Red Lentil Tarka Dhal

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Food alchemist ibiza, abi fox, red lelntil dahl, indian food, vegan, vegetarian

Tarka Dhal was often on the menu in our house when I was growing up, alongside mum’s best curries and rice too. I certainly have my mum to thank for my flavours and good palate for Indian cuisine. It is in my blood after all, and few things make me happier than when eating curry.

Tarka in Indian cuisine is a method of seasoning food with spices heated in oil or ghee. Dhal is the phrase used for split lentils and pulses such as beans, peas and legumes.

When going to our local Indian restaurant in Leeds, my dad would always order dhal with his curry. It was always a staple, so it’s naturally become once of my staples too. he would always request it thick, as many versions of this dish can be very thin and watery. So the more water you add, naturally it won’t be as thick. I love mine thick to accompany a juicy saucy curry, but it’s totally your preference.

I also like to add vegetables to my dhal, and the list is endless really! I have given you 3 different options at the bottom of the recipe for how to add vegetables to the basic recipe for dhal below.

You can also pair this with my quick and easy curry recipe.

Bon Apetit!


food alchemist ibiza, abi fox, dhal, tarka dhal, indian cooking,

Red Lentil Tarka Dhal

This staple in Indian cooking is simple quick and cheap to make. And delicious! It is easy to make in bulk so you can freeze and keep in the freezer for those days when you're too busy to cook.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4


  • 400 g red lentils
  • 2 tsps turmeric
  • knobs of organic ayurvedic ghee coconut oil if vegan
  • 2 tsps cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely sliced
  • 2 fresh green chillies finely sliced
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Knob of fresh ginger grated
  • 3 to matoes chopped
  • And optional is your choice of vegetable i like butternut squash, aubergine or chickpeas.


  • 1. Place the lentils in a pan and cover with enough cold water to come to around two inches above their surface. Bring this to the boil, you may see some white scum at the surface. Take this out and remove to a simmer. 
    2. Add in the turmeric and a generous knob of ghee or coconut oil. Allow this to cook gently. Keep an eye on it, stirring frequently as the lentils tend to get stuck to the pan! 
    3. While the dhal is cooking, heat up a small frying pan. Dry-fry the cumin seeds until toasted and you can smell their delicious flavour. Everyone will walk in the kitchen and say it smells so good! This will only take a couple of minutes. Remove from the pan and set to one side.
    4. Melt another knob of ghee or coconut oil in the same frying pan and gently fry the onion for a few minutes until soft. Then add your garlic, chillies, ginger and tomatoes. 
    5. Once the garlic is golden, mix in the toasted cumin seeds and the garam masala and ground coriander. This really does add a great flavour to the dish. If it looks too dry you can add a little more oil, this is what helps deepen the flavour as well.
    6. Once the lentils are softened, they should resemble a porridge mixture. I don't like my dhal too thin, it should be fairly thick! You can then add the onion mixture.
    7. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with your choice of vegetable curry, basmati rice & indian bread.


It works perfectly well as it is, but I like to add some vegetables to this dish for more nutrients.
Option 1: 
Charred Aubergine: 
Pre-heat oven to 190'c. Cook aubergine for one hour until skin is charred and aubergine feels soft. Let it cool until you can safely remove the skin. 
Squeeze the aubergine to remove the juice which can be bitter, we don't want that! Heat up a pan with coconut oil, & slice into pieces.
Fry aubergine until they have a lovely golden brown exterior. You can add your choice of spices, salt & pepper here too. 
Option 2:
Add the cooked chickpeas into the dahl while you're cooking the onion mixture and let it sit in the dhal to absorb the flavour of the lentils & then the onion mixture. 
Option 3: 
Butternut Squash:
Peel and chop butternut squash into small cubes. The smaller you chop them, the quicker they take to cook. Roast in the oven at 180'c for 30 minutes in some ground coriander, salt, pepper & coconut oil. Then add to the lentil mixture once it's cooked. 
Keyword Curry, Gluten Free, Indian, Vegan, Vegetarian

food alchemist ibiza, abi fox, dhal, tarka dhal, indian cooking,



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