Andrea’s Gorgeous Tarka Dhal – The Recipe

Andrea has got a great blog, and what’s more, she’s a great girl! If you can read Croatian, do head over to her blog Voce & povrce and start reading now! If not, well heck, how about learning Croatian? 🙂


This is the her dhal that I raved about in my previous post. It’s not just that I’ve never met a red lentil dish I didn’t like. It’s not that I’m being subjective here. Oh no! This is really and truly delicious! I love the double dose of cumin in the tarka, seeds and powder, the scent of turmeric, and the lusciousness of the tomato and onion sauce. I love how well it goes with the lentils, and oh the simplicity of it all! It doesn’t take too long to cook, either. Red lentils take about 30 – 35 min (OK, longer if they’re older! like any lentils really), and during that time, you can prep and cook the tarka.

I stuck pretty much to Andrea’s recipe, making minor changes: using ghee instead of oil and black instead of yellow mustard seeds. I also changed the cooking method slightly, in that I cooked my onions until golden, and my tarka for a bit longer, because this is the way a Punjabi friend taught me. 






Tarka Dhal



PREPARATION TIME: about 5 – 10 min

COOKING TIME: 30 – 40 min




200 g split red lentils (masoor dhal)

600 ml water

1 large tomato (or 2 – 3 tinned plum tomatoes)

50 g onion

2 red chillies

1/2 tsp mustard seeds (I used black mustard seeds)

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp oil (or ghee)

salt to taste


1. Rinse the lentils a few times, until the rinsing water runs clear.

2. Transfer the lentils in a thick-bottomed pan, add the water and cookon medium to high heat until boiling.

3. Skim off the foam that gathers on top as the lentils start boiling, and then lower the heat and continue cooking until  the lentils soften. Stir occasionally.

4. While the lentils are cooking, start making the tarka. Chop the onions, tomatoes, and chillies (removing the seeds if you prefer less heat). I like a bit of texture in my dhal, so I simply sliced the chillies into rounds, and chopped the onions not too finely.

5. Heat the oil on medium to high heat in a small pan, and when bubbling, add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the cumin becomes fragrant, and the mustard seeds start popping, add the onion and chillies, and cook until the onions become golden.

6. Add the turmeric and cumin powder, and stir for a few seconds. Again, until the spices are fragrant. Not for too long, or else the spice might burn. Trust your nose. You’ll learn soon, if you haven’t already. (‘ve grown to love the smell of turmeric frying!)

7. In go the tomatoes! Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture gets glossy, which is a sign that the oil is starting to separate, and that your tarka is done! This will take about 10 minutes or more, depending on how watery your tomatoes are. You can, of course, cook it for less, but it tastes better, richer, this way.

8. Add you tarka into the lentils and stir through. It’s often nice to reserve a bit of tarka and use it as a topping when serving the dhal. Put in a pinch of salt or two, to taste. I like my dhal thick, but if you don’t add a bit more water. Likewise, if you find it too watery, simply boil the lentils for a bit longer with a lid of. I guess it’s better if you keep an eye on the lentils as they’re cooking, rather than having to do this at the end. I should have told you that earlier, sorry!

Serve with rice or bread (chappati, naan, or any bread really), or as a part of an Indian (or other) meal. Enjoy!





More dhals from this blog:

Bengali Red Dhal

Minty dhal (2 versions of the recipe)

Punjabi Green Lentil Dhal

Sri Lankan Coconut Dhal



More recipes with beans and lentils

More Indian recipes



I’m submitting this post to the February MLLA (My Legume Love Affair), hosted by Rachel, the Crispy Cook. The event was started by legume-loving Susan, The Well Seasoned Cook.

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Leave a comment


  1. Thanks for sending this over to MLLA #20. It’s my first submission and it sounds very tasty. I think I have everything I need to post.


  2. He, he ako sad počnu učit Hrvatski za deset godina bi možda nešto i uspjeli pročitati. 🙂
    Hvala ti još jednom što si sudjelovala u ovom krugu i hvala ti na ovom postu.
    Jako mi je drago da ti se sviđa ovaj dhal. 🙂


  3. RACHEL, thanks for letting me know.

    ANDREA, hehe pa nikad se ne zna! Btw, moj muz je naucio! Kad smo se zenili, cak mu nije tribao prevoditelj, tj. maticarki se cinilo da dovoljno govori hrvatski! :)))

    I nema na cemu. Hvala TEBI na divnim postovima! Hugz!


  4. Lovely color nice one… Should taste great with rice!!!!


  5. My last attempt at dhal failed miserably – will have to have another go. Looks delish


  6. Mouse

     /  4 February, 2010

    Thank you for this – it is very cold and snowy here. This looks like the perfect comfort food for this weather.
    I know it’s a bit of a cultural mix-up, but feta crumbled on top of a bowl of dhal looks and (more importantly!) tastes LOVELY.


  7. RAMYA, thanks, and welcome to my blog!

    BETH, this is a good one to try. Do give it a go. A good dhal is definitely worth it.

    MOUSE, this is perfect for any snowy day! I’ll be making this times again! Feta on top sounds delish! I sometimes crumble feta on my tomato soups – yum!


  8. Oh I love dahl. This is a fantastic recipe that I will try. I have my own version that I intend to post soon. It is quite similar to this one in spicing, but I use the slow cooker. Love the idea of frying the turmeric.

    Btw, did I tell you yet that I put you on my list of fave sites:

    Have a great weekend, Maninas!


  9. oh thanks, Bria! I’m honoured!

    I’m looking forward to your dhal, too.


  10. I think this is a great recipe, too. I love to use cumin with red lentils. It is done in Lebanon too, in the South and they mix it with bulgur and make patties that are called Lentil Kibbe.


  11. This tarka daal looks so delicious and a wonderful click too! You did cook the split red lentils perfectly; sometimes I find its very easy to overcook them.. these look perfectly done.


  12. TASTEOF BEIRUT, I love cumin with red lentils too! Have you got the recipe for Lentil Kibbe?

    PJ, Thanks very much! And welcome to my blog!


  13. Drita

     /  14 September, 2015

    This has been my go-to dhal recipe for ages now. Thanks for sharing all those years ago!



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