Mash ki Daal (Urad Dal), a dry lentil curry made with split Urad dal, presents itself as a challenge to many an experienced cook. It has a delicious creamy texture and resembles well-cooked basmati rice when cooked perfectly. This recipe will help you get it right every time with minimal effort.
Per thebetterindia.com, lentil or daal recipes date as far back as 303 BC. A popular meal with the Mughals, urad daal, known as "Masha" in Ayurvedic medicine, was often featured on the menu in Shah Jahan's court and favored over meat by the vegetarian Aurangzeb.
With its delicious taste, numerous health benefits, and this quick and easy recipe, mash ki daal is frequently on my weekly menu. Appetizing when eaten on its own, I also love it as a side with some chicken salan, karahi chicken, or beef kofta (meatball curry).
Why you'll love this recipe
- Simple recipe - This Mash ki daal recipe has easy-to-source ingredients and is straightforward, with very simple steps.
- Perfectly cooked lentils - With a recipe that's been tested to perfection, there's no need to worry about mushy and slimy lentils.
- Perfect Vegetarian & Vegan recipe - This is a great meal option for vegetarians and vegans.
- Numerous Health Benefits - Urad dal helps with weight loss through its high fiber and protein content and skin, hair, and heart health through the many vitamins and minerals it contains.
- Urad dal - This is available at South Asian stores or on Amazon. Make sure to buy the split and skinned cream-colored Urad Dal for this recipe, not the whole black variety.
- The spices - Keep it simple with salt, turmeric, and red chili powder for this recipe. This daal has such a delicious taste and texture that I don't want to overpower it.
- Ginger - Since the spices are simple, a few garnishes and some tempering help add aroma and flavor to this recipe. Julienned ginger adds fresh, spicy fragrance and taste to the lentils.
- Green chili - I recommend serranos for spicy and jalapenos for a milder taste. The option to leave the seeds in or take them out depends on your taste.
- Cumin seeds - Tempered cumin seeds add a delicious smoky and nutty flavor to the lentils.
- Lemon - I love to squeeze some fresh lemon juice onto my daal just before eating it. Limes will work just as well in the absence of lemons.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
Substitutions & variations
- Cook a dhaba style Mash ki daal - Dhaba style Mash ki daal is a version of this recipe that mimics how these lentils are prepared at roadside cafes and street stalls. Cooked like a curry with an onion tomato base, the lentils are still al dente but are coated in a light gravy.
- Add some spinach to your Urad daal - Another variation of mash ki daal is cooked with a handful of spinach for a nutritious variation.
- Try ghee or butter as a fat - Using Ghee instead of regular cooking oil gives the daal a nice nutty flavor. Some people also like to add a small dab of butter at the end for a delicious finish.
- Switch up the garnish - A sprinkle of garam masala, amchur powder, chaat masala, and dried fenugreek or fresh fenugreek microgreens are all nice additions or variations as a garnish for the daal.
I've spent a fair amount of time perfecting this recipe. If you stick to the steps outlined below and ensure not to add too much water, your Mash ki daal will come out perfect!
Step 1 - Rinse your lentils and then soak them in 3 cups water for 1 hour. This helps soften them and reduces the gas and bloating associated with eating lentils. Discard this water, and add 1 cup of fresh water with salt, turmeric, and red chili powder. Place the mixture on high heat and bring to a boil.
Step 2 - Once all but two tablespoons of the water has evaporated, turn the flame on low. Cover the pan with some foil and place the lid on top to help trap all the steam. Uncover after 5 minutes and check the lentils for doneness. Add two more tablespoons of water and steam for another 3-5 minutes if needed.
Step 3 - Uncover the lentils and fluff them with a fork, just as you would with rice. Prepare the tempering, known as "tarka," by sauteeing first the onions, the cumin seeds, and then the red button chilies in ¼ cup of oil. Pour the entire mixture over the lentils and cover the pot for a few minutes so the flavors can fuse.
Step 4 - Plate the cooked Mash ki daal and add the final garnish. Julienned ginger, finely chopped green chilies, and cilantro add the final layer of flavor to the lentils. I like squeezing a little lemon on my daal and eating it with fresh hot roti, naan, or paratha.
- Soak the lentils - This is the most essential step of the recipe. It helps rehydrate the lentils, which reduces the cooking time and causes less gas and bloating.
- Add water cautiously - It's best to err on the cautious side and add less water when boiling the lentils. Undercooked lentils can easily be fixed, but too much water creates a slimy texture that can't.
- Keep an eye on the stove temperature - Because there is very little water, the stove temperature must be monitored closely and adjusted for perfect results.
- Make sure to add a tempering - Heat the oil well for tempering before adding the onion. This will help brown and crisp them better. If the oil is not heated enough, the onions will become soggy. Add the cumin in the last 1-2 minutes once the onions are almost done. Adding them too early will burn them.
Soaking the lentils is a must for this recipe to turn out well. Many recipes call for a few hours of soaking, but I find that 1 hour is just right, and too long a soak can end up in a glutinous texture.
Black urad, commonly known as black lentils and white urad, are the same type of lentils. Once black lentils are split, and their skin is removed, they appear white. Both are cooked using different techniques but are equally delicious.
I keep my daal in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days maximum and don't recommend freezing it. To reheat it, microwave it covered, and don't add any extra water.
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Mash Ki Daal (Urad Dal)
- 1 ½ cups split and washed Urad/Maash daal (see notes)
- 1 cup water (see notes)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼ cup oil (see notes)
- ½ onion
- 1 tsp whole cumin
- 4 red button chilies (optional)
- 2 tbsp slivered ginger
- 1 chopped green chilli
- 1 lemon
- ¼ cup cilantro
- Wash the lentils and soak them in 3 cups of water for 1 hour (see notes)
- Rinse and strain them after the hour is over and add them to your cooking pot with 1 cup water, salt, red chili powder, and turmeric powder.
- Cook on full heat till the water evaporates and only two tablespoons remain. (see notes)
- Fry the onion, cumin seeds, and button chilies in the ¼ cup oil till they're all well toasted, and then add this mixture (including the oil) to the lentils. (see notes)
- Garnish with julienned ginger, chopped green chilies, and cilantro. (see notes)
- Quarter the lemon and serve with the daal.