This Dhaba Dal Tadka will have you licking your fingers and plates clean. Double tadka with extra garlic and a dal thats smoky and spicy. This restaurant style dal will take you back to your favourite dhaba.
I'm clearly a fan of any flavors that remind me of dhaba food because I have many dhaba inspired recipes on the blog - dhaba style moong dal, dhaba style chicken curry, dhaba style dal fry, jeera rice, dal makhani, bhindi masala. All of these recipes have one thing in common - they are BIG on flavour!
A good dal tadka should be smoky, have texture, an extra boost of garlic and spicy. And this recipe has it all.
Ingredients for Dal Tadka
Here's everything that you'll need:
Tur Dal: This is the main ingredient. Also called arhar dal/ toor dal/ pigeon peas, this variety of lentils is yellow, skinned and split and is smaller in size than chana dal which looks similar. It doesn't have a strong flavour of its own, and cooks really fast. No soaking required, but you can if you have some time ahead. Soaking lentils makes them easier to digest and faster to cook. You can read all about soaking lentils and beans in a detailed post.
- Ghee and Oil: You'll need both ghee and oil because they both add different flavours. We use approx ¼ cup in the entire recipe which might seem a lot but it isn't much when its divided between 6 servings
- Spices: Jeera (cumin seeds), Haldi (Turmeric), Mirchi (Red Chilli Powder), Dhaniya (Coriander Powder), Kasuri Methi (dried Fenugreek leaves), Khadi Mirch (Whole dried red chillies) are all commonly available. If you live outside India, kasuri methi may be hard to find, but it's worth stocking some because its used in many Indian recipes and adds a smokiness.
- Aromatics: Adrak (Ginger), Lahsun (Garlic), Hari mirch (Green Chillies) and Curry Patta (Curry Leaves) add different dimensions of flavour. Curry leaves may not be easily available if you live outside India, but most Indian grocery stores stock them and they are a beautiful herb
- Onions: We use only a small quantity of onions which are fried in ghee and oil till they are golden brown. Dal fry uses a larger amount of onions compared to dal tadka
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are essential to this recipe. They add flavour, texture and a slight tang
- Coriander: Don't skimp. The freshness cuts through the heat
Double Tadka Dal
This dal tadka isn't your usual boring dal. I like to use a double tadka because that's the only way to achieve that same dhaba like flavour. A double tadka means that the tadka or tempering is added twice - once when the cooked dal is added to the tadka and simmered and the second time when the tadka is added on top to give it an extra boost of flavour.
I also like to smoke the dal. This is optional but it's another way to replicate the flavours of dhaba food. Dhabas usually used firewood for cooking or cook everything on really high heat, which is impossible to do at home, unless you live on a farm (lucky you!). Smoking the dal adds that same flavour profile, but is easier and way faster.
Step by Step Recipe
- Wash: Wash the dal and add it to a pressure cooked with turmeric, water and salt. This is how most dal is cooked in India
- Pressure Cook: Pressure cooking dal or lentils is the fastest, most efficient way to cook them
- Mash: I like to mash the dal with a whisk to make it smooth
- Set aside: Set this aside while you make the tadka or tempering
- Splutter: Add Jeera and wait for it to splutter. This releases flavour
- Fry: Fry all the aromatics and chillies in oil for a minute or two
- Saute: Saute the onion and tomato with ground spices till the onions are brown and tomatoes are pulpy
- Reserve: Reserve half the tadka aside. It'll double up as the tadka on top
- Combine: Add dal to the remaining tadka and let it simmer
- Smoke: This is optional but highly recommended. I outline the process to smoke dal in the video and recipe card below
- Chilli Powder in Second tadka: Heat the reserved tadka and add chilli powder. Immediately turn off the flame
- Drizzle: Drizzle the remaining tadka over hot dal
- Serve: Serve hot with rice, rotis etc
Dal Tadka is a really quick and easy recipe. If you use a pressure cooker, you can make the tadka while the dal cooks. All you need to do after that is simmer the dal in half the tadka for five minutes, smoke it and then pour the remaining tadka on top for that extra boost of flavour!
Which makes this dal tadka absolutely doable for weeknight dinners and when you want something fast and easy but really big on flavour.
Serve this with basmati rice, jeera rice, ghee rice or just plain soft rotis. I would throw in some aloo pyaaz ki sabzi or even some cabbage fry to make this a truly wholesome meal. Or if you are in the mood to jazz it up, make a few of my dhaba style recipes for a legit dhaba experience!
Watch the Video
This post was originally published on September 5, 2016 and updated on August 23, 2021 with significant changes to the recipe, new photos and a new recipe video
Dhaba Dal Tadka
- ¾ cup Tur Dal Arhar Dal/Pigeon peas split and skinned
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 2 tablespoons Ghee
- 2 tablespoons Oil any neutral flavoured - canola/ rice bran/ sunflower
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds Jeera
- ¼ teaspoon Hing
- 3-4 Whole Red Chillies
- 2 tablespoons chopped Garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped Ginger
- 2 Green Chillies chopped
- 1 sprig Curry Leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped Onions
- ¼ cup chopped Tomato
- 2 teaspoons Red Chilli Powder divided
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder
- ¾ teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup Water
- 2 tablespoon chopped Coriander
For smoking the dal (optional):
- 2 pieces Coal lump coal
- 1 teaspoon Ghee
- Add tur dal, turmeric, salt and 2 ½ cups water to a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 15-20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Whisk the dal so it has a smooth texture.
- Heat ghee and oil in a kadhai and add jeera. Once it starts spluttering, add whole red chillies, garlic, ginger, chillies and green chillies. Saute for a minute or two till everything is fragrant
- Add onions, tomatoes, turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon chilli powder, coriander powder and salt and cook till the onion is brown and the tomatoes are tender. Reserve half this tadka in a smaller pan and set aside.
- Add cooked dal to the remaining tadka in the kadhai along with ¾-1 cup water. Bring this to a quick boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes
- Smoke the dal by placing a katori or small vessel in the middle of the dal. Add a hot piece of coal and pour a little oil or ghee on top. As soon as it starts smoking, cover tightly with a lid for 3 minutes. After 3 mins, remove the lid and take off the katori with the coal.
- Heat the reserved tadka and add chilli powder. Turn off the flame and pour this over the dal. Top with coriander and serve hot.