Lentils are an incredible way of eating a high fiber and protein diet! Masoor Dal is one of the easiest, most flavorful dump-and-go vegan lentil recipes that can be made stove top or in an Instant Pot. It pairs well with rice, naan, paratha, or by itself with vegetables.
Dals (lentils) are one of the most common proteins in several places in India. Just about everyday, my mom would have a new dal in front of us for lunch or dinner... ready in half an hour to an hour in a pressure cooker or stovetop depending on the type of lentil. But I always looked forward to lunchtime every Saturday when mom would make this dish for us.
This Sabut Masoor Dal (whole brown lentils) is one of my favorites for several reasons:
- Doesn't need a lot of ingredients or spices to be flavorful
- Ready in about an hour, and is super hands off recipe that is borderline a dump-and-go in one pot
- Vegan and gluten-free
- Goes well with rice, quinoa, breads, boiled/steam vegetables, or even by itself as a lentil soup
- It's so homey. I don't think you'll ever find it at a restaurant
- Great for meal prepping or a comforting meal at home with family
Now, this recipe uses whole masoor dal. This is a brown lentil that is not to be confused with peeled or "split" masoor dal, which is red. They are actually the same exact dal, but the brown skin is removed to reveal the red lentil. I tend to look for this dal according to price, at about a dollar or two per pound at grocery stores. Please keep in mind that every type of lentil is different in terms of flavor profile, cook time, and method of cooking. This recipe will not turn out the same for other lentils.
How to make Whole Masoor Dal
Masoor dal tends to be on the thicker side and gets creamier as it cooks, no dairy involved! You can be a bit fancier and roast spices in a tadka and add it at the end, but this tends to be a dump-and-go recipe besides frying the onions. It's even easier in an Instant Pot, but this masoor dal recipe can be made without a pressure cooker. You can also use ghee at the end for added richness.
Dal does not need a ton of spices to be flavorful. This is a common mistake with several recipes I see using lentils. If you're using even decent quality spices, you should never need more than ½ teaspoon of a single spice per one cup of lentils.
Stove Top Instructions
Soak the lentils for up to an hour. It'll be twice the size after soaked. Some of the lentils will be split open or the peel will have come off - which is completely fine. Sauté the onions and cumin seeds in oil until the onions begin to brown. Add in all the spices, and then the tomato and continue to cook until it softens. Rinse the dal and add it into the pot with 3 to 4 cups of water. Cover it with a lid and let it simmer for half an hour, stirring every now and then and checking the water level. The dal will not stick to the bottom unless there is absolutely no water left. Once the dal has softened, take it off heat and add in chopped cilantro.
Instant Pot Instructions
Soak the lentils for half an hour and rinse thoroughly. A pressure cooker can be ideal for cooking lentils because it retains heat and steam, making it quick to cook with less soak time. Sauté the onions and cumin seeds in oil until the onions begin to brown. Then dump everything else into the Instant Pot with about 2 cups of water (or accordingly to how soupy you would like it) and turn it on for 30 minutes using the Bean mode. Remove the lid and allow the steam to dissipate. Add in a handful of chopped cilantro and serve.
Mix ins to Masoor Dal
One of my favorite things about masoor dal is that it's so flavorful by itself, but it is an amazing vessel to mix in other things depending on what you currently have in your kitchen! Here are some things we've done growing up with this dal:
- Add in vegetables: you can add in boiled diced potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts... just about anything into masoor dal to make it more hearty and even more nutritious
- Achaar: I loveee mixed pickle achaar, but you can also add nebu achaar, garlic achaar, cilantro-mint chutney, etc to add another layer of flavor
- Dahi: if you're eating dal chawal (lentils over rice), I almost always mix in a couple of tablespoons of dahi (Indian yogurt) to make it super creamy
- Funky mix ins: I'm not kidding when I say you can use masoor dal as a vessel for a lot of things... my family has LOVED mixing in chunky salsa into it! I'm not sure how this happened, but we love it.
Meal Prepping Dal
While dal is cheap and easy to make for a family of four or more, it is also ideal to meal prep for the week.
This dal is high in protein and very fibrous. To add more protein, serve it with a side of dahi or plain Greek yogurt. It goes great with rice or frozen paratha/roti.
How to Serve Dal
There are so many ways to serve masoor dal! Besides all the mix ins, here are a few ideas to serve it:
- With just about any carb such as quinoa, rice, naan, roti, papadum
- Let it thicken all the way, blend it with vegetables. Form a patty and pan fry it for a burger.
- Make desi-inspired tacos with cilantro mint chutney, avocado, diced tomatoes, etc.
More Indian Dinner Recipes to try
- Paneer Masala Cheesesteaks
- Chutney Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Creamy Garam Masala Lemon Butter Chicken
- Chole (Chickpea Curry)
- Butter Masala Pasta
- Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Seekh Kebabs
Whole Masoor Dal
- In a pot on medium heat, sauté the onions and cumin seeds in oil until the onions begin to brown.
- Then, add in the rest of the spices, ginger garlic paste, and tomatoes until they soften.
- Once the tomatoes are cooked, pour in the dal with about 3 cups of water and stir everything together. Cover the pot with a lid and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every now and then and checking the water levels to see if it needs more liquid.
- The dal is done once it is creamy and soft. Take it off heat and add in a handful of chopped cilantro. Serve with rice or roti.
- See section "Instant Pot Instructions" for pressure cooker instructions