Smoked Red Lentil Curry | Dhal Tadka (North Indian • Vegan • Gluten Free)

Dhal Tadka

Creamy Smoky Flavorful Lentil Curry. Try one spoonful and I bet you can’t just stop with one. Easiest of all the Indian lentil curries I know.

Lentils are a staple in every Indian House. A classic Indian comfort food, no matter which part of India you are from. Lentils mashed with vegetables make a great first-food for babies.  Dhal tadka is a simple authentic Punjabi dish that is popular all over India.  (Dhal means Lentils, tadka means Seasoning). Are you new to curries? Then, this is one of the easiest Indian curries you can make. Mainly because it is hard to mess it up 😉


  • Ayurveda lists twelve dhals (lentils) under the class shamidhanya (Pulses and Beans), and Red Lentil (Masoor dhal) is one of them. However it is a food forbidden in a fast or as a divine offering.
  • Hot ghee has an amazing ability to extract and retain the essence, aroma and flavor of spices and herbs and then carry this essence with it when it is added to a dish. Phytonutrients present in turmeric, curry leaves, cumin, etc have medicinal values that is unlocked by the ghee.

Dhal Tadka

Cuisine: North Indian
Essential Spices: Cumin Seeds
Serves: 2 Adults + 2 Kids

Ingrdients Quantity
Lentil (I use Red Lentil) 1 cup Optional: Soaked overnight in 2 cups of water
Turmeric Powder 1 tsp
Garlic cloves (Peeled) 4
Ghee 1 tbsp Or use any oil
Onion (Diced)  1 cup
Green Chilly/Jalapeno (Optional)  1-2
 Ginger (Grated)  1 tsp
 Tomato (Diced)  1 cup
 Garam Masala (Optional)  1/2 tsp
 Coriander Leaves (Chopped)  1/4 cup
Salt 1 tsp
 Ghee  3 tbsp  Or use any oil
 Mustard Seeds  1 tsp
 Cumin Seeds  1 tsp
 Dried Red Chillies (Optional)  2-3
 Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Optional)  1 tsp
 Garlic Cloves (Minced)  5-6
 SMOKING (Optional)
 Charcoal  1
 Ghee  1/2 tsp  Or use any oil


  1. Cook the Lentils in one of the following ways:
    • Stovetop
      • Add Lentils, 2 1/2 cups of water, turmeric powder and garlic cloves to the saucepan. Loosely cover the pan and cook for around 15-30 minutes on medium heat till the lentils can be easily mashed between two spoons or fingers.
    • Slow Cooker
      • Add Lentils, 2 1/2 cups of water, turmeric powder and garlic cloves to the slow cooker and cook on low for around 2 1/2 – 3 hours till the lentils can be easily mashed between two fingers.
    • Pressure Cooker (Indian style cooker)
      • Add Lentils, 2 cups of water, turmeric powder and garlic cloves to the pressure cooker and cook on medium for 3 whistles. Do not open the pressure cooker till the air pressure has released and the weight is easily removable.
    • My little secret -I always cook carrot/squash/zucchini/cabbage/parsnips with the lentils and my kids never find out 😉
  2. Heat a saucepan on medium heat.
  3. When the pan is hot, add oil, onions and green chillies/jalapeno.
  4. When onions turn translucent, add ginger and sauté it for a minute till the raw smell of ginger disappears.
  5. Add tomatoes and cook till they become mushy.
  6. Add garam masala, coriander leaves, cooked lentils and salt. Switch off the flame.


  1. Heat a small saucepan on med-low heat and add oil.
  2. When oil is hot, add 1 tsp mustard seeds and hear them splutter.
  3. Add cumin seeds, dried red chillies, dried fenugreek leaves and garlic.
  4. When the garlic turns brown (be careful not to burn it), add this seasoned oil to the curry.

Smoking (Optional)

  1. Heat a piece of charcoal on stove top.
  2. Place a small cup or vessel in the middle of the pan and carefully place the charcoal in it.
  3. Pour ghee/oil on top of the charcoal and immediately cover the pan for 10 minutes. Let the smoke enhance the dhal’s flavor.

Enjoy your smoked dhal with pulav, rice, quinoa or roti.


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