Dal fry is a delicious lentil-based Indian curry. This is of the most popular Indian comfort food served along with rice or flatbreads. This is a vegan and protein-rich recipe.
Dal fry means cooked dal stir-fried in flavourful onion tomatoes ginger and garlic based tempering along with earthy spices. This is an easy and healthy lentil based curry.
Dal is a staple food in India. Dal is prepared almost every day for meals and served along with rice or roti. Dal is considered to be the main source of protein for many vegetarians.
In India, you will get to see every region, every household has it s unique way of preparing dal. In northern regions, onion tomato along with garlic and ginger are used in making dals. These turn out very flavourful, spicy and comforting.
Down in the south, the addition of freshly scraped coconut or coconut milk along with curry leaves, tamarind and jaggery is extensively made. You will find a mild sweetness in these dals as compared to the dal made in northern regions.
Sambar is one such popular lentil curry that is sweet, tangy & spicy which comes from the southern part of India.
NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. This means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you from qualifying purchases.
Dal fry in itself has many variations such as restaurant-style dal fry or Dhaba style dal fry, but hey! you don’t have to visit a Dhaba or restaurant every time you crave for this comfort food!
Making dal fry is very easy and it comes together in 30 minutes. Dal fry can be done in a pressure cooker on the stovetop or in an instant pot or electric cooker too.
Most of the time tur dal / arhar dal/split pigeon peas are used in making this dal fry along with red lentils (split masoor dal) but you can use any combination along with the turdal / pigeon peas. I personally use yellow moong dal as its easy to digest and light on the stomach.
You may use chana dal / masoor dal (red lentils) / whole brown lentils (sabut masoor dal) / yellow moong dal as per your choice. If you want to can just use one dal instead of combining two.
This is a healthy, vegan, protein-rich, diabetic-friendly, nutritious and beginner-friendly recipe that can be made for a quick weekday lunch or dinner.
This curry is rich in protein, making it the best source of protein for a plant-based diet.
We often make this dal fry for our weeknight dinner along with homemade paratha or roti. This is a flavourful, light, filling and totally satisfying curry.
This dal gets a wonderfully creamy texture due to the addition of yellow moong lentils (dal) without even the addition of cream or coconut milk.
I personally love this curry with jeera rice or homemade paratha along with pappadum and homemade pickle. That is what a comfort meal looks like to me!
This curry can be easily made in an Instant pot or on a stovetop. I have shared both the instant pot and stovetop methods today.
Including legumes & pulses in everyday meals is a great way of including proteins when on a plant-based diet to get your daily intake of necessary nutrients.
To make this curry, I used:
Arhar Dal & Yellow Moong Dal ( Split Pigeon Peas & Yellow Moon Lentils): I washed & pressure cooked the dals in a pressure cooker till 4-5 whistle.
Onion & Tomato: Indian curries are incomplete without an onion tomato base. They impart a nice flavour to the dish and give a nice texture to the dish. I have used finely chopped onions and tomatoes here.
Spices & Herbs: Spices such as garam masala, turmeric powder, coriander powder are added to this curry along with earthy herbs like coarsely crushed garlic and dry red chilli which enhance the taste of this dish.
Seasonings: I have added a teaspoon of jaggery here to balance the taste of curry. This is optional and if you do not have jaggery use 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and normal table salt to taste. (Jaggery is an unprocessed sugar. It is a sweetener mainly used in curries)
Water: To cook & adjust the consistency of the curry.
Oil: For tempering.
I just went a little onboard and made a tadka / Tempering of cumin seeds along with red chilli powder (its optional) many a times I don’t even do that.
Let’s see how to make Dal Fry with basic staple ingredients in your home kitchen.
Serves: 3 Persons
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cooking level: Easy
Taste: Spicy & Flavourful
- 1 Cup Tur Dal / Arhar Dal (Split Pigeon Peas)
- 1 Cup Yellow Moong Dal (lentils)
- 1 Onion finely chopped
- 1 Tomato finely chopped
- 1teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 2 Dry Red Chillies
- 5 Garlic Cloves roughly crushed
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Coriander Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1/4th teaspoon Hing (Asafoetida)
- 2 teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
- 1 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
- Salt as per taste
- 1 teaspoon Jaggery (optional) you can add sugar if you like. This is just to balance the flavour of dal fry.
- 2 tablespoon Oil
- Coriander Leaves for garnish
- Wash and pressure cook toordal & yellow moong dal until 4-5 whistle.
- Tempering Ingredients:
- In a kadhai, heat oil. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a minute. Add hing (asafoetida), roughly crushed garlic & dry red chillies. Saute for a minute till raw smell from garlic fades away
- Add finely chopped onions and cook till translucent.
- Once onions are translucent add finely chopped tomatoes, cook till tender.
- Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, & garam masala powder.
- Mix all the masala well, add little water to incorporate the masalas into onion tomato mixture. Saute for a minute.
- Now add the cooked toordal.
- Add water and adjust the consistency of the dal as per your preference. Add salt and jaggery (optional) and mix well. Check for seasoning at this stage.
- Let the dal boil for 5-10 minutes on medium flame.
- Today we were having guest at my place, hence it just went a little extra mile and thought of giving a mild tadka / tempering over the dal.
- For that I heated a tablespoon of oil added cumin seeds and let them sizzled.
- Then I added one dry red chilli in the tadka.
- I immediately put off the flame after after the red chillies and waited for 30 seconds before adding a teaspoon of red chilli powder.
- My mild takda for dal fry is ready. I poured this tadka / tempering over the dal when serving.
- Dal Fry is ready.
- While serving sprinkle lemon juice and garnish with coriander leaves (cilantro)
- This Dal Fry goes very well with Tandoori Roti , Naan, Paratha & Jeera Rice.
Instant Pot Method:
To make this dal fry in the instant pot we do not need to cook the dal first as mentioned above. For instant pot, we will cook the dal along with tempering itself.
Pre- preparation: Take 1 cup of split pigeon peas and 1 cup of yellow moong lentils and wash under water till the water runs clear. No need to soak the dal / lentils here. After washing them you can immediately tranfer them in the instant pot.
- Start instant pot on saute mode. Once hot, add oil & mustard seeds. Let the mustard seeds crackle. Now add cumin seeds and saute for 15 seconds til cumin changes it colour to light brown.
- Add coarsley curshed garlic, hing (Asafoetida), dry red chillies and finely chopped onions. Saute the onions till they are translucent.
- Now add the chopped tomatoes. I have used fresh tomatoes. You may use canned tomatoes too. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
- Now add coriander powder, garam masala powder, tumeric powder,red chilli powder. Mix well so that the spices gets incorporated well in the onion tomato base.
- Add the washed dal/ lentil along with salt and sugar(optional) and mix well.
- Add 3 cups of water and stir well.
- Close the instant pot with the lid with valve in sealing positing.
- Press the manual or pressure cook mode on high pressure for 6-7 minutes.
- Once the instant pot beep, let the pressuer release naturally.
- Open the pot and add finely chopped cilantro / coriander leaves and mix well.
- Serve hot with steamed rice, roti, naan or paratha.