Mom’s easy to make Masoor Dal recipe is an everyday favourite in most Indian households. Served with fried vegetables, fried eggs, or even fried fish on the side, this healthy dish is gluten free, vegetarian and as tasty as ever.
Most of us Indians eat a variety of dals on an almost daily basis. Okay, we don’t eat it as regularly as other Indians do, but it is a staple food around here. Vegetarians eat masoor dal or moong dal with papad or pickle or some other veggie dish that’s served with rice or rotis. Non-vegetarians eat it with fried fish or eggs or vegetables dishes. Nepalese and Northern Indians have a special dish called dal bhat tarkari.
What Ingredients do you need for this red lentil Curry?
To make this red lentil dal recipe, all you need is whole or split red masoor dal aka red lentils, oil, tomatoes, chilies, garlic, chilly powder, garam masala, kokum, salt, and water.
Mom usually replaces the chilly powder and garam masala with our East Indian bottle masala which is so much more flavorful.
Kokum is a small fruit that’s popularly used for seasoning in our local Maharashtrian or Konkan cuisine. The dried kokum rind imparts a tangy or slightly sour taste to dishes that we love, while also giving it a maroonish-pinkish tinge. If we don’t have kokum on hand, we can also use tamarind, or sometimes just plain old sour limes.
If you don’t find kokum in the Asian section of your local store, you can skip it. But if you add it, the flavor is a lot better than regular masoor dal.
How to cook red lentils
Start by soaking the red lentils in water. You basically rinse the lentils and allow them to soak for about a half-hour. You can use the whole or split lentils for this recipe. We’ve used the whole lentil. If you look closely at this picture below, these red lentils have been skinned but not split. If they had been split they wouldn’t look like tiny macarons. 😉 So anyway, skinned whole red lentils or skinned split red lentils work; as long as they’re skinned!
Slice the tomatoes into wedges and cut the chillies and garlic fine. Soak the kokum petals in half a cup of water and set aside for later.
Heat the oil in a vessel and add the chopped garlic, chillies, and tomatoes. Saute for a few minutes.
Add in the chili powder and garam masala and mix well.
Add the water, red masoor dal, kokum with water, and salt to the vessel. The kokum adds a tangy taste to the dish. If you do not have kokum, use can replace it with tamarind which has the same effect. You’ll find these ingredients in the Asian section of your supermarket.
Allow this to cook on high flame for about 10 mins with an open lid.
Whole Masoor Dal or Red Lentils Curry
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- 250 g Red Lentils Skinned Whole Masoor (Or Skinned Split Masoor)
- 2 Tomatoes
- 2 Green Chillies – Fresh
- 5 Garlic Cloves or Garlic Flakes
- 1 Tablespoon Red Chili Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Garam masala
- 6 Kokum petals or 1 Tamarind pod
- 1 Tablespoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoon Oil
- 500 ml Water
- 10 Small White Onions or Kandries
- 2 Semi-ripe Mangoes Sliced
Prep for the Red Lentils or Masoor Dal Curry
- Soak the red lentils in water for 30 minutes. (Skinned split red lentils or skinned whole red lentils will work.)
- Slice the tomatoes into wedges.
- Cut the chillies and garlic fine.
- Soak the kokum petals half a cup of water and set aside.
Cooking the Red Lentil Curry
- Heat the oil in a pot.
- Add the tomato wedges and chopped garlic and chillies to the pot and saute for a few minutes.
- Then add the chilli powder and garam masala and fry for another minutes.
- Lastly add the kokum soaking in the water, dal, salt and water to the vessel and allow to cook on a high flame for 10 minutes.
- If you want to make the dal richer for your guests, add 2 tablespoons of cream, butter or ghee on top before serving.
- Serve with pav, puris, bread, rice or rotis!
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- You can use whole red lentils or split red lentil for this recipe.
- If you do not have Kokum petals, replace this with Tamarind.
- If you have East Indian bottle masala, use this instead of the chilli powder and garam masala.
- The recipe for puris is here!
- You can add semi-ripe mangoes and small white onions for a different taste.
Nutrition (Per Serving)
Disclaimer: Nutrition Information per serving is estimated by a third party software based on the ingredients used, and is for informational purposes only. It will vary from product to product, based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients. Please consult the package labels of the ingredients you use, or chat with your dietician for specific details.
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What’s perfect about this Red Lentil recipe?
- It’s quick and easy to make, just 10 minutes of actual cooking time.
- You can serve it with rice, pav, rotis, or chappatis.
- It goes well with a number of Veg or Non-Veg side dishes, but is perfect all on its own too!
Cooking Tips or Tricks
- If you have East Indian bottle masala, you can use this instead of the chilli powder and garam masala.
- If you do not have Kokum, use Tamarind or Amboshi instead.
- When you have guests over, you can add 2 tablespoons of fresh cream, ghee, or butter on top just before serving. It adds some awesomeness.
- You can also add semi-ripe mango slices and also white baby onions to the dal for a different flavour.
Questions about Red Lentils
What Goes Well With Red Lentil Curry ?
Do Red Lentils Need To Be Soaked Before Cooking?
Yes, you need to soak masoor dal in water for about half-hour before cooking. The longer the better.
What Is Kokum?
Kokum is a tiny fruit that is dark purple in colour and local to Maharashtra and Goa. It adds acidity and sourness to the dish as well as a maroonish-pinkish colour. If it’s not available, you can use tamarind or amboshi.
What Is Garam Masala?
This is a mixture of various hot spices ground together to a powder. The most common ingredients are coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and black pepper. Different variations of garam masala also contain chili powder, mace, fennel seeds, cloves, bay leaves, star anise, and other ingredients. You’ll find garam masala in the Asian section of your supermarket.
What Are Kandries?
Kandries as we Eastyas call them are small white onions that are smaller and sweeter than normal onions. They are also called white pearl onions, baby onions, picklers, cocktail onions, and button onions. Kandries are perfect for onion pickles too.
Why Add Mangoes To The Dal?
Adding mangoes to the dal gives it a nice tangy flavour.
Do The Mangoes Added To The Dal Have To Be Raw Or Ripe?
You should add semi-ripe mangoes to the dal.
Why Add Whole Baby Onions To The Dal?
You can eat it in one bite and they give you a burst of juicy sweet onion flavour.
If you want our traditional East Indian recipes on hand, the Abby's Plate Cookbook Series books are available online or in-store in most countries.
Christmas with the Rebellos:
East Indian Meals & Desserts from Abby's Plate
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Other recipes you might like
- Fried Brinjal
- Potato Bhaji
- Chipolata sausages
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- Anda Bhurji or Indian Scrambled Egg
Although Sarah has worked in travel for 15 years and specializes in Africa, she loves music, wine, food, and travel. Armed with her Canon, she’s on a mission to photograph food showcasing her East Indian community’s traditional recipes on the blog. And Abby is forever grateful!