Yellow Dal tadka is a delicious, fast way to serve lentils to your family and friends. Dal Tadka with rice is a very popular meal in Indian cuisine due to its mouthwatering blend of aromatics. This flavorful entree is a weekly staple at our home and will undoubtedly become a staple in yours as well. You can feel good about serving this hearty, wholesome lentil.
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What is Dal Tadka?
Dal tadka literally translates into “lentils tempering.” Tadka is a term often used to describe the addition of seasonings to a recipe. Often it means adding whole spices, such as cumin, to hot oil or ghee to make a tempering.
In other words, this yellow dal tadka recipe is cooked lentils that are well seasoned with spices and butter. Not a bad way to get some extra veggies and vegetarian protein into your family’s mouths!
Better yet? My family loves it. Dal Rice is our comfort food. It is the one thing my family wants to eat after a holiday trip. I’m sure your family will love it too!
Ingredients Needed for Yellow Dal Tadka
There are a lot of spices in this recipe most of them repetitive, but the base ingredients include two types of lentils:
- pigeon pea / toor / arhar dal - pigeon peas are a common ingredient in many Indian dishes. They have a bit of a nutty flavor and typically need to soak before cooking.
- yellow hulled mung dal - mung are a fast cooking, lentil-like legume. You can use them or regular lentils as a substitute.
You’ll also need the following:
- ghee, butter, or oil - if you are making this vegan, then use oil
- fresh garlic
- fresh ginger
For the seasonings, you’ll need these spices and herbs:
- asafetida or hing
- coriander powder
- cumin powder
- dry mango powder or amchur
- red chili powder
- dried fenugreek leaves or kasuri methi
For the tempering that is used on top, you’ll also need the following:
- ghee, oil, or butter - use oil if you are vegan
- cumin seeds
- whole red chili peppers
- red chile powder
If you're not sure about these spices and how they taste or where to find them, check out our complete Indian Spice Guide for a breakdown of them.
How to make Dal Tadka in Instant Pot
Making Dal Tadka in the Instant Pot is fast and easy. Follow these steps for the best results.
Thoroughly wash the lentils and then soak them for at least 2 hours before using. If you don’t have time to soak the lentils, you can skip this step and add an additional 5 minutes to the pressure cooking time below.
Once the lentils have soaked, turn on saute mode and add the oil or ghee. Once it is hot, add the asafetida, ginger, and garlic. Cook the spices for 1 to 2 minutes or until they become fragrant.
Next, add the onions and salt. Cover and saute the onions, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn translucent. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
When the onions are ready, add the tomatoes and dry spices. Cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until the butter or oil starts to separate. When the separation occurs, add the yellow lentils and 3 cups of water.
Place the lid on the Instant Pot, turn off saute mode, and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. If you are using non-soaked lentils, cook for 10 minutes.
When the timer goes off, do a natural release for at least five minutes and then manually release the remaining pressure.
Pour the dal into a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro.
Finally, make the tempering. In a pan, heat the ghee, butter, or oil and whole spices. Once the spices start to crack, pour the tempering over the dal.
Serve and enjoy!
How to make restaurant style Dal Tadka at home (Stove Top Method)
If you have a stove top pressure cooker, follow these steps.
Start by thoroughly washing the lentils and soaking them for at least 2 hours. This helps aid digestion.
When the lentils are done soaking, heat the oil, butter, or ghee in a stove top pressure cooker without the lid on. Once the oil is hot or the butter melted, add the asafetida, ginger, and garlic. Cook the spices for about 1 to 2 minutes or until they are fragrant.
Next, add the onions and salt. Loosely cover and saute the onions until they start to turn clear. This takes about 3 to 4 minutes.
When the onions have started to cook, add the tomatoes and spices. Cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until the oil starts to separate from the rest of the ingredients. When the separation occurs, add the yellow lentils and 3 cups of water.
Place the lid on the pressure cooker and pressure cook for 15 minutes.
When the 15 minutes are done, allow the pressure to release naturally for about 5 minutes. Manually release the remaining pressure. Whisk the dal.
Use a spoon to place the dal into a bowl and break or cut some cilantro leaves on top.
The final step is to make the tempering. To do this, heat ghee, butter, or oil and whole spices in a small pan. Once the spices start to crack and pop, pour the tempering over the dal.
Serve the dal hot with some rice and enjoy!
Tips for making the best dal tadka
To make the best tasting version of this recipe, follow these tips and tricks.
- always soak your lentils - soaking the lentils helps with digestion and shortens the total cook time in the Instant Pot
- if you are not vegan, use ghee or butter for the best flavor - oil works, especially if you follow a vegan diet, but ghee and butter give a richer, better flavor overall
- use fresh ingredients where possible - fresh cilantro, garlic, ginger, and farm fresh tomatoes can make a big difference in taste
Is this dal tadka recipe healthy?
Yes and no. The dish contains lentils, tomatoes, and other good for you ingredients. And you can make it overall healthier by choosing a healthy oil, such as light olive oil.
But if you use butter or ghee, you are increasing the amount of saturated fat in the dish. If you want to make the healthiest version, use oil instead of ghee or butter in both the dal and the tempering.
Can I make this Dal Tadka recipe vegan?
Yes! You can easily make this vegan. To do so, use oil instead of butter or ghee in both the dal and the tempering.
