Daal Tarka

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North Indian daal is similar in texture to a bean chili: very chunky, lots of beans, very little water, lots of fat. South Indian daal, on the other hand, is more like a thin soup, with lots of water. Because of this, South Indian daal is frequently served with the cheapest long grain rice that's been cooked a little on the mushy side, while North Indian daal is served with roti (bread), or basmati rice.

BASIC Daal Tarka[edit]


  • 2 cups of beans of your choice (or split peas), cooked RESERVE THE COOKING LIQUID
  • 3 TB oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  • Sliced garlic
  • Chopped ginger
  • Chopped tomato
  • Leafy Greens or vegetables
  • Chopped Basil
  • Chopped Coriander (cilantro)
  • Chopped Mint


  • In a pot, cook your beans. In a separate smaller pot, add the oil, and let it get hot over high heat. When the oil shimmers, sprinkle in the mustard seeds, and slam on the lid or a splatter guard. The mustard seeds should pop like mad. When the popping subsides, lift the pot off the heat, and add the cumin seed and coriander seed. Replace the pot on the heat. When those seeds pop, add the onion and turmeric powder. Stir well until the onions are yellow. Cook over high heat until the onions are softened, and dump into the pot of cooked beans, with as much of the cooking liquid as you like.
  • Taste for seasoning, and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.
  • To this basic recipe, you could keep going. Add sliced garlic if you have it. Then, when the garlic and onion are cooked through, add chopped ginger if you have it. Then, when the ginger is cooked through (takes about 45 seconds), add some chopped tomato (if using tinned, make sure it has NO calcium chloride in) if you have it. Then, when the tomato has cooked down into a gravy, add some chopped dark leafy greens if you have them. I like kale, but I've seen everything from okra to collard greens to radish greens to chopped daikon to cabbage to peas. The sky's the limit on this one. Then, once you've added the cooked beans, add some chopped basil, coriander, or mint, and stir it through.

And that's just the South Indian kind.

North Indian Daal Tarka[edit]


  • 2 cups beans, cooked
  • 1/4 cup of oil
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 TB grated ginger
  • 3 - 7 fresh chiles, chopped
  • Salt to taste

For Variations:

  • whole cardamom pods
  • whole cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • whole cloves
  • sliced garlic
  • fresh chopped coriander (cilantro)
  • lime juice.


  • In a pot, add the oil, and heat over medium high heat until it's hot. Add the fennel seed, cumin seed, and coriander seeds, and allow them to pop. Add the onions, and cook until the onions are just softened. Add turmeric, and stir well. Add tomatoes, ginger, and fresh chiles, and stir well. Cook until the tomatoes are broken down to a gravy. Add the cooked beans, without any of their cooking liquid. Add salt to taste, and serve over rice.
  • For this one, the variations are endless too. When the seeds are popped, add cardamom pods (3), cinnamon sticks (2), bay leaf (2), and cloves (5). Swirl well until the house smells amazing. Then, add the onion. Then, when the onions are cooked, add 6 cloves of sliced garlic, and cook too. Continue as normal. When the beans are added, garnish with lots of fresh chopped coriander, and a few splashes of lime juice.
  • Daal, when cooked, will keep for up to a week.