Dal soup also known as Indian lentil soup is a simple vegetarian soup dish bursting with flavor and truly delicious. With a hint of heat from chili flakes, the tang from lemon juice and the richness of lentils and veggies, you have a soul-nourishing soup. It is equal parts healthy and delicious!! Make it on the stove-top in a sauce pot or in the instant pot, I have the instructions for both.
What is Dal Soup
Dal soup is an Indian soup variety where lentils are simmered with vegetables, leafy greens, spices and herbs to make a satiating dish. This soup is a good way to add some protein especially on a vegetarian or vegan diet. This is a healthy Indian dish with subtle regional variations resulting in varied flavors.
Dal Soup can be made with different kinds of lentils, seasonal vegetables, fresh and dried herbs and spices. This zesty Indian lentil soup is chockablock with nutrients and makes a nice snack meal or a light dinner option. For a complete and filling meal, serve this vegetarian lentil soup with crusty bread, cooked grains, quinoa, roti or paratha.
About this recipe
Indian cuisine has some gems made with lentil, each tastier than the previous. This dal soup recipe is no different, but compared to other lentil dishes, this soup goes low on spices. The taste is subtle and you’re not hit by a dozen flavors at once.
Lentils and vegetables are cooked with a cooker or in a pot with water. They are enriched with a tempering of aromatics and chili flakes. The depth of flavor comes from lemon juice.
While I don’t encourage dieting, these types of protein and nutrient-rich soups are better options for those on a low-calorie diet. You feel satiated for longer and get the added benefit of eating healthy.
The beauty of this lentil soup is you can switch between lentils and vegetables, and even the spices and herbs to create your own tasty twists.
This nutritious Indian style dal soup can be made with pantry ingredients and any leftover vegetables in the fridge. You probably have most of the veggies sitting in your pantry. Gather them and you can get soup ready in 30 minutes.
The best thing about cooking lentils over beans is that you don’t have to worry about soaking times.
For the perfect balance and flavor the secret is not to use too much vegetables or lentils. Follow the quantiles given in my recipe.
While this tastes great when pureed into a thick, creamy soup, you can have it with chunky slices (like a clear soup).
How To Make Dal Soup (Stepwise photos)
Prepare the lentils and vegetables
1. Add half cup lentils to a colander and rinse well a couple of times. Drain and set aside. Grate the ginger and finely chop the coriander leaves. Dice the carrot, pumpkin, tomato and zucchini (if using). Keep the spices ready.
2. Add 1 teaspoon to tablespoon ghee or butter to a soup pot, pressure cooker or 6 Qt instant pot and heat on medium high. Add more or less of butter as per your cooking preference or cook with ghee for better digestion.
3. Reduce heat to low and add ½ to 1 teaspoon of grated ginger. Sauté for 30 seconds without burning.
4. Now add the following vegetables along with ⅛ teaspoon of turmeric (if using) to the pot or cooker:
- ⅓ cup of carrots
- ⅔ cup of pumpkin (or more carrots)
- ⅓ cup of chopped tomatoes (add up to ¾ cup if desired)
- ⅓ cup zucchini or bottle gourd (optional)
5. Now add the rinsed lentils. Add ¼ cup of moong dal or masoor dal and to ¼ cup toor dal or masoor dal to the vegetables.
6. Add 3 cups of water or vegetable broth along with ¾ teaspoon of salt.
Make the dal soup
7. If you’re using a stove top cooker allow it to cook until you here 3 to 4 whistles. For soup pot version – Let it cook for 30-40 minutes on medium flame, For instant pot version – let it cook for 12 minutes. a 6-qt pot
8. Cook until the lentil and vegetables are tender and soft. Let the pressure drop naturally and open the lid. Cool down a bit.
9. Add the cooled soup mixture to a mixer or blender. Or use a immersion blender and blend.
10. Blend well to a smooth creamy puree or to a coarse texture depending on how you like it.
Make the tempering
11. Add 1 tablespoon of ghee or butter to the pot. Saute 1 teaspoon chopped garlic until aromatic but not burnt. You may also use a small tadka pan for this.
12. Lower the heat and add ½ to ¾ teaspoon of chili flakes (add reduced quantity for a milder soup). Add ¾ to 1 teaspoon of cumin powder and ½ teaspoon of crushed black pepper. Stir well and saute for one minute.
13. Add the pureed dal soup to the tempering. Also pour half cup water or vegetables stock to adjust the consistency.
14. Stir well and bring it to a gentle simmer.
15. Adjust the consistency to suit your liking. If it is too thick you may also thin down by adding some coconut milk.
16. Remove from heat and let the soup cool down a little before serving it warm or cold. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or ½ teaspoon of amchur powder (dry mango powder). Stir well to combine.
