My family spent some time in India when I was a kid, and that was the first time I remember having whole urad dal (also known as black gram/black lentils). I’m not sure why I didn’t grow up eating it all the time (Mom, Dad, care to weigh in?) but I became enamored of it. You might have had this variety of dal before if you’ve ever ordered dal makhani, as it is traditionally used in that dish. As an adult, it’s a lentil I make sure to always have stored in my pantry.
I love dal/lentils. They are dirt cheap, high in protein, super versatile, a really good source of fiber (sometimes I pretend they are a vegetable to avoid cooking a second dish), and have a ton of really important vitamins and minerals in them. And all those health-benefits aside, I would eat them anyway, because they are delicious and so satisfying.
This recipe is just one way to enjoy urad dal. It is easy and fairly hands off to make, and super tasty. It’s refreshingly gingery and a little spicy (amount of chiles can be adjusted to your personal heat-tolerance, of course). Spiced with curry powder and garam masala it is not only accessible to those with a smaller spice pantry, but it is brimming with that mouth watering Indian curry flavor. Tomatoes provide sweetness and some mild acidity. Shredded coconut adds body to the final dish and some extra satiety (plus it’s good for you!). A healthy squeeze of lemon at the end brightens the flavors along with a handful or two of cilantro (at least for the cilantro lovers out there–that’s me!).
This dal can be enjoyed with basmati rice (brown or white!), as well as with Indian bread such as naan. You can throw some chopped spinach in the last 10 minutes of cooking for a fully complete meal. Or serve along side some curry roasted cauliflower (personal fave).
Let me know in the comments if you make this dish, rate it, and tag me on Instagram!
- If you don’t have access to an Indian grocery store (where urad dal is easily purchased) try substituting a more common lentil that also holds its shape when cooked, such as brown, beluga (black), or french (du puy). Depending on the variety of lentil you substitute, you may have to adjust your cooking time.
- Use less water for a thicker dal, you can always add more later if it gets too thick, but keep a closer eye on it if you do this.