Go Back
kaali daal-square

Kaali Daal (Black Lentils)

Kaali daal was a lunch staple at my home. This simple vegetarian main is elevated by a rich tadka that infuses it with great flavor.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani Cuisine
Servings 4



  • 1 cup black lentils rinsed (they are sometimes called green lentils in American stores)
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • ¼ medium-sized yellow onion thinly sliced in half rings
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
  • 2 teaspoon red chili powder (preferably Kashmiri red chili powder)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder


  • ¼ medium-sized yellow onion thinly sliced in half rings
  • ¼ cup oil canola/sunflower/vegetable
  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • ½ teaspoon 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, until soft.
  • 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 until it starts to brown. Add the garlic and fry until it slightly changes color. Add cumin seeds and stir until 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.
Keyword Vegan