Variety Dal (Split Red Lentils)

The most humble food that gets least attention on any Indian restaurant menu is the Yellow Dal. It’s more famous cousin the ‘Dal Makhni’ however receives its fair share of royal treatment on these menus and is also very popular in Melbourne.

However if you peek into most Indian homes, you will find that ‘Yellow Dal’ comprising of Moong Dal (Split Green Gram), Masoor Dal (Split Red Lentils) and Tur Dal/ Arhar Dal (Split Pigeon Peas) are the most regularly cooked meal. The methods of preparation may differ, however the love with which they are cooked remain the same. So I thought why not share one such healthy, easy and humble ‘Variety Dal’ Recipe !! 

Variety Dal
Variety Dal

So you might wonder what is this Variety Dal ?? Well the story goes like this…. growing up in a Konkani/ Maharashtrian household meant that we ate a lot of legumes, pulses and different dals made in a coconut base called ‘Aamtis’ (Aamtis will feature on the blog soon). So yellow dals would get made once in 2 weeks or so. So one fine day I made a stern request to Mum, which could not be refused. I stated ” Mum can we have some Variety today? Could you make yellow dal and that too differently please!” And then Mum rustled up her magic in the kitchen and made this Dal. And since then it was rechristened as ‘Variety Dal’
This is my spin on the same. 

Masoor dal (Split Red Lentils)
Masoor dal (Split Red Lentils)

So here is the list of ingredients you need below :
1 cup Masoor dal or Moong Dal or Tur Dal (or you can combine all three in equal quantities)
3-4 Green chilies- Slit vertically and then chopped into two pieces  (increase or decrease quantity as per your heat tolerance)
3/4th teaspoon mustard seeds
3/4th teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4th teaspoon hing/ asafoetida (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
7-8 Fresh Curry Leaves (available in Indian stores across Melbourne or local vegetable markets)
1 teaspoon sugar  (can increase or decrease according to preference)
1 tablespoon ghee
1 tablespoon Olive Oil (Can use any oil of your preference)
1 teaspoon Olive Oil (for pressure cooking Dal)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Coriander leaves and stem (stem has great flavour)
1-2 tablespoons of Lemon/ Lime Juice
1 -Finely chopped onion (can use white/ brown or red variety)
2- tomatoes chopped roughly
Salt to taste


Method of Preparation 

  • Wash the dal well under running water. Take a Pressure cooker add one cup dal and about 2.5 cups water, teaspoon of salt, teaspoon of olive oil and mix well. Now cover with lid and add weight (Seeti) and pressure cook until 4 whistles. Now switch off the flame and keep aside to let the steam work its magic within the cooker. 
Vertically Slit Green Chillies
Vertically Slit Green Chillies
  • Take a non stick kadhai (deep vessel) add ghee and rest of the olive oil and let it heat on medium-high flame.
  • Once heated add the turmeric powder, hing and mix well. add mustard seeds and once they crackle , add the cumin seeds, in about 30 secs they should be fragrant. 
  • Now its time to add the slit green chillies, mix them well and add the curry leaves. They should crackle within 10 secs. mix well and lower down the flame to low-medium.


  • Add the chopped onions and mix well. Let them cook till they turn soft and pink. (Do not brown them). Now add a tablespoon of lemon juice and mix again. 
  • Its time to add two chopped tomatoes to the kadhai and mix them well. Now add some salt and add half a cup of water mix well and cover with a lid. 
  • This is the trick to the flavour and texture of ‘Variety Dal’. 
Onions now translucent
Onions now translucent
  •  About 5-7 mins later open the lid to check on the tomatoes. By then they should be soft and pulpy yet hold shape. 
  • Add one tablespoon of chopped coriander at this stage and mix well. 
Adding the tomatoes to the Onion Mix
Adding the tomatoes to the Onion Mix
Cooked Tomatoes -pulpy and holding shape
Cooked Tomatoes -pulpy and holding shape
  •  By now you should be able to open the lid of the pressure cooker. The dal should be cooked till mushy.
  • Mix this with the tomato and onion mixture in the kadhai. Ensure you mix it well and no lumps are formed. If at this stage you think you need to add a bit more water you can do so. We do like our dal a little thicker in consistency. 
Mushy Dal
Mushy Dal
  • Now check for salt. Add if needed. Then add the sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon/ lime juice , rest of the chopped coriander leaves and stem and cover with lid. 
  • Let it simmer for 5-7 minutes. Variety Dal is now ready to be served with rice/ roti. 
  • My favourite way – is to eat it like a lentil soup just by it self.

Some Key Pointers while making Variety Dal :

  •  Dal should be cooked till mushy.
  • Onion tomato mixture covered in water and cooked with lid covered on a low flame is essential to keep the tomato pulpy and hold shape even when cooked.
  • Using coriander stems and leaves while cooking adds a powerful punch to the taste. Coriander adds so much flavour while cooking that it should not be relegated to just being a garnish.
  • Lemon juice, sugar, green chillies and tomato are used to create a perfect balance of sweet, sour and savoury.
  • Onion is optional and the dish will still taste just as delish without it. Follow the same method just omit the onion.
Variety Dal
Variety Dal

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed creating it for you. Let me know if you make this dish at home and how you liked it. I would love to hear from you. Do leave comments below. If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask.

Have a great week ahead and full of Variety !! 

Variety Dal
Variety Dal

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