Dal Tadka (Garlic Dal Fry)

Dal Fry

Living half a world away, at times I get a strong yearning for my native land of India, my family & my childhood home. To get through these times of nostalgia, I rely on my favorite comfort food - "Dal Tadka" (aka Dal Fry), a delicious lentil stew tempered with aromatic spices. Its simple & heart-warming flavors remind me of my mom's warm embrace, the innocent laughter of my childhood friends, the cozy comforts of my "rajai" (quilt) in cold winter days. "Dal" is the Indian (Hindi) word for lentil (or lentil stew), and "Tadka" stands for the spices fried briefly in clarified butter (ghee) to release their aroma (this process is called "tempering"). The "Tadka" is the crowning glory of the otherwise unassuming Dal. Added right at the end of the Dal preparation, the sizzling "Tadka" floats like beautiful art on top of the lentil stew and adds an exotic, appetizing aroma as well a vibrant, zesty flavor.

Dal Tadka originated in my native land of Punjab but has now become a popular menu item in most North Indian restuarants. It gained popularity from the ubiquitous "Dhabas" (small restaurants spread all across Indian highways) that serve the most delicious food you can find in the Indian hinterland. The recipe is really quick and easy-to-prepare, and make sure that you have the dinner table set as soon as you prepare the Tadka - the enticing aroma that rises soon as the spices are thrown in the clarified butter are sure to make anyone hungry. Serve it with steamed rice or roti (Indian unleavened bread) and watch your family & guests eagerly devour every spoonful of this pleasurable, satisfying dish. So are you looking for a taste of native India? Then you have to try Dal Tadka :)


Serves : 2

1/2 cup Split Pigeon Pea lentils (Toor Dal / Arhar Dal)
1 large-size Tomato; chopped
1 Serrano Green Chilli or to taste (optional); destemmed & chopped
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
2 cups Water
2 tbsp chopped Cilantro (Coriander) Leaves; for garnishing

For Tempering
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
A pinch of Asafoetida; available in Indian Grocery Stores 
1 Whole Dry Red Chilli; broken into two
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper (Red Chilli Powder) or to taste
1 1/2 tbsp minced Garlic
1 tbsp Oil or Clarified Butter (Ghee)

How to make Restaurant-style Dal Tadka

  1. Rinse the lentil thoroughly till the water runs clear. Drain & keep aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add the water, lentils, salt, turmeric powder, green chillies & tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low & cover the pan. Simmer the lentil for 20-25 minutes till the lentils are mushy. Add water, if required to get the desired consistency (Dal is usually of a medium consistency).
  3. As soon as the lentils are cooked, heat oil/clarified butter in another pan. Add asafoetida & cumin seeds, once the cumin seeds begin to change color, add broken red chilli & garlic & saute for a minute. Add cayenne pepper. Stir & remove from heat.
  4. Transfer the garlic-mixture to the hot lentils. Stir & cook for another minute. Remove from heat & transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves. Serve with steamed rice or roti.

Clarified Butter is not only essential to get the restaurant-style flavor but is also the most important ingredient which enhances the flavor of the Dal tremendously, which is why restaurants use a lot of clarified butter. Though in my recipe, I have tried to use only as much as needed. If you have any restrictions with using clarified butter (example, dietary) then replace it with oil - unfortunately, there will be a certain loss of flavors & aroma in this case.


  1. Delicious and comforting dhal.. Very healthy too..

    1. Totally Divya! These two adjectives describe this dal perfectly :)

  2. omg dal tadka looks so delicious and amazing shot and food styling done :)