Tarka Dhal recipe

(368 ratings)

Tarka Dhal is so easy to make and full of flavour. It's a classic Indian side dish that is great for serving with Naan bread

Tarka dhal
  • healthy
  • Vegetarian
  • healthy
Preparation Time10 mins
Cooking Time1 hours
Total Time1 hours 10 mins
Cost RangeCheap
Nutrition Per PortionRDA
Calories199 Kcal10%
Sugar4 g4%
Fat5.4 g8%
Saturated Fat3 g15%
Salt0.04 gRow 4 - Cell 2
Protein10.3 g21%
Carbohydrates28.4 g11%
Salt0.04 gRow 7 - Cell 2

A creamy, full-flavoured dhal that's perfect served with warm naan bread.

The dahl in this tarka dahl are chickpeas or split yellow peas. Tarka refers to the garlicky onion topping your spoon over the cooked pulses. Dahl can actually refer to any dried, split pulses - lentils, peas, or beans, and there are variations of tarka dahl using different ones. Red, yellow, or green lentils are popular, but we love the taste and sunny yellow colour of this version. This recipe is so handy for anyone trying to follow a low calorie diet - one of our great low calorie lunch ideas. You can freeze the dahl in portions, in freezer bags, for up to three months. Then you have a handy option for a light, satisfying meal that is easy just to heat up.


For the Dhal:

  • 250g chana dhal (dried split chick peas), rinsed well
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 level tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 level tsp turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt

For the tarka:

  • 2tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • ½ level tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Pinch of chilli flakes




  1. Boil 1 litre water and add the chana dhal, garlic, ginger, turmeric and bay leaves. Return the mixture to the boil and skim off any scum from the top. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer the mixture for 45-60 mins, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens.
  2. To make the tarka, heat the oil or ghee in a pan, then add the cumin seeds and cook for a few seconds. Add the onion, garlic and chilli to the pan. Cook over a medium heat for 10-15 mins, or until the onion has softened. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. If the dhal mixture is still runny, remove the pan lid and increase the heat to reduce the liquid, stirring well.
  4. Once the dhal has softened and is almost smooth, season with salt. Serve with the tarka spooned on top, reheating it if necessary. The tarka may be stirred into the dhal and frozen for up to a month. Defrost before reheating.

Top tips for making tarka dhal

If you like a chunky dahl use split yellow chickpeas (often labelled chana dhal), which hold their texture well. If you prefer something smoother, choose split yellow peas which soften down a lot more. If you're not sure either way, don't worry about it too much because both are delicious

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Octavia Lillywhite
Food and Lifestyle Writer

Octavia Lillywhite is an award-winning food and lifestyle journalist with over 15 years of experience. With a passion for creating beautiful, tasty family meals that don’t use hundreds of ingredients or anything you have to source from obscure websites, she’s a champion of local and seasonal foods, using up leftovers and composting, which, she maintains, is probably the most important thing we all can do to protect the environment.