30 Minute Masoor Dal Recipe
I love dal. With basmati rice, crunchy sourdough, chapati, quinoa, millet, or served on its own as a bowl of soup. Lunch, dinner, or breakfast, dal is comfort food. Growing up, dal was on the menu a few times a week. A staple menu item, our pantry was filled with large jars of pulses (dried beans). Ranging from yellow to black, the pulse shelf looked like a fiery sunset at dusk. Whole masoor with the peel, split masoor without the peel (red lentils), mung, urad, chana (garbanzo), and toor (pigeon peas), a varietal array lined the shelves. Today my pantry—which is more like a shelf in a small Victorian kitchen—looks similar but with smaller jars. I continue to cook and eat dal quite often as its nourishment is more than the listed nutrients. Dal is soul food.
Dal refers to the name of a dish and is also the hindi word for pulse. The word’s interchangeability between an ingredient and a dish mirrors its adaptability to spices, cooking methods, or the lentil blends. A basic recipe can be easily transformed by simply changing the spices, the amount of water, or cooking techniques. Thick and creamy, thin and watery, with or without vegetables, meatless or with meat, coriander or rosemary, it’s all good!
Pulses are rich in the Air and Earth elements. In Ayurveda, this puts them in the astringent taste category. It’s a wonderful protein-rich choice, suited for the kapha (spring) or pitta (summer) seasons. However, when adding digestive spices, good fat, and water to the recipe, the tastes and quality of the dish change, which allows the dish to be made appropriately for each season and suitable for all doshas.
Today, I am sharing a simple dal recipe that can be made in 30 minutes using red lentils (split and peeled masoor). This is my go-to dal when time is of the essence and I want a light, soupy dal. While it's simmering, I have the time to make a grain, greens, or my favorite cabbage salad. If I can coordinate the timing, sometimes I make all three, ending up with a mini feast in about an hour. If there is leftover dal, I like to approach it like a stock by adding a little more water, an array of chopped vegetables, and a pinch of rosemary or oregano. It makes for a delicious lentil style minestrone. A 2-for-1 deal is always appreciated!
Time: 30 minutes
What you need:
- 3–4 quart heavy bottom pot
- Small pot or sauté pan
- Hand blender (optional)
For the Dal
- 1 cup red lentils (soaked overnight or for as briefly as 20 minutes)
- 4 ½–5 cups water
For the Hot Oil Infusion/Masala
- 1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 large garlic clove thinly sliced or minced
- 1 medium ripe tomato finely diced
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger (or paste)
- 1/3 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon mineral salt
- 2–3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1–2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)
Drain the soak water from lentils and place them in a 3–4 quart pot with 4 ½ cups of water. Bring to a boil on high heat, uncovered. With a slotted spoon, remove any foam that rises to the top (this will help support digestion). Once the foam has been removed, adjust the heat level to keep the dal simmering without over boiling while the pot is covered.
While the dal is simmering, prepare the masala ingredients. Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a small pot on medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add the cumin seeds. Let the seeds lightly toast—about 20 seconds or so. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Then add the finely chopped tomatoes, grated ginger, salt, and coriander and turmeric powders. Give it a good stir, cover, and let simmer, until the tomatoes can easily be broken down into a nice sauce, paste like mixture, about 7–10 minutes. Adjust the temperature if needed.
Once the masala is ready, add it to the pot of simmering dal. Prior to adding it, hand blend the dal if you want a smoother and creamier texture. Otherwise, add the masala and continue to cook. The dal is ready when the lentils have dissolved completely and all the flavors have melded together. Total time is about 30 minutes depending on altitude.
Salt to taste, and then turn off the stove. Add the lemon juice and cilantro. Serve and enjoy.
If the dal is too thin, when you add the masala simmer with the lid removed. If it’s too thick, add a little bit of hot water. I prefer a thinner dal, as it thickens when serving it with a grain. I also find it less heavy. The water tends to separate from this dal, so give it a good stir prior to serving.
- Basmati rice (good for vata and pitta constitutions)
- Millet or no grains (good for kapha constitutions)
- A crunchy cabbage salad
- Cooked greens, roasted beets, mango pickle, and/or sweet potatoes
Images courtesy of Rumin Jehangir.