Plant Based Masoor Dal Tadka Recipe

This Masoor Dal Tadka recipe is fast, easy and medicinal, which are perfect reasons to try it out during these times when health is crucial. It is incredibly quarantine friendly, with the exception of the arsenal of Indian spices which are essential pantry ingredients for some. For those of you less stocked, you may sub in what most people have in their artillery of spices, Curry Powder. To many people, there is not much in life that is more comforting than a steaming bowl of Dal and rice. For the uninitiated, Dal means Indian style spiced lentil soup. For those in the know, Dal has been elevated to the same comfort status of American standard soups like Chicken noodle, Clam Chowder or Beef Stew. Dal is incredibly satiating – a very cheap way to make a ton of food and intoxicatingly delicious! If you do not have red lentils, you may sub in whatever dry lentils you do have. Tadka refers to being heavily spiced. To make a dish “tadka” we practice tempering or toasting the dry spices in oil or ghee. I remember the first time I witnessed someone toasting cumin in a pan. I thought they were crazy “burning” the dry spice this way but when the aroma reached my nostrils, I knew what they were doing was legit. The depth of flavor which results from tempering dry spices is unrivalled and very easy to achieve. This delicious plant-based recipe has been created for us by Sara from the Better Food Guru (@betterfoodguru). The addition of Turmeric brings some further comfort and sunshine with its golden hue.

Preparation Time

10 minutes

Cooking Time

45 minutes


10-12 servings


2lbs masoor dal or split lentils

1 onion

4 tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

3-inch finger of fresh ginger

4 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp neutral oil


2 tbsp turmeric

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

¼ tsp cayenne

Pinch of crushed red pepper

Salt and black pepper to taste


Step 1

In a large pot add 2lbs of cleaned split red lentils with water to cover, plus an extra 3 inches. Boil and then simmer 25 mins on the back burner.

Step 2

Heat your pan and then sauté in 1tsp oil 4 cloves chopped garlic, 1 onion chopped and a 3-inch nub of ginger chopped until golden and fragrant. Then add 4 small chopped fresh tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for 3 mins until tomatoes release juices.

Step 3

Push to the side of the pan to temper spices. Add a couple of drops of oil to the pan then add 2 tbsp turmeric, 1 tbsp black mustard seeds, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cayenne and a pinch of crushed red pepper. If you have no arsenal of Indian spices, sub the dry spices for 3-4 tbsp curry powder instead plus the crushed red pepper. Toast the spices for 3-4 mins until they are fragrant then mix into the tomato and onion.

Step 4

Check the lentils. They cook really fast, usually within 25-30 mins they should be pretty soft. When they’re soft, add the cooked mixture to the pot plus 4 tbsp of tomato paste, 1 tsp salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer to really infuse those lentils with flavour. When the texture is smooth, it’s ready to eat. Eat alone or with rice, and be sure to douse it in cilantro and black pepper.

More about Sara & Better Food Guru:

As a Chef, Sara has been teaching people over the years to cook and feed themselves better by making small changes to their diet that have big effects. Sara enjoys opening people’s eyes to a new ways of eating which nourishes their body and also is tasty. Cooking is like painting for her, instinctual, visceral, visual, textural, and most importantly, experimental. With @Betterfoodguru, Sara shares how to make better food. “Better” means less processed, more delicious, more nutritious, prettier and better for your waistline/wallet/planet. Throughout the years Sara has experimented with many different eating styles and she come to the conclusion that plant-based eating is the best for her. Sara intends to help spread the word about Veganism and help people start including more plants in their diets. 100% vegan may not be ideal for everybody, but it is easy to incorporate some benefits of a vegan diet by taking the small steps of just eating plant-based a few times a week. Your heart and planet will thank you.