Dal fry is a basic Indian dish made by cooking lentils with spices. Dal refers to lentils & are a staple in most Indian homes. There are numerous ways a dal recipe is made. Dal fry is a basic dish that can be made with toor dal, moong dal, chana dal or even with mixed dals.
This simple dal fry is delicious, aromatic, healthy, comforting and can even be made by a novice cook. It needs just a handful of ingredients which are mostly available in Indian kitchens.
Dal fry is eaten with plain regular rice or with roti. On occasions we also eat it with plain basmati rice, Jeera rice, ghee rice or with Indian flatbreads like plain paratha, methi paratha, palak paratha.
Some people also love papad, pickle, simple vegetable stir fry or a vegetable salad on the side with dal fry and rice.
Tips to make dal fry
Choice of Dal or lentils: The main ingredient used to make dal fry is the toor dal or arhar dal which is known as split pigeon peas in English. However it can be made using any dal of your choice or even with mixed lentils.
My preferred choice is a combination of arhar dal and moong dal.
Spices: We don’t need a lot of whole spices to make this dal. Just use what ever you like for the tempering. Cumin or jeera is the main spice that is used in the tempering.
Dal fry is made across India and some regions even use mustard seeds for the tempering.
Spice powders : Using a lot of spice powders like garam masala, red chilli powder and coriander powder will just alter the original flavor of dal. So use only a fair amount of them.
Ghee or oil: Most people temper the dal with ghee as it totally elevates the flavor and taste of the dal. If you are a vegan then you can just use oil.
The ingredients that are used in a dal fry recipe vary depending on the region and personal choice. You can also check this moong dal recipe for variation.
How is dal fry made
Dal fry is made by soft cooking lentils in a pressure cooker or pot. Then the whole spices, ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes and spice powders are fried in the ghee and then added to the dal. Hence it is known as DAL FRY.
Dal fry recipe
Dal fry recipe | How to make dal fry
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup toor dal or arhar dal or split pigeon peas (or ¾ cup toor dal + ¼ cup moong dal)
- 2 to 2 ¼ cups water (use more if cooking in pot)
- Salt as needed
For tempering dal fry
- 1 ½ tbsps ghee or oil or butter
- ½ to ¾ tsp cumin or jeera
- ½ tsp mustard (optional)
- 2 pinches hing or asafoetida
- 1 red chilli broken (optional)
- 1 to 2 green chilies slit or chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped finely
- 1 tsp ginger garlic paste or crushed
- 1 large tomato chopped or pureed (optional)
- ¼ tsp turmeric or haldi
- ¼ to ½ tsp red chili powder (use as desired)
- ¼ tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp Kasuri methi crushed or dried fenugreek leaves
- handful coriander leaves chopped finely
- Lemon juice as needed (optional)
How to make the recipe
Preparation for dal fry
- Wash toor dal a few times until water runs clear.
- Add water to the pot or pressure cooker along with dal.
- Cook on a medium heat for 2 whistles. If making in a pot add more water as needed and cook until soft and mushy.
How to make dal fry
- Heat a pan with ghee, oil or butter. Add mustard, cumin and red chili if using. When they begin to splutter, add hing.
- Next add onions and green chilies. Saute until the onions turn golden.
- Add ginger garlic paste and fry until the raw smell goes off.
- Then add tomatoes and salt. Saute on a medium flame until tomatoes turn soft.
- Add red chili powder, garam masala and turmeric.
- Saute for 2 mins till the masala begins to smell good & leaves the pan.
- Add the cooked and mashed dal. Add water if needed to bring it to a consistency.
- Stir well and allow to cook until the dal begins to bubble well.
- This may take about 3 to 5 mins.
- When dal reaches the desired consistency, add kasuri methi and more salt if needed.
- Stir and cook for a minute.
- Serve dal fry with rice, roti or paratha & lemon wedges.
Dal fry in Instant pot
- Press the saute button and heat the IP.
- When it displays hot, pour ghee. Then add the cumin, red chilli & mustard (optional).
- When they pop add hing, green chilli & onions.
- Saute for 2 mins and then fry ginger garlic for 30 seconds.
- Add in tomatoes and salt.
- Fry until the tomatoes turn soft and mushy.
- Add the red chilli powder, turmeric and garam masala.
- Saute for a minute and then add the dal and pour 2½ cups water.
- Mix well and scrape the bottom. Taste the water and add in more salt if needed.
- Optional – You can also place a long legged trivet and then place your rice bowl and cover.
- Secure the Instant pot with the lid. Set the steam vent to sealing position.
- Press the pressure cook button, high pressure and set the timer to 8 minutes.
- When the IP beeps wait for the natural release for 10 mins.
- Mash the dal to suit your liking. Then add kasuri methi and coriander leaves.
- If you like thinner consistency you can add little hot water and mix.
- Sprinkle some lemon juice over the dal fry & serve with rice.
Video of Dal fry recipe
1. Add 1 cup dal to a pressure cooker or pot and wash several times till the water runs clear. Add 2 to 2 ¼ cups water. If cooking in a pot you will need to add more water. I have used only toor dal this time, but an addition of moong dal adds taste and texture to the dish.
2. Pressure cook for 2 whistles on a medium heat. If cooking in pot cook until the dal turns mushy and soft. When the pressure comes down, open the lid mash the dal well.
How to make dal fry
3. Heat ghee and add mustard, cumin and red chili. When the spices begin to splutter, add hing. I forgot to add the red chili, it adds flavor.
4. Saute onions and green chilies until golden.
5. Add ginger garlic paste and saute until the raw smell goes off.
6. Add chopped tomatoes and salt. Saute until the tomatoes turn mushy and soft.
7. Add turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala and coriander powder. You can add more red chili powder if you prefer.
8. Saute until this mixture smells good. It takes a minute or two.
9. Add cooked dal.
10. Stir well and allow to cook. If needed you can add more water to suit your liking. But dal fry is thicker in consistency.
11. When the dal begins to bubble well add kasuri methi. If needed add more salt. Mix everything well. Cook for a minute.
12. Add coriander leaves and switch off. Mix well
13. Turn off the stove. Add lemon juice as desired just before serving. This is optional.
Serve dal fry with rice, papad, pickle or roti.