Moong Dal Tadka

Moong Dal Tadka

On cold days, I love to enjoy comfort foods. One of my favorites is Dal Tadka. It’s a dish I especially enjoy when I am feeling under the weather. Ginger, turmeric, chili, and mustard seeds are warming healing spices that offer immunity boosting and anti-inflammatory properties.

I always thought that dal was an Indian method of stewing lentils.
However, that is not the case. Dal is not the preparation of the lentil but the process of splitting pulses. When a whole mung bean is split into two halves, it becomes a dal. Dal can be made from any lentil, pea or bean.

Lentils and other pulses are diet staples all over the world. This fact is especially true in India where dal is the essential protein in for vegetarian based diets. All forms of dal are eaten in India, certain regions may favor one over another, but virtually all dal’s are eaten in every area.  The preparations, however, are unique in each region.

Rice and dal are eaten by the wealthy, and the poor alike. However, due to their highly affordable and readily available natures, Rice and Dal are vital foods for the poorer communities.

For a poor ruler farmer in Indias aired deserts, rice and dal with roti and the occasional pickle are sometimes the only food consumed in some cases only once a day.

This recipe calls for dal made from mung beans, or moong dal, my favorite of all time.
Mung beans are tiny, nutrient dense, green beads of love. They belong to the pea/lentil family and have been part of the Indian Ayurvedic diet for thousands of years. They are high in both protein and fiber as well as folate and magnesium. They are consumed both cooked and raw, sprouted and ground into powder.

This recipe has become my family’s favorite way to prepare dal; it was originally adapted from the NY Times Dal Tadka recipe. You can view the original recipe here.
The video and written instructions were a bit confusing, and out of sync, so I made a few modifications. The method is adapted to suit my cooking style.

I serve Dal Tadka with Jeera rice (rice steamed with cumin seeds) and roti made from Atta(Durum Wheat). Tangy and spicy carrot pickles are a perfect accompaniment to the savory, aromatic dal topped with flavorful tadka(tempering) made from tomatoes, mustard seeds, and fresh curry leaves.  You can find my Indian Carrot Pickle recipe here.

It’s March, spring is right around the corner and I’m patiently waiting for my new Curry Leaf plant to arrive from nursery in Florida. We’ve had crazy winter in Philadelphia this year with temperatures ranging from single digits and two feet of snow to a sunny and humid 74 degrees. I plan to grow this tropical plant indoors in my kitchen; I am looking forward to the exotic smells of neem perfuming my kitchen and making lots more delicious Indian food to share with you.

Dal Tadka

This recipe is perfectly paired with steamed basmati rice, fresh roti, and Indian carrot pickles. 

Course Dinner, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 Servings



  • 2 T unsalted butter or Ghee
  • 1/2 Each medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 Clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 each green chili, sliced
  • 1 Cup mung bean dal
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar


  • 3 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 10 Each fresh curry leaves optional
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger minced
  • 2 Each canned roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 Cup torn cilantro leaves for garnish


  1. In a 2 quart pot melt butter over medium-low heat and add the chopped onion. Sweat for 10 minutes until the onion becomes soft, translucent and lightly browned. Add crushed garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. 

  2. Stir in turmeric and sliced chili, cook for another 30 seconds then add the dal. Stir to coat the dal in the seasoned onion mixture. Add four cups of water, stir and bring to a boil. 

  3. Once the dal has come to a full rolling boil add salt and sugar then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Do not stir.

  4. Uncover the dal and cook an additional 15 minutes. Do not stir.

  5. After 15 minutes agitate the cooked dal by inserting a whisk in the center of the pot and gently roll it between your hands to create movement. Do this for about one minute to break up and thicken the dal. 

  6. To make the tadka, heat oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer and smoke slightly. Add mustard and cumin seeds to the oil and cook until the seeds start to spatter and bust. About 30 seconds. 

  7. Add ginger and fresh curry leaves to the pan, stir for another 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes. 

  8. Pour tadka over hot dal and garnish with cilantro. 


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