Dal Tadka (Red Lentils with Spiced Oil)


  • Prep Time10 mins
  • Total Time50 mins
  • Makes4 servings
Dal Tadka (Red Lentils with Spiced Oil)

Produced by Chantal Braganza and Stephanie Han Kim; photography by Christie Vuong; food styling by Haley Polinsky; prop styling by Cailen Speers.

Tempering dried spices in hot oil to coax out their flavours is known as tadka as well as a few other names across India. It’s the expert-level step to layering flavour in many types of dishes, including this simple lentil soup.—Chantal Braganza

  • 2 tbsp ghee

  • 2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 1 jalapeno, de-seeded and finely chopped

  • 1 1⁄2 tsp turmeric

  • 1 1⁄2 tsp garam masala

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 1⁄2 cups red lentils, washed and drained

  • 1/2 cup 35% cream (optional)

Tadka (Spiced Oil)

  • 1/4 cup melted ghee

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds

  • 5 to 10 fresh curry leaves

  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder

  • 1 red chili pepper, split in half lengthwise


  • Melt ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high. Add tomatoes, onion and jalapeno. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and golden, 7 to 8 min. Stir in turmeric, garam masala, cumin, ginger and salt. Cook until spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 min. Stir in lentils and 5 cups water.

  • Increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, until lentils are very tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 min. Whisk lentils to break them apart into a creamy stew. Stir in cream, if desired (or add water in 1⁄4 cup increments to thin out lentils to a soup consistency if they have become dry). Turn off heat.

  • Tadka: Heat a small frying pan (or egg pan, if you have one) over medium-high. Add melted ghee, cumin and fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, chili powder and chili pepper. Cook until spices begin to sputter. Reduce heat as needed so they don’t burn, and continue cooking until very fragrant, 2 to 3 min. Remove from heat and pour mixture over lentils. Ladle into bowls and serve with basmati rice or naan.

Kitchen tip

Dal will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It may need a splash of water upon reheating to thin out the texture.

Kitchen tip

Ghee can be substituted with vegetable oil; do not use butter.

Kitchen tip

The tadka (spiced oil) for this soup is customizable. Switch up the spices!

Get more vegetarian soup recipes