Lentil Curry

A typical lentil curry is part of almost every meal in India.


There are a lot of vegetarians out there in India. The primary protein source for them is lentils and nuts, and there are lots of variety of lentils and all of them can be made into soup/curry. Lentil is included almost every meal and there are hundreds of variety of curry. Each differing in taste by changing either the spices or changing the ingredients or adding vegetables.

I can go as far as saying that the principal behind cooking the lentil curry is the same. The spices and some of the ingredients can be changed to change or rework the flavor.

This particular lentil curry here, I blend multiple lentils. The green one, the orange one and the yellow one. Each of them have a distinct taste and they work together. You could just make it with one type of lentil if you don’t have the variety at hand.


1/4 cup green whole lentil  (moong dal )

1/4 cup yellow split lentil (toor dal)

1/3 cup split red lentil ( masoor dal )

mustard seed  (Optional ) – 1/4 tsp or less

4 Garlic Cloves   – crushed and minced

Ginger  –  1/2 inch grated

1 large Onions – diced

Cilantro – 15-20 strings chopped

Coconut Milk – 4 tablespoons ( optional )

Spices – Tumeric, Chilli Powder, Jeera and Coriander Powder


Tomato – Either fresh sour tomatoes (not Roma ) or canned organic diced tomatoes and tomato paste ( optional )

Lentil preparation

The lentil takes long time to cook. If you have a pressure cooker, it would really speed up the process of cooking lentil. You can cook 2 batches at the same time and freeze half the portion for another round of lentil curry. The lentil holds wells in the freezer. I use the frozen lentils for days I am too busy to make any food from basics.

You will need to wash the lentils atleast 3 times, draining the water every time.

If you are using the pressure cooker, then it should get done in 2 pressure whistle. If you are doing it on a stove top, it would take around 30-40 minutes to cook the lentil. Add salt while cooking the lentils about 1 tablespoon.

Set aside the lentil when it is done.

Note: As a variation, you can add 1/4 cup chopped onions and 2 cloves of garlic while cooking the lentil. The broth and the lentil get flavored with onions and garlic. It is a distinct strong taste. But do try this variation


This is called “tadaka” in India and done for most cooked meal.

1. Add in 3 tbsp oil in a heavy bottom pan enough to hold the lentil.

2. When the oil heats, add in the mustard seed if you want to and wait for it to pop.

3. Next add in the diced onions and saute it until the edges start browning.

4.  Time to add in the spices. 1/8 of tumeric, 3 times 1/4 tsp of chilli powder, 5 times 1/4 of coriander power, 1/4 of jeera powder.

5. With a wooden spatula/spoon, mix the onions and spices, when you see oil color change and sometimes the smoke from the spices, it means the spices are cooked.

6. Add in the diced tomato and about 1/3 tbsp of tomato paste ( for color ). Add in some salt for the tomato. If you have already cooked the lentil with salt, then you can reduce the amount of salt to add, else this is the time to add in the salt.

7. The tomato and the spices should cook for about 2 minutes. Keep a watch on it, when the tomatoes are completely mushed and all their juices cooked out, it is time to add in the lentil.

8. Add in the lentil and let it simmer. If your lentils are warm, it should take about 4 minutes else longer ( depends on how cold the lentils are )

9. Turn off heat and add in the chopped cilantro. You could also add in 4 tablespoons of coconut milk if you have it. Coconut milk it not necessary. It will make it creamer. But if the curry is spicy, add in the Coconut milk to reduce the impact of the spice.

10. Done. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before serving


Water and Curry Consistency

If you add too much water when cooking lentil and want to retain the liquid. The cooked liquid actually tastes very good.  The curry will be more on the liquid side and it will work well with rice. Try and scoop up the lentil from the bottom of your serving dish.

Lentil do need enough water to cook or they would burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. You don’t want that to happen. For each portion of lentil about 4 times the water should work. Since for this recipe we are mixing different variety of  lentil, the water required for cooking each of the lentil is different.

The split red lentil is thin and requires less water, about 3 times the amount of lentil. The split yellow one is thick and hard and requires 4-5 times water of the lentil portion. The green lentil is quite hard and soaks in a lot of water requires atleast 6 times the lentil portion. The green lentil works best if you soak it overnight ( consider soaking it if you are going to make the curry exclusive of the green ones ).

If you are going to try lentil individually, the water requirement and the time to cook these lentils is something to be considered before you zone in on the dish and plan your meal.

Goes With ?

I have had the lentil curry just as itself. It goes well with toasted garlic bread or rosemary bread ( costco). It also goes well with rice ( white, brown, wild ). Tortilla or Chapati is also a good option.

Let me know if you have questions…


2 thoughts on “Lentil Curry

  1. Yum! I admit I’m lazy and buy prepared lentil curries. When I was in my 20’s I lived in a city with many Indian immigrants (Hoboken, NJ). I had the luck to be near an extraordinary little restaurant frequented by single Indian men, mostly graduate students, who didn’t cook. It was south Indian food – so good, made in small batches…it spoiled me forever. Nothing I get in American Indian restaurants now ever tastes the same. I’m sure this would though!


    1. Once you get use to the spice or the complex aroma, it is difficult to get by without longing for it.

      I have been making lentil curry for a long time now and each batch is different and everybody makes it different.


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