Dal Fry

This classic lentil-based Indian curry is comfort food at its best. This dish is a common feature in many restaurants and roadside eateries called dhabas.

For the dal fry, lentils are cooked to perfection; the real flavour however comes from the beautifully cooked onions & tomatoes, and the aromatic spices.

Dal fry tastes great with rice, rotis and parathas. I enjoy it best with hot, steaming rice with a dollop of ghee.


  • Toor/arhar dal or pigeon peas – 1 1/2 cups
  • Water – 4 cups + about 1 cup for thinning the curry
  • Onion (large) – 1, finely chopped
  • Tomatoes – 2, finely chopped
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tspn
  • Green chillies – 3, finely chopped
  • Turmeric – 1/2 tspn
  • Chilli powder – 1 tspn
  • Garam masala – 1 1/4 tspn
  • Coriander powder – 1 tspn
  • Kasoori methi (optional) – 1 large pinch
  • Salt – To taste
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tspn
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tspn
  • Asafetida (hing) – 1/4 tspn
  • Ghee/oil – 1 tblspn
  • Chopped coriander leaves – 1 tblspn


  1. Wash toor dal clean. Allow it to soak for about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain the water the dal ha seen soaking in.
  3. Place the soaked dal in a pressure cooker, and cook it with 4 cups of water for 4 to 5 whistles.
  4. Turn off the stove and allow the pressure to settle.
  5. Once the pressure is released, mash the dal till it’s soft.
  6. Add salt and place the cooker back on the stove.
  7. Let the dal simmer.
  8. At this stage, add more water if required.
  9. Dry roast kasoori methi and keep aside.
  10. Heat ghee in a skillet or kadai while the dal simmers.
  11. Add the mustard seeds and let it splutter; now add the cumin seeds and fry them till fragrant and slightly brown.
  12. Add the green chillies and asafoetida, and sauté for about 20 seconds.
  13. Toss in the chopped onions.
  14. Allow it to cook for a minute; then add the ginger-garlic paste.
  15. Sauté till the raw smell from the paste is gone. Now add the dry spices except kasoori methi, and mix well.
  16. Add the chopped tomatoes.
  17. Cook till the tomatoes till it becomes soft and mixes with the onions and spices.
  18. If required, sprinkle a little water to mash the tomato-onion mixture.
  19. Once this is done, add the simmering dal into the onion-tomato mixture.
  20. Depending on how thick or thin you’d like the dal, reduce the dal mixture or add more water to make it dilute.
  21. Allow it to simmer for 3 to 5 mins.
  22. Now crush the dry roasted kasoori methi over the simmering dal fry.
  23. Mix well, and simmer for another minute or two.
  24. Now the dal fry is done.
  25. Remove the vessel from the stove, sprinkle chopped coriander leaves. Mix well, and serve hot.


  1. Add or omit spices to suit your preference.
  2. You could add a mixture of toor and moong dal in 1:.5 ratio.
  3. If you can’t find toor dal, use masoor dal (red lentils) instead. However, skip the soaking step as masoor dal gets cooked very fast.

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