Turn up the flavor with this vegan-friendly Dal Tadka! It's packed with flavorful spices, hearty lentils, and it couldn't be easier to make. This is Indian comfort food at its best.
What is Dal Tadka?
Dal Tadka, pronounced [dahl tad-ka], is a classic Indian comfort food dish. The name itself describes the dish very accurately. 'Dal' is the Hindi word for lentils, which are a staple ingredient in South Asian cooking. 'Tadka' means tempering – a cooking technique where spices are roasted in hot oil or ghee, releasing their essential oils and enhancing their flavor.
The lentils are typically cooked until tender and then mixed with a base of onions, tomatoes, and ginger, along with turmeric and salt. The Tadka, prepared separately, can include a range of spices like cumin, mustard seeds, garlic, and chili, depending on regional and personal preferences. The sizzling Tadka is then drizzled over the creamy dal, creating a dish that's comforting, nutritious, and packed with flavor.
Variations of the classic Dal Tadka can be found across the different regions of India, each with their own local touch!
Why You'll Love this Recipe
This recipe is my spin on the traditional dal tadka - simplified so it can easily be made by a home cook with easy-to-find ingredients and no special equipment. This dal tadka is:
- Just as creamy and delicious as your favorite restaurant style Dal Tadka!
- Doesn't require a pressure cooker - or any other special equipment.
- Easy enough to make for a weeknight meal.
- 100% Vegan and Vegetarian friendly!
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
I used yellow lentils (toor dal) for this recipe, but it works well with many types of lentils. Other good choices are moong dal (split yellow moong lentils), masoor dal (red lentils), chana dal (split chickpeas), and urad dal (split black gram). Some folk even use a mix of two or three different types of lentils.
Oil or Ghee?
I simply used olive oil for my tadka, because it's the simplest vegan substitution for the traditional ghee used in this dish. But there are several brands that make a vegan ghee, so feel free to give that a try if you prefer. This one from Livlo is the brand I see recommended most often!
This recipe uses a variety of traditional Indian spices, but the key here is a high quality garam masala. It's worth splurging on a high quality garam masala, like this one, for the best flavor.
Helpful Tips & Variations
Soak the lentils. If possible, rinse and soak your dry lentils for 30 minutes before cooking. It helps to reduce cook time and enhance texture.
Make it creamier. Lightly mashing some of the lentils after cooking helps achieve a rich, velvety consistency. For even more creaminess, you can use an immersion or regular blender to puree a portion of the cooked dal. I do not recommend pureeing all of it - the texture will be too mushy.
Storing leftovers. Store leftover dal tadka in a covered container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also freeze for up to two months. To serve again, let it defrost (if frozen) and reheat on the stovetop over medium heat.
Add more spice. This recipe is just mildly spicy to start with. For more heat, add additional chili powder or add a minced red chili pepper to the tadka mixture.
Add more plant based protein. Stir in diced firm tofu or tempeh cubes for extra protein.
With simple ingredients and flavors, this vegan dal tadka recipe is sure to become a new weeknight staple. Enjoy!
More Vegan Indian Recipes
If you love this Vegan Dal Tadka, be sure to check out these other delicious recipes:
Easy Vegan Dal Tadka
For the Dal:
- 1 cup yellow lentils toor dal, rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes
- 3 cups water for cooking
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped
- 1- inch piece of ginger grated
For the Tadka (Tempering):
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder or to taste
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Fresh cilantro chopped for garnish
Cook the Lentils:
- In a large pot, combine the soaked and drained yellow lentils, water, turmeric powder, and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are soft and fully cooked.
Mash the Dal:
- Once the lentils are cooked, use a back of a spoon or a potato masher to mash them slightly for a creamier texture. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water to reach your desired consistency.
Prepare the Tadka:
- In a separate small pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, until it turns golden.
- Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and let them pop.
- Add the garam masala, ground coriander, and red chili powder. Stir to coat the onions with spices. Then add the minced garlic and ginger, and cook for another minute, until fragrant.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. If the mixture begins to feel too dry, add a bit of additional oil.
Combine Dal and Tadka:
- Combine the tadka and the cooked lentils.
- Stir well. Add the fresh lemon juice now for a bit of tang.
Garnish and Serve:
- Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro. Serve with steamed rice or your favorite Indian bread like naan or roti.