What should I serve this with?
This tastes great when served with a side of rice. One of our favorite combinations is to serve this with our jeera rice, roti / chapatti or when making this for a special occassion, serve it with naan. If you don’t have jeera rice, any rice will work well with this recipe.
You can also serve this recipe with a side of vegetables.
A good dinner roll or bread is also great to dip into the dal too.
What lentils are best for this recipe?
We use a combination of split pigeon peas and yellow hulled mung dal. You could also do a combination of lentils, such as toor dal and moong dal or toor dal and masoor dal. In some cases, you may just want to use the lentils you have on hand, but this could change the flavor slightly.
How is dal tadka different from everyday yellow dal?
Dal tadka and everyday yellow dal are very similar dishes. They have many of the ingredients, but yellow dal often uses yellow split peas and red onions instead of white or yellow onions. You will also typically use a lemon or lime for a bit of lighter flavor in yellow dal.
Do I have to soak the lentils?
We recommend soaking the lentils for at least two hours. Soaking the lentils helps digestion.
If you are using the Instant Pot, you can skip soaking the beans altogether. You will need to add additional time to the pressure cooking though. Instead of 5 minutes, set the cook time to 10 minutes when using unsoaked lentils.
How can I meal prep and store it?
You can make this recipe ahead of time if you want to have easy, ready to go meals already prepared for the week. Before storing, allow the food to cool completely. Once the dal has cooled, pour it into small individual containers for easy lunches or one large sealable container. You can store leftovers for about 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
When you are ready to serve the dal, heat it up in the microwave for a couple of minutes or until it is warmed through. Or pour it into a pot and heat over medium-low heat until it has heated through.
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Yellow Dal Tadka Recipe (Instant Pot + Stove Top)
- pigeon pea / toor / arhar dal 1 cup , washed
- yellow hulled mung dal 1 cup
- ghee 2 tbsp
- ginger grated 1 tsp
- garlic crushed 1 tsp
- asafoetida / hing ½ tsp
- coriander powder 1 tsp
- cumin powder 1 tsp
- dry mango powder / amchur (optional) ¼ tsp
- red chilli powder ½ tsp
- turmeric ½ tsp
- dried fenugreek leaves / kasuri methi ¼ tsp
- tomatoes 2, chopped
- yellow onion chopped 1
- water 4 cups (approx 940 ml)
- fresh cilantro ¼ cup chopped
For the final Tadka / Tempering
- ghee 1 tbsp
- asafoetida ½ tsp
- cumin seeds 1 tsp
- whole dried chili (optional) 2-3
- red chili powder (optional) 1 tsp
Pot in Pot Rice
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 cup water
Instant Pot Dal Tadka Recipe with Pot in Pot rice
- Thoroughly wash the yellow lentils and soak them for a couple hours.
- Heat the Instant Pot on Sautee mode. Once it is hot, add ghee, asafetida (hing), ginger & garlic and stir for 30 seconds until you can smell the aroma.
- Next add the onions and salt and saute until they turn translucent. Cover with a glass lid for a couple minutes.
- Then add the tomatoes and dry spices and sauté for about 5-minutes until the oil starts separating. Stir a couple times in between, if required.
- Next add the soaked yellow lentils with 4 cups of water.
- If making Pot in Pot rice, follow this step or else skip to the next step. Place the trivet in the inner pot which contains the dal. Place the stainless steel pot with rice and water.
- Cover it with a steel lid so the dal doesn’t splutter onto the rice.
- Close the lid, seal the vent and pressure cook for 5 mins followed by a natural pressure release. If using unsoaked dal then pressure cook for 10 mins followed by a natural pressure release. Do not make pot in pot rice with unsoaked dal as the cooking times vary.
- Pour the dal into the serving bowl.
- Lastly prepare the second tempering. Heat ghee in a tadka pan or small sauce pan.
- Next add asafetida, cumin seeds, dried red chillies and red chilly powder. Once you hear the crackling sound pour it over the piping hot Dal.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve it with rice or a flatbread.
Stove Top Dal Tadka Recipe
- Start by thoroughly washing the lentils and soaking them for at least 2 hours. This helps aid digestion.
- When the lentils are done soaking, heat the oil, butter, or ghee in a stove top pressure cooker without the lid on.
- Once the oil is hot or the butter melted, add the asafoetida, ginger, and garlic. Cook the spices for about 1 to 2 minutes or until they are fragrant.
- Next, add the onions and salt. Loosely cover and saute the onions until they start to turn clear. This takes about 3 to 4 minutes.
- When the onions have started to cook, add the tomatoes and spices. Cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until the oil starts to separate from the rest of the ingredients.
- When the separation occurs, add the yellow lentils and 4 cups of water.
- Place the lid on the pressure cooker and pressure cook for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are done, allow the pressure to release naturally for about 5 minutes. Manually release the remaining pressure. Whisk the dal.
- Use a spoon to place the dal into a bowl and break or cut some cilantro leaves on top.
- The final step is to make the tempering. To do this, heat ghee, butter, or oil and whole spices in a small pan. Once the spices start to crack and pop, pour the tempering over the dal.
- Serve the dal hot with some rice and enjoy!
- Soaking the dals is optional, but it makes them more digestible and fastens the cook time.
- Add the second tempering just before serving. Make sure the Dal is hot before you garnish it with the tempering.
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