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Masoor Dal Tadka


Tadka (or “tarka”) is the Hindi word for tempering. In this technique the spices are fried in ghee (clarified butter) or oil, thereby releasing the spices’ essential oils & enhancing the flavor, aroma and taste remarkably when added to the finished dish. Tadka should be added right before serving time. 

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 4Servings


  • 1 cup masoor dal (split red lentils)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 ½ cups water, or more as needed
  • 1 ½ tablespoons oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 green chili, seeded and chopped (or more if you like it HOT!)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed or minced garlic
  • ¼-½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1 small tomato, chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves, crushed (or 1 tablespoon fresh fenugreek leaves, chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves


  • 1-2 tablespoon butter, ghee, or oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • 10 curry leaves (available at Indian groceries)


1. Pick over the lentils, removing any foreign matter. Rinse with cool water until the water runs clear. 

2. Place lentils in a large saucepan with water. Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt. 

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower to a simmer. Cook uncovered until lentils are soft and halfway dissolved; mixture should have an almost creamy texture, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat. (Can also be made in a pressure cooker – 2 cups of water: 1 cup lentils.)

4. In a separate large, deep skillet, heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add chopped shallots, green chilies, ginger, garlic and kosher salt to taste. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add remaining turmeric powder, chili powder and garam masala; sauté for another minute until spices are blended and start becoming aromatic.

6. If using optional tomatoes, add and sauté another 2-3 minutes.

7. Add the cooked lentils to the mixture, stirring to blend. Continue to cook for another few minutes, adjusting consistency if necessary (add water to thin or cook a few extra minutes to thicken).

8. Once the desired consistency is reached, add crushed fenugreek leaves (or fresh) and chopped coriander leaves and stir to blend. Remove from heat.

9. Season to taste with more salt, if needed. Cover and set aside.

10. Prepare the tempering/tadka.


1. Heat butter or oil in a small frying pan.

2. When butter is bubbling, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and chili pepper.

3. Cook until the mustard seeds sputter and cumin seeds are browned, about 1-2 minutes (be careful not to burn!).

4. Add curry leaves, cooking for another 1-2 minutes until wilted and softened.

5. Remove from heat; pour the entire tempering along with the oil/butter onto the surface of the dal.

6. Tadka can be mixed in or served as a topping for the dal tadka.

Serve over steamed basmati or jasmine rice.

Note: For faster cooking time, lentils can be soaked for 30 to 40 minutes before cooking them. 

Recipe published in JOY of KOSHER with Jamie Geller Magazine Shavuot 2014 SUBSCRIBE NOW