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The Most Basic Dal

Priya Krishna's Garlic-Ginger Chicken + Basic Dal + Dahi Toast
Priya Krishna's Garlic-Ginger Chicken + Basic Dal + Dahi ToastNathan Congleton / TODAY
Cook Time:
30 mins
Prep Time:
5 mins

Chef notes

Dal is both an ingredient and a staple dish in Indian cuisine using lentils or legumes. Though many stews may simmer for hours, this is my go-to dal recipe on a weeknight, since it's both easy and flavorful. It cooks really quickly, it has the depth of flavor of a dish that has been sitting on the stove all day, and served with rice or roti (and maybe some sliced cucumbers on the side), it's a complete meal.

Technique tip: Insert a long spoon into the pot to break the surface tension and prevent the lentils from boiling over.

Swap option: You can use olive oil or butter instead of ghee.


  • 1 cup masoor dal (also known as split and dehusked pink lentils, red lentils or dhuli masoor)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1 lime)
Chhonk seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 dried red chiles
  • 1 pinch red chile powder
  • 1 pinch asafetida (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (steams and leaves), for garnish


For the dal:


In a large pot over high heat, combine the lentils, turmeric, salt and 3 cups water and bring to a boil.


Reduce the heat to medium-high, insert a large long-handled spoon into the pot, and cook with the spoon still inserted until the lentils are soft and a little mushy, 5-7 minutes.


Remove the dish from the heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. (Alternatively, in an electric multi-cooker like an Instant Pot, combine the lentils, turmeric, salt and 3 cups water and cook on manual high pressure for 10 minutes, then allow the pressure to release naturally.)


Add the lime juice and set aside.

For the chhonk seasoning:

In a small pan or butter warmer over medium-high heat, warm the ghee (or oil). Once the ghee melts (or the oil begins to shimmer), add in the cumin seeds and cook until they start to sputter and brown, which should take seconds. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the dried chiles, red chile powder and asafetida (if using).

To serve:

Add the seasoning to the cooked lentils and mix thoroughly. Garnish with the cilantro before serving.