Basics:How to make Mung Dal/Lentil Soup the right way

We love our lentils, and to me a bowl of dal with rice is the perfect comfort food. Maybe because my mom used to pack dal and rice, with just a bit of ghee or pickle to school in my lunch box almost everyday. It is packed with protein and should be on every non-meat eaters meal plan, and is just plain delcious, in a homey non fussy way!
Dal is served in every home in every part of India and makes an appearance daily if not atleast once a week. In Kerala it is more commonly made with toor dar or split pigeon peas, though I prefer mung dal because it is easier to digest, soothing to the stomach and is considered "non-gas making" (Haha:) but mostly because mung dal takes less time to cook I think.
I have always thought that I make a pretty decent dal until I tasted my mom-in-law's dal and that totally blew me away. I had to make sure that I learnt the technique behind her perfect bowls of dal during her stay here. No garlic, no ginger, no bothersome frying of onions- the secret to her recipe is toasting the dal before cooking it. The result is a simple yet wonderfully flavorful, creamy and wholesome dish.

And of course I had to share it with you! This simple  recipe is for the beginners to Indian cooking. Dal is pretty much a staple and this delicately flavorful dish is great served as a soup on it's own, or rice. I found that it is a perfect accompaniment to my loaf of freshly baked healthy bread. So Ms just-moved-out-of-parents-home-into-new-apartment-with-roomies/husband & kitchen this is for you! Also if you like me have been making dal for years but thought there must be something missing, here's how to make dal the right way!

Dal/ Lentil soup
Recipe source: My mother-in-law

  • 2 cups mung dal
  • 4 green chillies
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 whole medium tomatoes (if using a pressure cooker no need to cut) or 3 tbsp tomato paste.
  • 2 tsp salt ( 1 tsp for each cup of dhal)
  • 1/2 tsp chilly powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder 
  • 1/2 tsp oil
For tempering
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 curry leaves

  • Wash the dal quickly (without soaking) and drain the mung dal for about half an hour until the water has drained out completely. 
  • Put a pressure cooker/ heavy bottom pan or saucepan  on medium heat and add the dal, stirring occasionally to toast it. 
  • (This step while it may take up an extra 10-15v mins is important and adds greatly to the flavour so skip only if you are in a hurry. You can also toast your dal ahead and store in an air tight container to save time later)
  • Lower heat to low and continue to toast the dhal until it is crisp, crunchy and a light brown colour.
  • Final test- when chewed the toasted dal should make a "krr krr" sound, indicating that it is well toasted.
  • Make sure you don't over toast. Also make sure to stir occasionally so that the dhal at the bottom does not get burnt.
  • While the dal is toasting, chop the onions finely and slit green chillies lengthwise.
  • Add the onions, green chillies, salt, chilly powder and turmeric and 1/2 tsp oil and mix well, until the masalas are well mixed with the dal.
  • Add 6-7 cups of boiling water, and the tomato paste/ tomatoes (If using a pressure cooker, no need to chop as they will explode and break into tiny pieces while the dal cooks )
  • Cover and cook until the dal is soft. ( if using a pressure cooker, just until the steam begins to build- just about 5 mins. Do not wait for a whistle else it will be overcooked and pasty)
Prepare the tempering:
  • Take a small saucepan and heat 1 tsp oil.
  • Add the mustard seeds and wait until they sputter. Turn off the heat and add the cumin seeds, curry leaves, and red chillies. 
  • Add the tempering to the cooked dal and mix well.
  • Let it simmer for about 5 mins.
This delicious bowl of simple fragrant dal is going over to Legume love affair.


    1. Thank you so much and thanks to your mother-in-law for the soup recipe.

    2. can't wait to try one ever said anything about toasting dal....that is new...gotta try it.

    3. I know what you mean anon, and you have to make sure that it becomes crisp and crunchy. Adds so much flavour. Have been making it the wrong way for years.

    4. So, so clever, Magpie. It's like what you would do with rice for a pulav.

      Thank you for your wonderful MLLA recipe (and that your MIL, too.) : }

    5. Thanks for sharing a nice information.
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