Restaurant Style Yellow Dal (Dal Tadka)

My love for Indian food goes way back. I have my mom to thank for introducing Indian food to me at such a young age. We have been going to Indian restaurants ever since I was a little kid. I now like making Indian food just as much as I enjoy eating it. I am always experimenting with new Indian dishes in my kitchen. I have made homemade paneer cheese, roti bread, lamb vindaloos, and more. The thing that I love about Indian food is that it has so many dimensions of flavor. Every dish has its own unique set of spices, ingredients, and aromas. It is like a party for the senses.
Believe it or not, when I was a little kid I was a super picky eater. No one would have ever thought, back then, that I would one day be a food blogger. For some reason, when we would go to Indian restaurants I would throw away all of my pickiness. I was way more adventurous and was willing to try almost everything on the menu. I enjoyed the flavors so much that I didn’t even mind eating food that I don’t normally like. I think trying new foods at Indian restaurants is partly what led me to be an adventurous eater. I still am always trying new foods at Indian returants, all the time.
Dal Tadka is a popular dish enjoyed across India. The style of Dal Tadka that I have made is one from the northern region. Dal is a staple in Indian cuisine. Each state has their own delicious versions of the dish. Dal Tadka happens to be one of my favorites and is very popular in Indian restaurants, here in the United States. This dish is typically served with cumin rice and roti, just as I have done. Roti is an Indian flatbread that happens to also be a favorite of mine. Dal is a dish that is very simple but packed with flavor. To make dal, you cook lentils until they are soft and then you add in the tadka, to top it off.
Tadka is the Hindi word for tempering. Tempering, which is a big part of cooking Indian food, is the process of frying spices & herbs in oil then adding into it to a dish, to finish it off. The spices release essential oils which deepen the flavor, aroma, and taste of the final dish that the tempering is added to. It is what really makes this Indian food so unique.
You should adjust the spice level to your own personal preference. In my house, we like to make it really spicy. If we aren’t sweating from the heat of the spices, then it clearly was under seasoned for us. I know that not everyone loves super spicy food, like us, so I made the recipe just a tad spicy. If you are not so into spicy food at all you can easily lower the amount of spices even more. I hope after making this dish, you will be inspired to make more of your own Indian food.  I promise you the results are worth all the effort.

Restaurant Style Yellow Dal (Dal Tadka)

Calories 331.63 kcal


  • 1 cup yellow lentils
  • 4 cups water divided
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 green chili seeded and diced
  • ½ inch ginger diced
  • 1 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 3 dried red chilies deseeded (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro


  • Soak the lentils in a bowl of water for 1 hour, then drain completely. Pour the lentils and three cups of water into a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the flame and simmer for 45 minutes, until soft.
  • In another pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add in the onion, garlic, tomato, green chili, and ginger and saute for 10-12 minutes, until soft. Add in the cooked lentils, one cup of water, chili powder, turmeric, and coriander. Continue cooking on a low flame for 15 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and cook for another 15 minutes.
  • In a small pan fry the cumin seeds and dried red chilies for 30 seconds. Pour the hot oil and spices over the dal. Top with chopped cilantro and serve.
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