Mamta's Kitchen

Urad Dal Whole Or Mah Ki Dal (Black Gram)

Maah ki Dal or Sabut Urad

Reeta Kumar

There are many different lentils eaten in India. Each takes slightly different time to cook. If you eat lentils regularly, I would recommend buying a pressure cooker. It makes cooking much quicker and easier. The water required and cooking times given here is average but do remember that there are many variants in cooking. For example, quality of the lentil, softness of water, whether the dal was soaked beforehand (soaked dals take a little less time to cook), the intensity of heat and the efficiency of your pressure cooker. It will get easier as you cook more dals. Remember that if undercooked, you can cook a dal some more but you can't change an overcooked dal. It does not taste bad if overcooked, only looks are not good!

This dal is also known as Kali Dal (black dal) and it is often made on special occasions and some festivals. Serves 4

Pictures here show it being cooked in a slow cooker and a Onion /tomato tarka or tempering


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

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

  • Salt to taste (1-1 1/2 tsp.)

  • 1/2tsp. turmeric powder

  • 1 tbsp. ginger, peeled and thinly chopped

  • 1 tbsp. fennel seeds or sonf (optional), but they are nice in this dal

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

  • 2-3 tbsp. 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

  • For Onion/Ginger/Tomato Tarka, as shown in pictures

  • I cup chopped onion

  • 1 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger

  • 1 tsp. grated/crushed garlic (optional)

  • 1 tomato, shopped finely


  1. Wash dal well and soak in water for a couple of hours.

  2. Drain this water off before cooking.

  3. Cooking in Pressure cooker, the most common method used in Indian homes)

  4. Place the dal, water, salt, turmeric, ginger and fennel seeds in the pressure cooker and cook under full pressure for 20-25 minutes.

  5. Allow pressure cooker to cool down before opening. Open the lid and check water. If too thick, add a little boiling water until it reaches the consistency you desire.

  6. Cooking without a pressure cooker

  7. Place the dal, 5-6 cups water, salt, turmeric, ginger and fennel seeds in a pan and bring to boil. Now simmer briskly until tender. You may need to add more water through the cooking process, if the dal begins to look too thick and dry. It may take up to 1 hour or longer to cook.

  8. Dals, when ready, should be soft but not mashed.

  9. Cooking in slow cooker, as shown in pictures

  10. Place dal, ginger, salt, turmeric, fennel seeds in the slow cooker pan

  11. Add 3 cups of hot water (more can be added later, if needed).

  12. Cook on auto for 6-8 hours or longer, until soft.

  13. Once cooked, transfer the dal to a serving bowl.

  14. Basic tarka or tempering:

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

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

  17. Add whole chillies and chillies powder, stir with a small spoon, pour over the cooked dal and cover with a lid. This will infuse the flavours into the dal and stop the dal from splashing out during tempering.

  18. Onion /tomato tarka or tempering:

  19. Heat ghee/oil in a pan.

  20. Add cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds splutter, add whole chillies, a full tsp. of grated ginger/garlic to the hot oil, fry until beginning to turn golden brown.

  21. Add chopped onions and fry until they begin to turn brown.

  22. Add chilli powder , give a quick stir, and pour over the dal, immediately closing the lid. This will allow the flavours to infuse.

  23. Adding Tomatoes You can add 2 chopped tomatoes to the fried onions and fry on high heat for a little longer, until tomatoes are just beginning to turn soft. Pour the mix over the dal and close the lid, to allow the flavours to infuse

  24. Serve with hot Chapatti and Boiled Rice.

  25. Also see Dal Selection.


  • Dal Makhani: When cream or butter is added, it is often referred to as 'Dal Makhani' or 'Butter Dal'. To make this, add 1/2 cup of double cream or beaten 'malai' or fresh butter to the dal just before serving and stir it in.

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

  • Healthy options:

  • Use only 1 tsp. of olive oil for tempering.

  • Do not add cream or butter.

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