Mamta's Kitchen

Tarka Arhar Dal 1

Arhar Dal Tarka 1

Reeta Kumar

There are many different lentils eaten in India. This particular one is perhaps the most commonly eaten one. Different dals take slightly different time to cook. If you eat lentils regularly, I would recommend buying a pressure cooker. It makes cooking much easier and quicker. Water required and cooking time given here is average. Please note that there are many variants in cooking dals. For example, quality of the lentils, softness of water, whether the dal was soaked beforehand (soaked dals take a little less time to cook), intensity of heat and the efficiency of your pressure cooker. It will get easier for you to guess, as you cook more dals. Try to err towards less time, rather than more. If undercooked, you can cook a dal some more, but you can do very little with an overcooked dal. Sambhar. Serves 4


  • 200 gm. or 1 cup arhar dal/tuvar dal (split pigeon peas

  • 3 cups water. (use more if not using pressure cooker)

  • Salt to taste (1-1 1/2 tsp.)

  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

  • For basic tarka: (For other types of tarka, see notes below)

  • 2-3 tbs. ghee or sunflower or olive oil. Ghee tastes better but oil is healthier.

  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds

  • A large pinch of asafoetida or hing powder

  • 2-3 whole red chillies broken up

  • 1/2 tsp. chilli powder


  1. Wash the dal well and soak in water for 30 minutes.

  2. Drain the water off before cooking.

  3. Cooking in Pressure cooker:

  4. Place the dal, water, salt and turmeric in the pressure cooker and bring to boil, until you hear hissing sound. Turn heat down to medium and cook under pressure for 4-5 minutes.

  5. Allow the pressure cooker to cool before opening.

  6. Open the lid and check if the dal is cooked and there is enough water. If too thick, add a little boiling water until it reaches the consistency you desire.

  7. Cooking without a pressure cooker

  8. Place the dal, 5-6 cups water, salt and turmeric in a pan and bring to boil. Now simmer briskly until tender. If the dal begins to look too thick and dry, you may need to add more water during the cooking process. When ready, it should be soft but not mashed.

  9. Cooking in a slow cooker; Place washed and drained dal and 2 cups water to 1 cup dal in a slow cooker. Add turmeric and salt. Switch on High for a couple of hours and the leave on automatic or medium option for another 4 or so hours. Slow cookers vary in performance, so keep an eye when you make it first time. If it begins to look thick, add a little water to get the right consistency for you. Temper as per your choice; with or without onions and tomatoes.

  10. Transfer to a serving bowl and temper as below:

  11. Basic tarka or tempering:

  12. Heat ghee or oil in a tarka ladle (this can be bought from an Indian store) or a small pan. Ghee tastes better but oil is fine too.

  13. Add cumin and asafoetida powder and let the seeds start to splutter.

  14. Add whole chillies and chillies powder, stir quickly with a small spoon, add to the cooked dal and cover with a lid immediately. This will infuse the flavours into the dal.

  15. Other variations of tarka or tempering:

  16. Use mustard seeds instead of cumin seeds. You can add 5-6 curry leave (meetha neem) along with the mustard seeds. Or

  17. After spluttering the cumin/mustard seeds, add a little grated ginger and/or garlic to the hot oil, fry until beginning to turn golden brown. Add chillies and chilli powder. Now add to the dal. Or

  18. After spluttering the cumin/mustard seeds, add one chopped onion, 1 tsp. each of grated ginger and garlic, and fry until browned. Add 1 tsp. curry powder or sambhar powder and 2 chopped tomatoes. Fry a little longer, until oil separates, and add to dal.

  19. Serve with Chapatties.

  20. Also see Dal Selection.


  • Overcooked or leftover dal can be added to roti or chapatti dough. This makes delicious rotis and parathas.

  • The amount of dal required per person depends on whether you are serving the dal with roti or with rice. Rice requires more dal.

  • You can add chopped coriander leaves to all dals as a garnish.

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