Masoor dal or quick and easy red lentil curry in less than 30 minutes. This lentils curry is super quick to make, delicious, hearty & also budget friendly. Vegan and gluten free.
Masoor dal or red lentil is the most commonly used lentil in Indian cooking. It is less expensive compared to other lentils, yields more and also has the highest protein content.
This delicious, healthy and flavorful red lentil curry is super easy to make in both stovetop & instant pot. Serve with rice, ghee and a vegetable dish for a hearty comforting meal. See serving suggestions for more ideas.
Lentils or dal is the most important source of protein in Indian cuisine, especially for vegetarians. There are so many varieties of lentils and umpteen recipes made with them.
Dal fry or dal tadka is the most basic lentil curry made in all Indian homes. Just like sambar in south India, dal recipe is the most commonly made one in north India.
If you are looking for easy weeknight dinners or quick lunch, lentil curries are your best bet. You can make it as simple or as elaborate you like. This simple red lentils curry recipe is done in just 30 minutes.
If you are a bit confused with the wide array of lentils used in Indian cuisine, I totally get you. Beginner cooks, even those are used to Indian food often gets confused with the type of lentils before they get well used to them. Here are some details about lentils & their uses before going into easy masoor dal recipe.
What Are Lentils?
Lentils or what they are known as dal in India are pulses or split legumes rich in protein and fiber. These are also known as edible seeds of legumes or mini sized legumes.
There are many varieties of lentils very widely used in Indian cooking. Outside India these lentils are often color coded 🙂 Few popular ones are
- Yellow lentils- toor dal or split pigeon peas
- Petite yellow lentils- Moong dal or split mung bean
- Green lentils- whole mung beans
- Red lentils or pink lentils- Dhuli Masoor dal (split)
- Brown lentils- whole masoor dal or sabut masoor dal
- Black lentils- whole urad dal
All these lentils are pantry staples in Indian cooking. Most of homes prepare one kind of red curry everyday to get their dose of protein.
Unlike legumes such as rajma, chole, lentils do not need pre soaking and they cook quicker. Out of all these lentils, red lentils & petite yellow lentils are the quickest cooking ones.
Cooked lentils are like a plain canvas that you can season in so many ways. They taste good with any masala base.
Cooked lentils are mostly served with rice but they also taste very good with roti too.
While lentils are mostly consumed for protein, individual ones have specific health benefits and nutrition profile.
What Is Masoor Dal
Masoor dal or red lentils are one of the popular lentils variety. These lentils have the highest protein content and it is the mostly commonly used in Indian cooking.
These are also known as pink lentils but when cooked the curry is yellow only as all the lentil curries 🙂 It is one of the quick cooking lentils and has a super creamy buttery texture once cooked. It takes just 10 minutes to cook in a pressure cooker or instant pot.
Whole Vs Split Masoor Dal
There are two varieties of masoor dal available.
- Whole lentils known as sabut masoor ki dal or brown lentils
- Split lentils known as dhuli masoor dal or pink or red lentils.
Split lentils are very easy to cook and used for quick recipes. Whole lentils or brown lentils take a bit more time to cooking and needs pre soaking. They also hold up their shape on cooking and can be used in stir fries, salads etc.
Nutritional Benefits Of Red Lentils
Red lentils or masoor dal is one of the healthiest lentils out there. Apart from having highest protein content these lentils are rich in magnesium, zinc, folate, potassium. These lentils
- helps in managing diabetes
- Strengthens gut health
- helps in improving skin health
- are rich in calcium, B vitamins
Where To Buy These Lentils
These lentils are very easily available in India in all grocery stores, open markets and super markets. In the United States & other countries you will find them in Indian stores, Asian stores & ethnic stores. You can also order them online.
Red lentils– You can use both split red lentils or whole lentils for this recipe. I usually use split lentils are they cook easily. If you however have only whole lentils, you can use them too but soak for 3-4 hours for quicker cooking.
Tomatoes, onions, ginger & green chili– While cooking lentils, I add these ingredients for taste & flavor. You can even saute them with tadka but this method is easier.
Spice powders– This masoor dal recipe needs just three spice powders. Red chili powder, turmeric powder and garam masala powder. You can skip garam masala if you want a very mild flavor in dal.
Tempering Ingredients- The final tempering or tadka is what improves the flavor and taste of this masoor dal red lentils recipe. Tadka or tempering is nothing but frying some spices and herbs in oil or ghee and adding it to the cooked lentils. Here I have used mustard oil to do the tempering. You can also use coconut oil or any vegetable oil. For richer version you can use ghee or clarified butter.
The ingredients used for tempering are cumin seeds, chopped garlic, red chili & curry leaves.
Other Ingredients– Lemon juice for some sour taste and chopped fresh cilantro leaves as garnish.
How To Make Masoor Dal Recipe
Measure 3/4 cup split red lentils or dhuli masoor dal and add to large bowl.
Rinse the dal few times.
Cube 1 large onion and 2 large tomatoes. Slit one green chili, finely chop 1 inch peeled ginger.
Add the rinsed lentils to a pressure cooker base. Also add tomatoes, chopped onions, slit green chilli and chopped ginger.
Add 2.5 cups water.
Add salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon red chili powder.
Mix well and close the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 3-4 whistles or 10 minutes in medium heat . Once the pressure is released check for the doneness of the dal. Well cooked soft dal can be mashed easily.
