Tomato Pappu | Tomato Dal

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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.

tomato pappu garnished with coriander leaves and served in a bowl with text layover.

About Tomato Pappu

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.

Step-by-Step Guide

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.

rinsing arhar dal in fresh water

2. Soak the arhar dal in water for 15 to 20 minutes.

soaked arhar dal in water

3. Later drain all the water and place the arhar dal aside.

soaked arhar dal

4. Chop onion, tomatoes and green chili. Measure and keep all the ingredients ready for making tomato pappu.

ingredients for making tomato dal

Make Tomato Pappu

5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil or ghee in a stovetop pressure cooker. Keep the heat to low.

ghee in a pressure cooker

6. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds first.

mustard seeds added to ghee

7. Let the mustard seeds crackle.

crackling mustard seeds

8. Then add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds and let them splutter on low heat.

cumin seeds added

9. Then add ⅓ to ½ cup chopped onions and 10 to 12 curry leaves.

chopped onions and curry leaves added

10. Next add 1 green chili (chopped).

chopped green chilies added

11. Sauté the onions stirring often till they become translucent on low to medium-low heat.

sauteing onions

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.

ginger garlic paste added

13. Saute for a few seconds on low to medium-low heat or till the raw aroma from both ginger and garlic goes away.

sauteing ginger garlic paste

14. Then add 2 medium-sized chopped tomatoes or approx 1 to 1.25 cups chopped tomatoes. Stir and mix well.

chopped tomatoes added

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.

spices and salt added

16. Stir and mix well. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes on a medium-low heat.

mix and sauteing the mixture

17. Then add the soaked tuvar dal to the pressure cooker.

arhar dal added

18. Mix well and then add 2 cups water.

water added to arhar dal mixture

19. Stir and mix again.

mix water with dal mixture

Cook 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.

pressure cooking tomato dal

21. When the pressure settles down on its own, then only remove the lid of the pressure cooker.

cooked tomato dal in the pressure cooker

22. Mash the dal lightly with a wooden spatula or spoon.

mashing tomato dal with a 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.

prepared tomato dal in the pressure cooker

24. Garnish the tomato dal with coriander leaves.

garnishing 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.

Andhra tomato dal recipe

If you are looking for more Dal recipes then do check:

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tomato dal recipe, tomato pappu recipe, andhra tomato pappu recipe

Tomato Pappu Recipe | Tomato Dal

Tomato pappu recipe is Andhra style tomato dal where pigeon pea lentils are cooked with tomatoes and other spices-herbs. Slightly tangy and a flavorful dal best had with steamed rice.
4.97 from 26 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine Andhra, South Indian
Course Main Course
Diet Vegetarian
Difficulty Level Moderate
Servings 4


  • 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.


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 water, cover and cook the lentils till 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, remove the lid and cook. 

Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)

Nutrition Facts
Tomato Pappu Recipe | Tomato Dal
Amount Per Serving
Calories 155 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Sodium 648mg28%
Potassium 230mg7%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 756IU15%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 29mg145%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 64mg78%
Vitamin E 3mg20%
Vitamin K 7µg7%
Calcium 42mg4%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 311µg78%
Iron 1mg6%
Magnesium 16mg4%
Phosphorus 32mg3%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This Tomato Dal post from the archives first published in September 2013 has been updated and republished on October 2021.

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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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Comments are closed.


  1. Super attractive site which is totally different and unique from the other recipe sites .

    I like the step by step pictures , which are better than videos ,since in videos one needs to note down the steps and see it many times.

    Prepared Tomato pappu , worked right in first try .Keep posting new dishes .5 stars

    1. thanks a lot sudarshan. i know in videos this happens. i think structuring recipes with photos of each step is more helpful. as an internet user also, i prefer step wise method to showcase anything be a recipe or a hobby or art. thanks also for sharing the feedback and review on tomato pappu. happy cooking.

  2. Hi!

    Let me start by saying that I just recently made your recipe for Bisi Bele Bath and it was probably the best Indian dish I’ve ever made.

    This Dal recipe was also fantastic but it ended up a little bitter. Do you have any thoughts as to what ingredient could have caused this is not cooked perfectly?

    Me second question is why do some versions of dal temper at the end while your recipe does not? Do you think making this recipe but omitting the curry leaves, rai, hing and jeera and frying those at the end to temper would change the flavor? I haven’t come across jeera as a tempering ingredient so perhaps that should go in at the beginning if I were to temper at the end?

    Lastly, how does ginger garlic paste compare to just mincing those ingredients? I realize that i did not make a paste but instead minced.

    I’m new to South Indian cooking and am hoping for some insight.

