could share it. Thanks

  2. Hi Dassana,
    I cannot find the whole masoor dal recipe the Punjabi style one has it been removed from the website.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Jeena, I am adding newer images on that one and it in the drafts currently. Will upload it in some days.

  3. Thank you so much for this recipe, my 12 year old daughter loves it so much that she wants me to cook it very often; my daughter took it to school for her school lunch and her school friends love this masoor dal recipe. It is a winner ❤️❤️❤️5 stars

    1. Most welcome and glad to know that your daughter loves this dal. Thanks for the lovely feedback and the rating as well.

  4. I can’t thank you enough for all your delicious recipes which came in very handy during the lockdown. They were simple to cook and so easy to follow. They tasted so good with both phulkas as well as rice. I must add my family really enjoyed my cooking all thanks to your wonderful recipes.

    Definitely a five star rating!!!

    1. Great to know. Thank you for sharing the wonderful feedback and I am glad to read them. Happy Cooking.

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