Daal Tarka (Lentils Soup with Spices)

On a cold, rainy day a hearty soup is exactly what I need. This is the most commonly used method of cooking Daal in most Indian households.  My grandmother and her grandmother before her, and her’s before her, has made it in the pretty much the same way.  I like to use yellow split lentils because they cook up very fast but you can use any split lentils.  All traditional Indian Daal recipes use a technique called Tarka.  It is the final garnish that gives the lentils their smoky, delicious flavor.

Tarka is a Hindi word for tempering. This a technique where herbs and spices are fried in a small amount of oil or Ghee, by doing this, spices release their essential oils thus adding tremendous amount of aroma, flavor and health benefits.

Daal Tarka (Lentils with Spices)

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes


  • 1 cup of yellow split moong lentil or any lentil of your choice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbs ginger grated
  • Tarka (tempering or seasoning):
  • 2 tbs of light olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Hing or aceifoda* (optional: available in all Indian grocery stores)
  • 1 tbs cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs coriander
  • 1 tbs cumin powder
  • Salt and red chili pepper to taste



Wash and soak the Daal in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes.


In a medium size pot, add Daal with 4 cups of water, chopped onions, tomatoes, salt, ginger, and garlic and bring it to a boil.


Once the water has come to a boil, stir and turn down the heat to medium low.


Cover the pot and let the Daal simmer for 30 minutes, or until it looks very soft and creamy. You may stir it occasionally to check on the consistency.


Onions and tomatoes should be very soft as well.


You may add water as needed to get to the consistency you like.



Heat the oil on medium low heat in a small saucepan.


Once the oil is well heated, add all the remaining spices.


Move the pan around gently to move the oil and spices around. Fry for 30 seconds.


You should start to smell the lovely smoky aroma and spices should look brown.


Turn off the heat and very carefully add the hot oil into the cooked Daal. Be careful, it will splatter.


Get all the oil and spices into the Daal, mix well, cover it and keep it hot until ready to eat.


Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with warm basmati or brown rice.

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