Red Lentil Dal with Caramelized Onions

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Dal is an Indian cuisine comfort-food standby made with lentils, dried beans or peas. Tarka is a technique in which spices are sauteed in fat to magnify their flavor. And as we learned from spice guru Monica Bhide, you’ll enjoy  even more vivid flavor if you grind whole spices. Depending on your choice of cooking fat and stock, you can make this a vegan, dairy-free or gluten-free. Prepare the tarka and raita while the lentils simmer. Serve this dal with brown basmati rice, roasted cauliflower and our Fennel and Mint Raita.


1 cup red lentils, rinsed and sorted
2 cups
chicken OR vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
1 small (1-inch) dried red chile pepper
2 tablespoons
DIY Ghee, canola oil or coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1 small onion, thinly vertically sliced
1 carrot, julienne cut (a
julienne peeler makes this an easy job)
4 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt, to taste
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 lime wedges

Combine lentils, stock and water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 18 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Crush lentils with the back of a large spoon (or use an immersion blender to puree lentils to desired texture).

While the lentils simmer, place dried chile in a spice or coffee grinder; process to grind (or use a mortar and pestle). Heat ghee in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add ground chile, cumin, turmeric, coriander and fennel. Cook 1 minute or until fragrant. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 10 minutes, or until very tender. Season with salt to taste. Stir onion mixture, peas and lime juice into cooked lentils. Adjust seasoning. Serve lentils with lime wedges.

Serves 4

 Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

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  • I have just recently gotten into cooking Indian food. This looks healthy and tasty! I will have to try it

  • Enjoy!

  • Definitely trying this very soon! I’ve been trying to learn more about cooking Indian food and love that I have all the spices in my cabinet 🙂 And it’s so true- grinding your own spices is SO much better!

  • Grinding your own spices does make a big difference! Hope you enjoy it!

  • Ian Swan

    One of the best dahls I’ve ever made! Served it over basmati rice.
    I didn’t have fennel seeds on hand, so I added some thinly sliced fennel bulb with the onions/carrot/garlic. Also, if you don’t grind your own spices don’t worry, all of my spices were pre-ground and it still tasted amazing!

    • liahuber

      So glad you enjoyed it! I love the idea of incorporating fresh fennel. I think I’ll try that next time …