Spicy Toor Dal

My computer is like a labyrinth, an intricate and complex set of things where I keep losing documents. Only to recover them after weeks or in some cases, months. This recipe and photographs are an example! It was part of a ‘dal series’ I’d planned to post on the blog and it had been kept ready sometime in April – I found it a few days ago. That’s like a lost-and-found case of three months. There are a few more missing recipes and I’m hoping I’ll recover them in a similar manner and share them with you.

Today’s Spicy Toor Dal recipe is inspired by a Haryanvi dal recipe I’d read a long time ago. I am a sucker for dal! Give me a bowl of dal with rice and I am content. If the rice is thick and spicy, I’ll be your friend for life. Dal for me are a reminder that the world has not yet come to an end though it does feel like on most days.

Spicy Toor Dal | Copyright Image on From The Corner Table

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The base for this dal is the humble toor dal also called tuvar, arhar or split pigeon peas, a staple in most Indian kitchens. I’d recommend you stick to cooking this with ghee or unsalted butter because oil changes the flavour – I tried it both ways and trust me, the ghee-version was a different experience!
Also, like salt, the level of heat from chilli that each of us can handle is different. So do bear that in mind when you add the chilli powder. It should be spicy enough to make you smile, not burn your tongue and throat!
Some of you might scoff at the idea of adding sugar to dal but as a Bengali, I can vouch that sugar enhances the flavour of aromatics.

This is a relatively easy recipe and a good one to know for those who like quick fix meals. You can reduce the cooking time by soaking the dal overnight or for at least an hour. Cooking the dal in a pressure cooker also saves time. I’ve observed my mother making the most of a pressure cooker by plonking a bowl of dal in it along with any vegetable she may be boiling. This dal is then allowed to cool before being tucked into the refrigerator for later use.

Spicy Toor Dal | Spicy Split Pigeon Peas Dal
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
A dal recipe that is easy to make, goes well with rice & Indian breads
Course: Main Course, Vegetarian
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: arhar dal, easy, spicy, split pigeon peas, toor dal, tuvar dal
Servings: 4 people
  • 1 cup Toor (arhar, tuvar, split pigeon peas)
  • 2 ½ cups Water
  • 2 tbsp Ghee | Unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp Yoghurt
  • ¾ cup Onion (chopped)
  • ¾ cup Tomato (chopped)
  • 4 Garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 1 inch Ginger (grated)
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon Asafetida
  • 2 tsp Brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Chilli powder
  • 2 Green chillies
  • Salt
  1. Wash the dal and set aside. Heat water, add the dal and bring it to boil. Keep skimming the surface to remove the froth. Once all the froth is removed, add ½ teaspoon each of salt and turmeric. Cook till the dal is soft and has broken.

  2. In a kadhai or pan, melt the ghee. add the onion, ginger and garlic – cook till the onion is translucent.

  3. Add asafetida, mix well.
  4. Add the tomatoes, chilli powder and turmeric powder to the pan and cook till the oil begins to separate.
  5. Tip in the cooked lentils and cover immediately – this helps retain the aromatic smoke.
  6. Add salt to taste and cook for 8-10 minutes or till the dal has thickened.
  7. Whisk together the sugar and yoghurt. Add this mix to the dal. Mix well. Simmer for a minute.
  8. Remove from heat. Garnish with chopped green chillies (optional).
  9. Serve hot with rice or Indian bread.