Tarka dhal

From Cookipedia

Tarka dhal comes in many guises, but usually contains yellow split peas, chana dhal, and/or red lentils (masoor dhal), various spices, chilli and garlic. In UK Indian restaurants, it can be served thick or thin, but in India, a thin and soup-like consistency is the norm. The use of mustard seeds and curry leaves as ingredients comes from southern India. "Tadka" refers to the process of heating the spices in oil and pouring over the cooked lentils.

Tarka dhal
Servings:2 to 4 people
Calories per serving:747
Ready in:55 minutes
Prep. time:5 minutes
Cook time:50 minutes
Difficulty:Average difficulty
Recipe author:JuliaBalbilla
First published:13th November 2012

Best recipe review

Lovely lentils


This simple, but spicy dish goes with any curry and naan breads.

Paul R Smith


Printable 🖨 shopping 🛒 list & 👩‍🍳 method for this recipe


  1. Rinse the split peas and place in a saucepan covered with the water or stock.
  2. Bring to the boil, skim and lower the heat.
  3. Cover, and then simmer for 30-40 minutes until the peas are cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil and the ghee in a frying pan.
  5. Add the onion and fry until slightly browned.
  6. Add the garlic and chillies and fry until the garlic is golden.
  7. Tip into bowl and reserve.
  8. Add the mustard seeds to the same pan and when they have started to pop, stir in the turmeric, garam masala, coriander and curry leaves.
  9. Cook for a further minute then add the tomatoes.
  10. Season and simmer for 7 minutes.
  11. Add the spice mixture to the split peas, return to the heat and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.
  12. Add more stock if it becomes too thick.
  13. Serve in soup bowls and place some of the onion on the top

Serving suggestions

Serve with naan bread or chapattis.


If you want to make a thick tarka dhal, double the amount of split peas. Experiment with different spices. You can also substitute split peas for chana dhal for a different flavour.

Chef's notes

To reduce the need for skimming, use bottled water. I actually slow fry the onions for about 2 hours, adding the garlic and chillies towards the end. This allows the ingredients to caramelise nicely.

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