    Thank you so much!5 stars

    1. thanks alex. bisi bele bath is really a good dish from the south indian cuisine. bitterness in dal could be due to onions, when the root part is not removed when chopping. some more asafoetida or turmeric can also bring bitterness.

      any dal recipe can be tempered first or later. when tempered later the flavor and taste is different. of course you can temper later with the ingredients you have mentioned and it will definitely give a good flavor and taste. jeera is a tempering ingredient. so can be tempered later too at the end. ginger garlic paste gives a complete altogether taste as compared to finely chopped or minced ginger-garlic.

      usually in most south indian recipes, tempering is done towards the end. this includes sambar, rasam and chutneys. but for dals the tempering can be done first or later.

      you can check this north indian dal tadka where i have tempered with cumin seeds later –

  3. Hi Dassana,
    Your recipes are sooo perfect. I have tried many (almost everything that i cook) of your recipes and they turned out to be soo delicious.. and this one was soo good and comforting… my family just loved this.
    Thank you soo much for all the recipes..5 stars

    1. thank you samrudha for this lovely feedback. nice to know. i agree this tomato dal is tasty as well as comforting.

  4. All your recipes are awesome. I tried this and it was awesome but can you show a non- garlic and ginger recipe tomato dal please.

  5. hiiii, ur recipies r awesome very detailed through pics I love that ,I am learning cooking through ur recipies .
    thank u
    BT some recipes don’t have pics if u consider that it will b great

    1. parveen thankyou for your positive words 🙂 yes we are working on the same and trying to put step by step recipe on our old posts.

  6. Hello Amit
    Being a first timer in cooking, the recipe came out to be good as followed by the detailed instructions. Thank you.5 stars

  7. Made this dal with yellow and pink lentils that were lying around,
    Threw in a can of Heinz tomatoes then I hit the ground.
    The pressure cooker didn’t explode so I was ok,
    Another amazing recipe, so tasty the wife said hooray!
    Dassana has to be continually congratulated,
    For the wife’s list of favourites needs to be re-calibrated.

    1. thanks once again rohit. glad to know that you both are liking the recipes.

  8. Dassana amit it was fabulous,tomato dal pappu recipes in my home were one liked thank u so munch…….5 stars

  9. Hi Dassana,

    I was going through your blog to see what all dal recipes u have shared and as me being from Hyderabad know about Andhra style cooking.I know your recipe of tomato dal would be yum. but just wanted to share my style of tomato dal. I first cook tuvar dal with two chillies n haldi till it softens..

    Then for tadka I add jeera powder,crushed garlic,curry leaves,dry chilli and later add few chopped tomatoes cook them till they get soft and add chilli powder, little haldi, dhaniya powder and add the cooked dal and salt..add less water as it should be little thick..and last add chopped coriander..serve with roti or plain rice with ghee ..hope you try and like it.
    Thank you again..for a helpful blog..5 stars

    1. thanks deepshika for sharing your style of tomato dal. i have noted it down and will try the same. there are not many andhra recipes on the blog. i plan to add them gradually.

  10. Thanks for the receipe!!!!

    Indeed it came well. My pressure cooker had black stains after 7-8 whistles. I feel 3-4 is good enough for this.pls confirm.

    1. welcome karthik. for me the tomato dal takes 7-8 whistle. it should be cooked properly. depends upon cooker size, flame and quality of dal.

  11. I am wondering if adding little bit of tamarind water makes it even tastier !!4 stars

    1. praveen, i have never tried. it also depends upon taste which varies from person to person. you can give it a try.

    2. Actually, this is how my grandmom makes her dal, with tomatoes and little bit of tamarind. It tastes heavenly!!

  12. What do you mean, “1/2 ginger”? 1/2 tsp? 1/2 inch? 1/2 root? 1/2 pound?

  13. Hi Dassana,

    I’m just out of college and don’t know to cook very well. My mom fell sick today so I took initiative to cook lunch for my family. I was looking out for a simple yellow dal and came across your recipe. I prepared it and to my surprise everyone loved it!! 😀

    Thank you for sharing this awesome method..everyone’s compliments made my day 😀

    Saloni 🙂

    1. welcome saloni. i hope your mother gets well soon and you continue taking interest in cooking.

  14. Very nice! There is also a variation of this recipe which uses Garam Masala. This Dal is very delicious when served with fresh veggies too, as for my taste I add around 3-4 spoons of crushed garlic. Will try other Dal recipes soon, thanks!5 stars

  15. Hi Dassana,
    I have tried this dal today at home. My wife was pleasantly surprised with it.
    I have been getting great compliments from her ever since I started cooking on weekends looking at your recipes. Thank you very much for sharing the success mantras.

    Keep up the good work.

    Ravi5 stars

    1. welcome ravi and big thanks for this positive feedback. its nice to hear that the recipes are helping people in their cooking.

  16. Hi Dassana i tried andhra pappu it was awesom n my kid loved it a lot thank you…..
    wish to get more help from your recipes5 stars

    1. thanks for your feedback jigna. you can try the other recipes from the blog as well. most of them are tried and tested.

  17. Hey dassanna y dont u post it step by step with pics????have u posted the pics anywhere else?

    1. shruti, putting step by step post takes lot of time and effort. so i prefer to put step by step post for difficult recipes only. any doubt or query about a recipe then you are always welcome to ask. happy cooking.

    1. i have mentioned in the notes section on how to cook without pressure cooker – pasted here again:

      to make this dal without a pressure cooker – follow the same recipe method. however, add 4 to 4.5 cups 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.