Curried Urad Dal

As my first three posts dealt with sweet recipes, I thought I’d switch to savory.  While I’m most passionate about sweets, you can’t eat them all the time.  I’ve tried.  It’s not good, and almost always results in a stomach ache!  No wonder all those peasants were pissed off when Marie-Antoinette said “Let them eat cake!”  (Yes, I know she probably never actually said that…)  When dinner time rolls around it’s nice to have something savory.

That said, today’s recipe is for…

Curried Urad Dal

PhotobucketCurried urad dal, white basmati rice, and naan.


So I have this bag of urad dal in my cupboard I bought mainly to practice making dosas (a savory Indian crepe) and idlis (a small savory cake).  To make the aforementioned foods, you soak the dals (lentils) and grind them into a paste.  After making a few batches of dosas (I haven’t tried making idlis yet) I wondered what sort of recipes were out there that just used the urad dal as it is.

A quick search on Google lead me to various urad dal curries.  I chose this recipe for Punjabi Sukha Urad Dal mostly because I already had the ingredients in my kitchen.  I made this recipe once before making it for the purpose of this blog, and my mom complained it was too spicy (I like my food really spicy), which was probably as a result of my decision to use jalapeños instead of green chilies…

I told her to put some yogurt on it and called it a day.

But this time around I was more mindful about how spicy my curry was and I did use green chilies.  Also, the original recipe just doesn’t have enough spices in my opinion.  And after reading other recipes, I see that different spices are included in different recipes.  So upon making this again, I came up with my own spice additions to the recipe (I taste as I cook, using a clean spoon each time!).  I urge you to do the same, if you make this!  Think of this recipe as just a general guide-post, though you can follow it exactly if you want.


Curried Urad Dal

Stuff You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups urad dal
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 8 green chilies, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons, garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 5 tablespoons yogurt

1. Put lentils (urad dal) into a large container.  Cover with water and soak overnight.


(Left to right: my supply of urad dal, and the urad dal taking a bath)

I soaked mine overnight, and when I saw the next day that they had soaked up pretty much all of the water, I added a bit more water and let it sit throughout the afternoon until I was about to use them.  You don’t have to do this, I just like to ensure that the lentils will be nice and soft.

Once they have finished soaking, drain the water from them and give them another rinse for good measure.

2. Now is a good time to go ahead and prep all your produce, so when you need it later it is 100% ready.

If you wait until you need it, it will be a huge hassle!  And I always find it always takes me longer than I think to mince garlic (I admit I’m not the fastest with a knife).  And you NEVER want to rush yourself when handling a knife!

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Pictured on top (left to right): onions, garlic cloves, and ginger root…2 lovely tomatoes

Pictured on bottom: onions, chilies, garlic, ginger, dal, and tomatoes

3. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. 

Cook onions, chilies, garlic, and ginger for 5 to 10 minutes (however long it takes for the onions/garlic to brown).

The onions and etc are chillin in the pan.  Check out my French manicure! 

Learning how to do my own Frenchie nails was a New Year’s Resolution of mine…


Here I hope you can sort of see that some of the onions and garlic have begun to brown. 

3. Stir in lentils, adding 1 cup of water.  Add salt.  Reduce heat to low.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Ok, so when it says ‘add salt’–remember it is to taste!  And also remember that food that is too salty can be inedible!  You should add as little salt as possible and add additional amounts in small quantities, tasting frequently to make sure more salt is necessary.

I usually add a small amount at this stage, then closer to when the curry is done, after the other spices have had a chance to add their flavors, I add more salt as needed.


Another note: while the lentils are simmering for 30 minutes, take advantage of this downtime to either clean up whatever mess has accumulated while you’ve been cooking, or even better, make some rice to go with the curry!  I did both!

4. Stir in tomato, garam masala, turmeric, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and cumin.  Cook 10 minutes and low to medium heat.

For those of you unfamiliar, garam masala is just a spice blend, the composition of which can vary.  I bought some at an Indian grocery a while ago, and have since collected a few recipes to make my own, though I will wait until I have used up what I currently have.

As you can see in the picture below, I have a fair amount at the moment.  Oh, by the way, that is my own jar and handwriting, I did not buy it that way!


Below is the curry, as I am stirring in the spices.  Notice the lovely yellowish hue that the dals take on!  That is from the turmeric.


5. Add yogurt 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to incorporate the yogurt into the curry each time.

I like to add the yogurt as it gives the curry a very nice creamy texture and it is healthier than using cream.  Also, it can help bring down the intensity of the heat of the spice (like the first time I made this and used a ton of jalapeños, the yogurt really helped cool it down).

You can use any type of plain yogurt really.  Homemade yogurt would be awesome, and I can’t wait to know how to make my own yogurt!  But alas!  I didn’t have any or the skill to make it, so I got some Greek style yogurt (thicker, richer, then other types of yogurt and it has more protein).

And I would advise on getting yogurt with some fat in it, I got some made with 2% milk.  It has a creamier disposition, tastes better, and on a nutritional level, the presence of fat in the yogurt boosts calcium absorption when consumed.

Oh and I add the yogurt in stages to make sure it does not curdle, which would be unappealing.

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6. Serve!

Yay!  You are done!  You can now serve your curried urad dal to your friends or family or just yourself and your dog–whatever!  But seriously, it’s nice to have something to eat alongside the lentils, which is why I made some plain basmati rice (just flavored with a little ghee a.k.a. clarified butter) and naan (store-bought, hey I can’t always be Maratha Stewart).

Note: put your pre-packaged naan on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with water, and pop in a 350 degree oven for about 3 minutes.  Take out, brush with ghee or butter.  It’ll taste like you just made it yourself!



This curried urad dal makes a great, healthy dinner.  Also important, it is economical and filling. It really is not difficult to make, as I hope you will agree after reading this post!

You can really spice it anyway you like, though I wouldn’t skip out on the turmeric, as I feel it kind of gives life to this curry.  Fresh cilantro also makes an awesome garnish.  I used it the previous time I made this, and would’ve again, but I didn’t feel like driving to the store last-minute to pick it up.

And I actually prefer it re-heated the next day, then I do fresh off the stove.  I think it really developes more flavor after it gets the chance to sit a while.

So until my next entry (which will probably be a post Superbowl entry about Superbowl snacks),

The Hopeful Hestia


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