Mar 19

Health Foods A-Z: Lentils

Split Moong dal

Chana dal

Black chickpeas or bengal gram

Whole urad dal

Masoor dal

Whole green moong dal

Split moong dal

Split and skinned Urad dal

Lentils, or daal are a staple in Indian meals. They are usually served as a gravy alongwith a vegetable preparation, rice and chapatti.

Lentils are of various kinds- Some of them are chana dal, urad dal or kaali dal, masoor dal, moong dal and arhar dal among others. Each of these has a distinct flavor and appearance.

Lentils are low in fat and a good source of protein and fiber. They also a a good source of vitamin B and C and calcium. Lentils are also good for minerals such as magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, manganese and copper. Lentils or Dals vary in cooking times- some cook very quickly, usually the split and skinned ones, while some taste best when cooked for longer durations, usually the whole lentils.

Before cooking, lentils should be washed and rinsed properly. Before buying, make sure there are no stones and other impurities that often get mixed with dal. Lentils can be stored up to a year in a cool, dry place.

Some lentils taste great when sprouted, such as whole moong dal. Sprouts are very simple to make-just wash the dal and keep it in a wet towel for 2-3 days. Dals are also had as snacks, such as fried split moong. Most North Indian households make a dal preparation with each meal. Here is a recipe for my favorite, Dal Makhani, which is made with whole urad dal and rajma or kidney beans.


1.5 cups black dal (or whole urad dal)

1/2 cup kidney beans

4 cups water

1 onion, finely chopped

2 large tomatoes, pureed

1 tsp shredded ginger

1 tsp shredded garlic

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp red chilly powder

1 cup low fat milk or alternately 4 tbsp. heavy whipping cream

salt to taste

2 tbsp. oil (for stove-top)


Thoroughly wash and soak dal and kidney beans in sufficient water overnight.

You can choose to make this in a slow cooker if you have time, or else on the stove top.

Slow Cooker Recipe

If you choose to make it in the slow cooker, coat the base with cooking spray or oil and put in all the ingredients except the milk or cream. Try and use the water that the dal was soaked in-it contains flavors that will add to the taste of the dal. Use 4 cups of water-add more if required. Mix everything well and set the cooker on low for 8 hours. Do a taste test, and if the dal is cooked through, add the cream or milk. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Stove top Recipe

Add Soaked kidney beans and dal to a pressure cooker along with 4 cups water (use water that dal was soaked in and add more if needed). Add salt and pressure cook for 7 whistles.

In a separate pan, heat oil. Keep heat on medium high. Add cumin seeds and wait for them to sizzle. Once sizzling, add onions. Once the onions turn brown, add the ginger and garlic. After a few seconds, add the tomato puree. Add the garam masala, turmeric, coriander and red chilly powder. Cook until the oil begins to separate. Once this is done, add the pressure cooked dal and kidney beans. Add salt and mix everything well. Adjust water at this point according to your preference. Wait for water to boil and then lower heat to low. Cover and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. This dal gets better the longer it is cooked.

Before turning off the heat, add the butter and the cream or milk. Mix well and garnish with coriander.

Serve hot.

This post is part of a series on health foods. I have previously written about Avocado, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Dates, Eggs, Fennel, Green chickpeas, Honey, Iceberg lettuce, Jackfruit and Kidney beans.

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