You’ll love this restaurant-style Dal Tadka recipe, made from scratch at home using simple Indian ingredients. The Tarka Daal curry is made of a thick and tasty chana dal topped with spice-infused oil for a wonderful, deep, and rich flavor.
Dal Tadka (aka Tarka Daal or Dal Fry) is a popular north Indian dish that's made with split chickpeas (chana dal) or other dried split pulses and mixed with a blend of savory spices.
Whole spices are infused in oil (this is called Tarka or Tadka), which is then drizzled over the dal. It creates a delicious, rich dish everyone will enjoy!
I love making Indian food for dinner, but this Dal Tadka recipe has a special place in my dinner rotation.
Not only is it simple to make but it’s one of the most delicious Indian dishes I’ve ever had!
The reason is that the tadka/tarka cooking technique is used to give the final dish a deep and bold taste that takes it to the next level.
What is tarka?
Tarka, also known as tadka, is the Indian cooking method that involves tempering spices and seeds, by briefly cooking them in hot oil.
The infused oil and spices (tarka) are then poured into the dish.
This allows them to release their essential oils making their flavors more deep and concentrated which makes a wonderful addition to the finished daal.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
An easy curry that's ready in just 45 minutes.
Dal Tadka is freezer-friendly.
You can make an Indian restaurant-style classic Dal Tadka (aka Tarka Dal or Dal Fry) right at home for less money and with great fresh taste!
The split chickpeas (chana dal) make this dinner high in protein and fiber making it satisfying and filling.
You can serve it with rice, Bombay Potatoes, or with your favorite side dish.
The tarka / tadka imparts a wonderful taste.
It will allow you to learn an easy Indian cooking technique that adds great flavor to food.
The ingredients are simple and can be found at most international grocery stores.
The flavors get better with time making this a great dinner to make in large batches for leftovers.
- Vegetable Oil - You’ll need vegetable oil (canola, extra virgin etc) to saute the garlic, ginger and onion. Swap to ghee if preferred.
- Onion, Garlic & Ginger - These aromatic vegetables are a popular combination in Indian cooking.
- Chopped Tomatoes - Fresh tomatoes add acidity, color and flavor.
- Turmeric, garam masala, chili flakes - to spice up the split chickpeas.
- Chana Daal - Also known as split chickpeas, these peas will give a hearty flavor and texture to the dish.
- Water - Helps thin out and deglaze the flavors into the dish.
- Salt - Balances all the bold flavors.
- Fresh Cilantro / Coriander Leaves - This garnish adds a great herb flavor and fresh green color.
For the tarka:
- Vegetable Oil - The seeds are tempered in it to bring out their flavors.
- Cumin & Black Mustard Seeds - Give a classic nutty and traditional Indian flavor.
- Dried Red Chili - Gives a hit of spice to the dish.
What is chana dal?
Chana dal is also known as split chickpeas or bengal gram. It is normally found dried in the ethnic aisles of larger grocery stores or in Indian supermarkets.
You can substitute chana daal with yellow split peas.
Step by Step Tutorial
Follow this step by step photo tutorial, then scroll down to the recipe card for the full ingredients list and method.
1. Fry: Heat the oil in a large lidded pot over medium heat, then cook the onion until soft, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until soft but not browned. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, turmeric, garam masala, and chili flakes and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
2. Simmer: Stir the chana dal and water into the pot and bring to a boil. Put the lid onto the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a little more water so it doesn’t scorch. Stir in the salt.
3. Make the tarka: First, prepare and measure all of the ingredients needed. You'll need to move quickly once you start the tadka (tarka). Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Once it’s very hot, add the cumin, mustard seeds, and chili. It will quickly (in less than a minute) crackle and pop. The tarka is ready!
4. Assemble: Pour the oil and spices (tarka) over the curry and stir it in or serve it on top. Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro, alongside rice and/or naan bread.
The spice level of your finished dahl tadka is based on how little or much chili flake and dried red chili you use. If you’re making for kids or for others who don’t enjoy spice, use less or omit completely.
Watch the tarka carefully as it cooks very quickly and can be prone to burning if not watched.
For best results, use fresh ginger and garlic instead of using garlic and ginger paste. The taste is much better, though paste is handy!
When making the tarka, use whole spice seeds for the best possible flavor.
You can swap the chana (split chickpeas) for green lentils, red lentils, yellow split peas etc... Just adjust the cooking time, cooking for longer or less time, as needed.
Serve Dal Tadka like you would any curry. Try it with rice, roti, chappatis or naan.
Try it with some easy, homemade Naan Bread. Yeast-free and ready in 15 minutes!
Serve it with a cold glass of Banana Lassi.
Goes great with a side of flavorful Turmeric Rice.
Serve with some delicious Bombay Potatoes.
Use ghee instead of vegetable oil for a nutty and buttery flavor that goes great with Indian spices. Note, it then won't be vegan.
Drained canned diced tomatoes make a great alternative to using fresh tomatoes.
There are plenty of ways to change up the beans or lentils in this dish by using; red lentils, mung lentils, mung dal, toor dal, or channa dal.
To add additional protein toss in some diced extra firm tofu.
Give this Dal Tadka a smokey flavor by adding a drop of liquid smoke.
Make it Gluten Free: This Tarka Daal recipe is gluten-free, however, it’s important to check your labels on any spices to rule out any ingredients that may contain gluten.
Make It Vegan: This recipe is 100% vegan if you are using listed ingredients. Double-check your ingredients.
Storing: Store the tarka dal in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5-6 days.
Freezing: To freeze, portion into airtight containers or freezer-safe bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the fridge before reheating and serving.
This dish is made from scratch with simple ingredients that contain fiber and protein which makes it a great healthy option.
In English, it means tempering which is the process of releasing the essential oils from spices or seeds by toasting in hot oil.
Yes! If you are using lentils instead of split chickpeas, feel free to use canned as long as they are drained and rinsed properly. You'll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly by cooking for less time.
More Indian Dishes
This Dal Tadka is so easy and tasty. I hope you'll also try these other tasty Indian recipes too!
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Dal Tadka (Tarka Daal)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion diced
- ¾ inch (2cm) piece fresh root ginger peeled and grated
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 3 tomatoes chopped
- ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon chilli flakes or more if you like it spicy
- 1 ¼ cups (250g) chana dal split chickpeas
- 4 cups (1 litre) water
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the Tarka:
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 dried red chilli or a whole green chili
To serve (optional)
- handful fresh coriander leaves chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a large lidded pot over a medium heat, then add the onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until soft but not browned.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes, turmeric, garam masala and chili flakes and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
- Rinse the chana dal well until the water runs clear, then add it into the pot, along with the water. Stir well and bring to the boil. If any froth forms, skim it off with a spoon.
- Put the lid onto the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a little more water so it doesn’t scorch. Stir in the salt.
- When the dal is just about finished cooking, make the tadka.
- First, prepare/measure all of the tadka ingredients.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium/low heat. Once it’s very hot, add the cumin, mustard seeds and chili. It will quickly (in less than a minute) crackle and pop. It’s ready!
- Pour the oil and spices (tarka) over the dal and stir in or serve on top. Serve sprinkled with chopped coriander/cilantro alongside rice or naan bread.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors, so is not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietician for special diet advice.