A Publication of WTVP

Black Dal

by Mary DiSomma |
Black Dal

Black Dal

Black Dal

The flavors of Indian cuisine are complex, but with the right ingredients, creating the perfect Indian dish doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I was fortunate to have learned to make a traditional dal at a cooking class during a trip to India. 

After that cooking class, I fell in love with dal. Why? It’s creamy and buttery and packed full of intensely flavored Indian spices.  

Urad dal is the star of the dish. Though it is often referred to as a black lentil, don’t confuse the two! Black and oval-shaped with a noticeable white speck on the side, Urad dal is known as a “pulse,” which is the edible seed of a legume. Its closest relative in the culinary world is a cowpea or a mung bean. Urad dal can be purchased at international markets or online. In addition, this is a recipe that requires you to plan ahead!

  • Prep Time30 min
  • Cook Time2 hr 30 min
  • Total Time3 hr
  • Cuisine
    • Indian
  • Course
    • Main Course
  • Cooking Method
    • Stovetop

Ginger Garlic Paste

Ginger Garlic Paste

  • ¼ cup chopped peeled garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

For the dal:

  • 2 cups Urad dal, cooked
  • 4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 3 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
  • ⅓ cup tomato paste
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon Indian red chili powder (known as lal mirch)
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon ground green cardamom pods
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ to 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup heavy cream

For the garnish:

  • Jasmine or basmati rice
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Naam, cut into quarters
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt 
  • Thinly sliced red onion

Next, the Process:


Place the peeled garlic, ginger root and oil in a small food processor or spice grinder. Pulse to grind, stopping to push down the mixture as you go, until smooth. Place in a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.


Place the Ural dal in a large mixing bowl and cover with 8 cups of cool water. Let sit at room temperature overnight.


Place the soaked Urad dal in a large pot. Add water, leaving one inch on top. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  The beans are done when you can easily smash them between your fingers. Drain.


In a 12-inch skillet, heat the ghee on medium low. Add onion, cook on medium low until translucent. Add ginger garlic paste and tomato paste, stir. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.


Add 1½ cups water to the cooked Urad dal, stir. Simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Add cream and butter, stir. Turn off the heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes.


Serve with naam, basmati or jasmine rice, cilantro, a swirl of yogurt and thinly sliced red onions. Feeds up to eight generously.


Mary DiSomma

Mary DiSomma

Our chef lives in Oak Park and Cuba, Illinois. She is an author, publisher, philanthropist, podiatrist, entrepreneur, wife to Bill and mom to four adult children. She also appears on Peoria Magazine’s You Gotta See This! on WTVP PBS