Garnish with 2 tablespoons of finely chopped coriander leaves and ¼ teaspoon of chili flakes. Add black pepper for more heat. Ladle equal amounts of bowl into individual bowls. Serve the soup warm or cold as desired.
Transform dal soup into a light lunch or dinner by serving with crusted bread, roti, quinoa or with paratha.
Variations & substitutions of dal soup
This soup is extremely versatile and you can make it with different lentils as we have seen earlier. You can also:
Swap the chili flakes for some curry masala, sambar masala or missal masala. This gives the soup a nice flavor kick.
Sub with other regular or seasonal vegetables like corn, zucchini, bottle gourd or even tubers. Add greens like spinach or mustard greens (saag) to increase the nutrition value.
To make it a filling main meal, add more proteins like tofu, cottage cheese or whole grains.
Add vegetable broth to impart an extra flavor to the soup.
To make dal soup vegan, use coconut or olive oil or use vegan butters.
To add omega-3 to your diet, add some crushed sesame, sunflower or pumpkin seeds as toppings.
Lentils do not need a soak as beans require. However to cut down the cook time and make the lentils easily digestible they may be soaked for an hour and this is totally optional.
Red, yellow, black and brown lentils are all good. Avoid green lentils as they work better in stews and can ruin the texture and flavor of the soup.
You can even try making this soup with mung beans or lobia (black eyed peas), but you’ll need to soak them in advance.
That’s how lentil, cheese and grain-based soups work. As carb foods like lentils tend to absorb the liquid, dilute the soup with some hot vegetable stock or coconut milk before finishing or serving.
Dal Soup Recipe
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ¼ cup Moong dal or Masoor dal ( skinned mung lentils or red lentils)
- ¼ cup Toor dal (Split pigeon peas or masoor dal, red lentils)
- 1 to 2 tbsp ghee or butter (divided – 1 + 1, ghee helps in digestion)
- 1 teaspoon ginger grated (or ½ inch peeled)
- 3 cups water for cooking (½ cup more to add after blending)
- ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
- ⅓ cup carrots
- ⅔ cup pumpkin (or carrots)
- ⅓ cup tomatoes (chopped, can add up to ¾ cup)
- ⅓ cup zucchini or bottle gourd (optional)
- 1 teaspoon garlic – fine chopped
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes (divided – ¾ tsp for tempering, ¼ tsp for garnishing)
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper crushed
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or ½ teaspoon amchur powder – dry mango powder)
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves – fine chopped
- Rinse the lentils well at least thrice. Drain the water and set aside.
- Add 1 tsp to tbsp ghee or butter to the pot and melt it on a low heat. Saute ginger for 30 seconds without burning.
- Next add all the chopped veggies and saute for 3 mins.
- Transfer the rinsed lentils. Add salt and turmeric. Pour water and deglaze the pot.
- Pressure cook for 3 to 4 whistles on a medium heat. If using a regular sauce pot, let it cook on a medium heat and add more hot water accordingly as the lentils cook.
- When the pressure drops in the cooker, check the lentils, they should be soft cooked.
- You have 3 options at this stage. 1. Simply mash the lentils & Veggies using a masher. 2. Cool and blend in a grinder/ blender. 3. Use a immersion blender and blend. You can blend the soup to a smooth or coarse texture to suit your liking.
How to make Dal Soup
- This step is optional but it sure adds aroma to the dal soup. Add 1 tsp ghee or butter to the pot and melt it. Add garlic and saute until a nice aroma comes out for 30 seconds.
- Add red chilli flakes, cumin and black pepper. Sit in the blended soup. Pour another half cup water and mix well.
- Bring the dal soup to a gentle simmer. Turn off and set aside.
- When the dal soup cools down a bit add lemon juice and mix well. Taste test and adjust the seasoning as required.
- Garnish with more red chilli flakes, coriander leaves and black pepper. Serve Indian dal soup hot with crusty bread or quinoa, millets or paratha.
- Adjust the quantity of spices to taste.
- Do not alter the proportion of lentils to veggies. Too many veggies or too many lentils will change the taste of your dal soup. Use my tried and tested proportions for best results.
- Skip ghee or butter for a zero oil or low calorie version. But ghee helps in digestion.
- Saute ginger on Saute mode (low) and Saute veggies on a saute mode (medium).
- Pressure cook on high pressure for 12 mins. If your lentils are too old, you may cook them for 18 mins.
- Let the pressure drop naturally.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Dal Soup Recipe first published in June 2015. Updated and republished in December 2021.