Gently mash the cooked masoor dal. If you like a very smooth buttery dal, you can mash it very well. We like a slightly coarse texture, so I mash it slightly. Simmer the dal again for 5-6 minutes,
Now taste the cooked dal and add more salt if required. Also add 1/2 or 3/4 cup water to get the desired consistency. While the masoor dal is simmering, we will make the tadka.
Tempering Masoor Dal
Heat oil in a small pan. Add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, chopped garlic and fry for few seconds.
Now add 8-10 curry leaves, 3 dried red chilies and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala.
Fry for a minute.
Add this tadka along with oil to the simmering dal. Mix well.
Finally add cilantro leaves and mix well. Remove from flame. Add lemon juice and mix well. Serve masoor dal warm with rice or roti.
Instant Pot Method
Prepare the lentils & vegetables as mentioned above.
Place the steel insert or inner vessel inside the instant pot and switch it on. Press saute button and once it displays hot, add 1 tablespoon oil.
Add cumin seeds, chopped ginger and garlic, curry leaves, dried red chilies and slit green chillies. Saute well until the spices turn aromatic.
Add chopped onions and saute until they turn a bit soft. Add tomatoes and saute well. Next add the rinsed lentils and mix. Add 2.25 cups water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil.
Cancel saute, close the instant pot and pressure pressure cooking or manual mode. Set timer for 10 minutes to cook lentils. Set pressure valve to seal.
Once the instant pot beeps, let pressure settle down on it own for 5 minutes and then release the remaining pressure gently.
Press saute again and add 3/4 cup to 1 cup water as required for desired consistency.
Add cilantro leaves and mix well, switch off the IP. Add lemon juice, mix well and serve hot.
Masoor dal being one of the quick cooking lentils, they cooker faster in a pot on stovetop too. Here are the instructions for making absolutely delicious red lentils curry on stove top.
Bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil in a heavy pan or large pot with lid. Add rinsed lentils, chopped onions, tomatoes, ginger and green chillies.
Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the lentils are well cooked, mash and add water as required. Continue to simmer.
Prepare tadka as mentioned above and add to the cooked lentils.
Mix well, add cilantro leaves and remove from flame. Add lemon juice or lime juice and mix well.
This creamy masoor dal or red lentil curry tastes best with hot steamed basmati rice or brown rice. You can serve along with a vegetable fry like aloo gobi, okra fry, potato fry, a salad like kachumber and a veg raita or cucumber raita.
This dal also tastes good with jeera rice, peas pulao, biryani rice, ghee rice. If you make it a bit thick you can serve with phulka, paratha, naan.
You can store this dal in refrigerator for 2 days. Store in airtight container and reheat gently.
This dal also freezes well. If you want to freeze the dal, cook the lentils alone and freeze. Make the tempering only when required. Add chopped onions and tomatoes in in the tadka and saute well.
With Coconut milk – To make a super rich creamy dal you can add a splash of coconut milk before doing the tadka. Cook the dal as mentioned in the recipe. After mashing and adding water, add 1/2 cup thick coconut milk and gently simmer for 3-4 minutes. Do not boil after adding coconut milk.
Dhaba style sabut masoor dal– For this variations, use whole brown lentils that has been soaked for 3-4 hours. Follow this recipe of dhaba dal and just use the sabut masoor dal instead of other lentils in that recipe.
With vegetables– To make this dish super wholesome and colorful I some times add 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1/2 cup chopped bell peppers or green peas etc. Add the vegetables along with lentils and mash slightly once cooked.
With greens– You can add 2 cups cleaned and chopped spinach or amaranth or even kale along with lentils.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes it is a protein rich lentil with numerous other nutrition as well.
Yes red lentils are known as masoor dal in India and whole brown lentils are known as sabut masoor dal.
Yes, this recipe is vegan as I have not used ghee for tempering.
Yes, add 1 teaspoon along with cumin seeds in tempering.
You can just skip them or add chili pepper.
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Masoor Dal Recipe- Easy Red Lentils Curry
1 CUP = 250 ml
For cooking masoor dal
- 3/4 cup red lentils dhuli masoor dal
- 1 onion large, cubed
- 2 tomatoes large, cubed
- 1 green chili slit
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- salt to taste
To Temper Dal
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 12 curry leaves
- 2 garlic cloves chopped or whole
- 3 dried red chilies
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
- Add the rinsed lentils to a pressure cooker base. Also add tomatoes, chopped onions, slit green chilli and chopped ginger.
- Add 2.5 cups water.
- Add salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon red chili powder.Mix well and close the pressure cooker.Pressure cook for 3-4 whistles or 10 minutes in medium heat
- Once the pressure is released check for the doneness of the dal. Well cooked soft dal can be mashed easily.
- Gently mash the cooked masoor dal. If you like a very smooth buttery dal, you can mash it very well. We like a slightly coarse texture, so I mash it slightly. Simmer the dal again for 5-6 minutes,
- Now taste the cooked dal and add more salt if required. Also add 1/2 or 3/4 cup water to get the desired consistency. While the masoor dal is simmering, we will make the tadka.
Tempering Masoor Dal
- Heat oil in a small pan. Add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, chopped garlic and fry for few seconds.
- Now add 8-10 curry leaves, 3 dried red chilies and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala.
- Fry for a minute.
- Add this tadka along with oil to the simmering dal. Mix well.
- Finally add cilantro leaves and mix well. Remove from flame. Add lemon juice and mix well. Serve masoor dal warm with rice or roti.