Dal fry is a delicious lentil recipe popular in India that is made with tur dal (pigeon pea lentils), onions, tomatoes and spices. I share both the stovetop and Instant pot method to make this dal fry recipe.
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 three to four times. Drain all the water.
Then add the lentils in a 2- litre pressure cooker. Add a pinch of turmeric powder (haldi) and 1.5 cups water.
Pressure cook the lentils for 9 to 10 minutes on a medium heat until they are softened thoroughly.
Once the lentils are cooked, then mash them 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 seeds and let them splutter.
When you hear the spluttering sound of the mustard seeds, add the cumin and fry them.
Add the onions and sauté stirring often until they become translucent or light brown.
Now add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for some seconds or until their raw aroma disappears.
Add the green chilies, red chilies, curry leaves and mix well.
Add all the spice powders - turmeric powder, red chili powder, asafoetida powder. Stir and mix again.
Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften and you see oil releasing from the sides of the masala.
Making dal fry (stove-top)
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 at 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 dilute the flavors.
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 heat and add chopped coriander leaves. Add lemon juice if you want, at this stage and stir well.
You can garnish dal fry 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.
Instant Pot Dal Fry
Press the sauté button of your IP. Let the display show hot. Add ghee or oil in the steel insert.
Add the mustard seeds to the hot oil or melted ghee and let them crackle first. When you heat them crackling, add the cumin seeds and let them splutter.
Then add the chopped onions and sauté stirring often until they soften.
Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for a few seconds.
Stir in the curry leaves, dry red chillies and green red chillies. Again sauté for a few seconds.
Add chopped tomatoes and sauté them until they soften.
Next add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder and asafoetida and mix well.
Add the rinsed lentils and 1.5 cups of water. Deglaze removing any ingredient bits stuck to the bottom of the steel insert. Season with salt as needed.
Secure the lid of your IP and position the steam release handle to sealing. Press the pressure cook/manual button, setting the time to 15 minutes on high pressure. It may take 10 to 15 minutes for the lentils to cook depending on their age and quality. For a dal fry, the lentils have to be softened nicely.
When you hear the beep after the pressure cooking is done wait for 10 minutes and then do a quick pressure release.
Lightly mash the cooked lentils. If you find that the dal has become thick, add some hot water to thin and lighten it up. If the dal is thin for your liking, press the sauté button and simmer for a few minutes.
Lastly add the kasuri methi, garam masala powder and coriander leaves. Mix and switch off your IP. Serve dal fry hot or warm.
Lentils: You can also make dal fry with moong dal (yellow mung lentils), chana dal (bengal gram) 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 thirty minutes to an hour. Later draining all the water using a sieve or colander, add the lentils in a wide enough pot or pan. Pour 2 to 2.5 cups of water with 1 teaspoon oil 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.
Smoky flavors: For more restaurant style flavors in your dal fry, you can smoke the dal using the dhungar method, I have described in my Dal Makhani recipe. Alternatively, use smoked paprika in place of red chilli powder or cayenne to get a faint smoky flavor.