Tarka Dal Recipe

Tarka Dal Recipe

A speedy and easy vegetarian meal which can be a starter dish or main meal,

When ordered in a restaurant it often comes as a starter, it can be eaten on its own or enjoyed with a chapati. The standard dish is mild and has a slightly burnt garlic taste. However, chilli can be added to beef up this dish if preferred.

Tarka refers to spices and dal is Indian for lentils.

This dish is cooked in 2 parts and combined at the end. you can garnish with some chopped coriander when serving, often a dried red chilli is placed on the top for added colour.



Serves 4 starters or 1 large main meal.


1 Cup of red lentils
1 ½ Cups of water
Chopped Fresh coriander (about 2 tbs)



2 tbs of Ghee
2 tsp of cumin seeds
½ medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped




Rinse the lentils in cold water, place in a bowl and cover with water and allow to soak for a few hours or overnight. If you don't have time to soak the lentils it is fine to cook straight away but will take longer to go completely soft. 

Add the lentils to a pan and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Depending on how long you soaked the lentils will affect the cooking time drastically. The desired result is for the lentils to be soft with no bite to them, Add more water if it reduces too much but the liquid to this dish will become thicker as the lentils cook. 5 minutes before the end of cooking add the chopped coriander and mix well. 

Add to a serving bowl and then pour the hot Tarka over the top. You can add a little chopped coriander for garnish and serve.  


While the Dal is cooking add the ghee to a frying pan and add the cumin and onions, and fry until the onions are soft and golden brown. Now add the garlic and stir to allow the flavours to get well into the ghee. Set to one side while you finish off the Dal. You do however want the Tarka to be hot when pouring over the Dal so you may have to reheat if prepared too early. 


Dal can be added to other main meals and act at adding more body to a curry, It also adds its own unique flavour to the sauce.

Many different types of lentils can be used with each adding a slightly different taste. 

A pinch of gram masala can be added to the final dish to add that little extra flavour.