Tomato pappu is a tangy lentil dish made with healthy pigeon pea lentils (tuvar dal), plenty of tomatoes, piquant onions, fragrant herbs and spices. Also known as tomato dal this recipe is inspired from the Andhra cuisine known for its bold and spicy flavors. However, this Andhra style tomato pappu recipe is neither spicy nor hot and makes for a comforting lunch or dinner with a side of steamed rice.
Dal is also called as “Pappu” in the Telugu language. Dal means lentils in Hindi language and is a staple in Indian homes. There are many variations of making dal which vary from state to state as well as from home to home.
This tomato dal has the tang and the flavors of tomatoes. Here I have done the tempering first and then sautéed the onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes. Later arhar dal (tuvar dal or pigeon pea lentils) are added and cooked until the lentils are softened.
The result is a mild, slightly tangy and comforting dal that is best had with steamed rice and some sprinkling of ghee. Have a side vegetable dish or a vegetable raita and you have a complete meal.
In the photo below, Tomato dal is served with Avakaya (Andhra Mango Pickle), onion-tomato salad and steamed rice.
How to make Tomato Pappu
1. Pick and then rinse ½ cup arhar dal (tuvar dal or pigeon pea lentils) a couple of times in fresh water.
2. Soak the arhar dal in water for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Later drain all the water and place the arhar dal aside.
4. Chop onion, tomatoes and green chili. Measure and keep all the ingredients ready for making tomato pappu.
Making tomato pappu
5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil or ghee in a stovetop pressure cooker. Keep the heat to low.
6. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds first.
7. Let the mustard seeds crackle.
8. Then add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds and let them splutter on low heat.
9. Then add ⅓ to ½ cup chopped onions and 10 to 12 curry leaves.
10. Next add 1 green chili (chopped).
11. Sauté the onions stirring often till they become translucent on low to medium-low heat.
12. Then add 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste. For making ginger-garlic paste, you can crush 1 inch ginger and 3 to 4 medium garlic cloves to a paste in a mortar-pestle.
13. Saute for a few seconds on low to medium-low heat or till the raw aroma from both ginger and garlic goes away.
14. Then add 2 medium-sized chopped tomatoes or approx 1 to 1.25 cups chopped tomatoes. Stir and mix well.
15. Then add the following ingredients:
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
- salt as required
Note – To make the dish gluten-free skip adding asafoetida or include gluten-free asafoetida.
16. Stir and mix well. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes on a medium-low heat.
17. Then add the soaked tuvar dal to the pressure cooker.
18. Mix well and then add 2 cups water.
19. Stir and mix again.
Cooking tomato dal
20. Pressure cook on high heat for 7 to 8 whistles or till the dal is cooked completely. The number of whistles needed depends upon the size of the pressure cooker, the intensity of heat and quality of arhar dal.
The aged dal takes more time to cook. So for best taste, it is important to use fresh arhar dal that is in its shelf life. Preferably try to use unpolished tuvar dal.
21. When the pressure settles down on its own, then only remove the lid of the pressure cooker.
22. Mash the dal lightly with a wooden spatula or spoon.
23. If in case the consistency of tomato pappu is thick for you then add water as required to get a medium consistency.
Mix well and simmer tomato dal for 5 to 6 minutes on a low to medium-low heat till you get a consistency that is neither thin nor thick but has a medium consistency. Stir dal at intervals when it is simmering.
Check the taste of tomato dal and add more salt if required. Switch off the heat.
24. Garnish the tomato dal with coriander leaves.
25. Serve tomato dal hot or warm with steamed rice, mango pickle and vegetable salad or any vegetable side dish that you prefer.
If you like you can drizzle some ghee while serving. The leftovers can be used within a day. But keep the leftover dal refrigerated.
If you are looking for more Dal recipes then do check:
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Tomato Pappu Recipe | Tomato Dal
- ½ cup arhar dal (tuvar dal, pigeon pea lentils)
- 2 tablespoons oil or ghee
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium sized onion – approx ⅓ to ½ cup chopped onions
- 10 to 12 curry leaves
- 1 green chili – chopped
- 1 inch ginger + 3 to 4 medium garlic cloves – crushed to a paste in a mortar-pestle or 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
- 2 medium tomatoes – approx 1 to 1.25 cups chopped tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
- 2 cups water for pressure cooking
- salt as required
Soaking arhar dal
- Pick and rinse arhar dal a couple of times in fresh water. Then soak the arhar dal (pigeon pea lentils) in fresh water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Later drain all the water from the dal and keep the arhar dal aside.
Making tomato dal
- Heat oil or ghee in a stovetop pressure cooker.
- Add the mustard seeds first and let them crackle on low heat.
- Then add the cumin seeds and let them splutter.
- Add the onions, curry leaves and green chilies. Sauté the onions stirring often on low to medium-low heat till they turn translucent.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a few seconds on a low to medium-low heat or till their raw aroma goes away.
- Now add the tomatoes, red chili powder, turmeric powder, asafoetida (hing) and salt as required. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes on a medium-low heat.
- Add the lentils and water. Stir and mix well.
Cooking tomato pappu
- Pressure cook on high heat for 5 to 6 whistles or till the dal is cooked completely. Timing to cook dal will depend upon the quality of dal, size of pressure cooker and intensity of heat.
- When the pressure settles down, then only remove the lid.
- Mash the dal lightly. If the consistency is thick then add water as required to get a medium consistency in the dal. Stir and mix well.
- Simmer the tomato dal for 5 to 6 minutes on a low to medium-low heat till you get a dal which is neither thin nor thick but having a medium consistency.
- Once you get the right consistency, check the taste and add more salt if required.
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
- Serve tomato pappu hot or warm with steamed rice, mango pickle and vegetable salad.
- While serving you can add a bit of ghee.
Recipe Notes and Variations
- Use fresh arhar dal that is in its shelf period. Don’t use aged arhar dal. I recommend using unpolished tuvar dal for the best taste.
- To make a spicy tomato pappu add more green chilies and red chili powder.
- For a no onion no garlic version, simply don’t add the onions and garlic.
- If you are not fond of ginger then only add the garlic paste or finely chopped garlic.
- Instead of green chilies you can also add dry red chilies. Remember to remove their seeds.
- You can alter the consistency of the tomato dal by adding more or less water.
- You can also make this dal in the Instant pot adding water as needed.
How to make tomato dal in a pan?
- Soak lentils for an hour before cooking them.
- Follow the same recipe method. However, add 3 to 3.5 cups of water and cover & cook the lentils till they become soft and thoroughly cooked. There should be no separate grains visible. The consistency of the lentils should be smooth and creamy. Add more water if required.
- Use a deep pot while cooking as the lentils start frothing while cooking. If the mixture froths up and starts coming out, then remove the lid and cook.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Tomato Dal post from the archives (September 2013) has been updated and republished on 17 October 2021.