Dals and soups (i.e., lentil soups) have been a part
of Indian food from times immemorial. In India, the simple but
wholesome dal-chawal (lentil soup-rice), and dal-roti (lentil soup and
flat bread) are enjoyed by all, whether vegetarian
or not. Every Indian household has its own favorite recipe for dal.
Health Benefits of Dals and Lentils
Dals or lentils (pulses/dried split peas/legumes), when consumed
daily, provide most of the protein that vegetarians need, along with
iron. Lentils are
high in fiber and low in fat.
There are many types of dals, the most commonly used being - toor (red
gram) moong (mung bean), chana (chickpea, bengal gram), urad (split and
gram), and masoor (lentil). These lentils are used in both forms - whole, split, and hulled (peeled).
Indians generally use the pressure cooker for cooking lentils as they
get done faster, and don't require constant stirring and attention. The
following lentils are commonly used in Indian cooking, and are
available in all Indian grocery stores.
Toor Dal (red gram
or red lentil, hulled and split)
This dal is the mainstay of South Indian cooking. This lentil is used
for the most common dishes such as sambar and kootu. These lentils are
quite neutral in taste and go well with most vegetables.
Moong Dal (mung
beans or lentils that are hulled and split)
These are small, yellow lentils that are the easiest to cook and
easiest to digest.
the pressure cooker, they take about 6-7 minutes, while cooking
separately might take about 20 minutes.
Chana Dal (yellow
split peas, hulled, chickpea lentils)
This dal is very nutritious and in North India it is used for soups and
curries, while in the South it's mainly used for snacks like vadas
(lentil fritters), and other snacks such as sundal (a dry, cooked
salad). This dal (split
yellow lentils), is available in the US in regular grocery stores as
Urad Dal (black
gram or lentils, hulled and split)
This dal is common in South Indian cooking. Many South Indian dishes
are seasoned or tempered with urad dal along with mustard and cumin
seeds. This dal is also used in breakfast and snacks like idli and
vada, and crepes like dosa.
In South Indian cooking, the dals used for seasoning (tempering) are
urad dal, split and hulled (i.e., without peel), and chana dal split
All these lentils are also available whole, with and without peel,
with peel, and are used in various recipes. These are usually soaked
and sprouted and used in salads, or soaked and ground into batter for
crepes like dosas and pesarattu, or soaked and boiled, and used in
soups like dal makhani.
Dals are very versatile and have a mild taste that goes well with a
variety of vegetables. The variety of dishes you can make with dals is
limited only by your imagination. Dals can be used for appetizers and
snacks, main courses, as well as desserts.
Dals take time to cook, so use pressure cookers to
cut down time. Split and dehusked dals take less time to cook,
especially moong dal, which needs only 6-7 minutes in the pressure
Soak dals to cut down the cooking time. Soaking is
particularly useful for whole dals and dals with peel.
Dals such as chana can cause bloating and
stomach discomfort. Use spices such as asafoetida (hing), ginger,
turmeric, onions, and garlic to imrove the digestability of dals and
If you're not used to eating dals, start with small
servings and increase the servings gradually as your system gets better
at digesting them.
Lentil Soup Recipes
Try the Bottlegourd Dal or browse
for more vegetarian and vegan lentil soup recipes below.