7 of our favourite recipes for dal

by Great British Chefs23 January 2023

Dal is filling, comforting, and hugely diverse. Whether you like your dal creamy or chunky, thick or thin, spicy or simple we have a recipe for you. Read on for our favourite dal recipes.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Dal - also known as dahl, dhal and daal - is a warm hug of a food. A staple dish across a huge range of countries, no two bowls of dal are exactly the same. Some are highly spiced and fragrant, while others are simple, letting the earthy flavour of the lentils or beans speak for themselves. 

The word dal refers to both the split pulses often used to make dal and the dish itself. The word gram on the other hand indicates that a pulse is whole - black gram, green gram etc. Dal can be made with a whole variety of different pulses, either whole or split. Some recipes will combine different types together, like our vegan dal makhani, while others will just use one. Normally, two pulses with similar cooking times are used together, such as toor dal and moong dal or kidney beans and urid beans.

As well as pulses, another key component of dal is the fragrant tadka. Also known as tempering, chaunk and by several other names, a tadka is made by simmering spices and aromatics in oil or ghee until they are fragrant. The sizzling mixture of crunchy seeds and spiced-infused oil is then poured over the finished dish. A tadka should always be added just before serving, and not made in advance, as it loses its aroma as time goes on. Although it isn’t used in all dal recipes, a tadka is a delicious way to add richness and aroma to dal.

Read on to find out how to cook seven of our favourite dal recipes.

Moong lentils (yellow dhal)

This vegan dal from Alfred Prasad is a very smooth, basic dal. The lentils are boiled with finger chillies and ginger, as well as a little bit of turmeric. It’s finished with a crisp garlic oil tadka and some fresh coriander leaves.

Dal makhani

Dal makhani
Dal makhani

Dal makhani is not a quick dish. Made with plenty of butter and cream and simmered for hours - sometimes even overnight - this is one of the most indulgent varieties of dal there is. Alfred Prasad’s version keeps the seasonings very simple, just using ginger, garlic and some chilli, and garnishes each bowl with a generous knob of butter.

Bangladeshi mung dhal bhuna

This Bangladeshi dal from Dina Begum uses quick-cooking, bright yellow moong dal and a simple tadka or tempering made from ghee, garlic and dried red chillies. Dina Begum toasts the lentils before soaking them to give the dal an extra nutty flavour.

Moong daal

Moong daal
Moong daal

Sumayya Usmani’s recipe for dal also shows you how to make a simple garam masala from scratch. Homemade spice blends will always be far more fragrant and flavourful than shop-bought varieties, but they do require using a spice grinder.

Burnt garlic tarka dal

This recipe for a burnt garlic tarka dal from Will Bowlby uses a whole 100g of garlic. He also uses a generous amount of fried curry leaves, which provide a pleasant crunch as well as aroma to the dish.

Vegan black dal

This vegan version of dal makhani uses coconut oil and coconut cream. It’s garnished with dried fenugreek leaves and crispy ginger for some fragrance and is more heavily spiced than Alfred Prasad’s black dal.

Hake with zhoug and yellow split pea dhal

Chantelle Nicholson’s coconut and split pea dal is here served with pan-fried hake, but is just as delicious on its own. Something of a cross between an English split pea soup and an Indian dhal, the split peas are simmered with a bouquet garni but finished with coconut cream.

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