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Kaali Daal

5 from 2 votes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Servings 4



  • 1 cup black lentils rinsed (they are sometimes called green lentils in American stores)
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 medium-sized onion thinly sliced in half rings
  • ½ tsp black pepper or to taste
  • 2 tsp red chili powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder


  • 1/4 medium-sized onion thinly sliced in half rings
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds


  • Add the lentils to a medium-sized sauce pan, add 5 cups water and bring to a boil.
  • Once the water has come to a boil, add ½ of the onion, turmeric, red chili powder, salt and pepper.
  • Give the daal a quick stir, cover it with a lid and let it cook undisturbed for 35-40 minutes.
  • About 20 minutes in, start getting the tadka (tempering) ready. Heat oil in a frying pan. Once it begins to shimmer, add the remaining chopped onion. Fry on high heat till it starts to brown. Add the garlic and fry till it slightly changes color. Add cumin seeds and stir till they become fragrant (while keeping an eye on the onions and garlic, making sure they don’t burn). Add chilies and fry for a few seconds. Remove from heat.
  • Once the tadka is ready, check your daal to see if it's done. If the lentils are soft, remove from stove and place daal in serving dish. Pour the tadka (including the oil) over it.
  • Serve with rice and achaar (pickles).


The tadka is probably the most difficult part of this dish. Since each pan is different, you will have to adjust the heat and timing to ensure that the onions, garlic and spices don't burn. They should be a nice medium brown. The sequencing is also important. The onions take longest to brown so add them first, and then add the rest of the ingredients in fairly quick succession.