Dal fry is a popular Indian dish made from lentils cooked with spices and herbs. It is a comforting and flavorful dish that provides a good source of plant-based protein. In this recipe, I am using toor dal (yellow split pigeon pea) to make it. Making dhal fry in the Instant Pot is quick and convenient, and the dish is ready in 20 minutes. It can be served with rice or Indian bread, such as roti or naan, and enjoyed as a complete meal.
What is dal fry?
Dal fry is a popular Indian dish made from lentils (dal) that are cooked and then tempered with various spices and herbs. Dal is a staple in Indian homes and is a part of everyday meals. It is often served with basmati rice or Indian bread, such as roti or naan.
This dal fry recipe I am sharing is made using toor dal (yellow split pigeon peas) in an Instant Pot. This flavorful and nutritious dish provides a good source of protein and dietary fiber.
Mildly spiced and creamy dhal is a staple in Indian kitchens and has several versions. In my recipe here, I am making this dal without tomatoes and using minimal spices. Read on for ingredients, useful tips, and step-by-step instructions to make this simple and comforting toor dal fry.
Why you will love this recipe
- Flavorful and nutritious: This dal fry is flavorful and mildly spiced. Additionally, it provides a good source of protein and dietary fiber, making it a healthy choice.
- Vegan and gluten-free: This Instant Pot dal fry recipe is vegan, making it suitable for individuals following a plant-based diet or those who prefer vegan options. The dhal fry is naturally gluten-free, allowing individuals with gluten sensitivities or dietary restrictions to enjoy this delicious dish without any concerns.
- Simplified and minimal ingredients: My recipe uses a simplified approach by using minimal ingredients, omitting tomatoes for those who prefer a version without them. This makes the cooking process easier and more accessible.
Toor dal: Pigeon peas or tuvar dal, this is the main ingredient of the dish.
Onion and garlic: They form the base of the dish. Red/pink onions work best for this dish; however, you can also use yellow onions.
Spices: I use cumin seeds, turmeric powder, red chili powder, hing, and amchur (dried mango powder).
Step 1: Set the Instant Pot in saute mode and add oil. Once it heats, add cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add onion and garlic. Saute until they are translucent, about 3-4 minutes (images 1 and 2).
Step 2: Add the toor dal, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, amchur, and salt (images 3 and 4).
Step 3: Add 6 cups of water and mix well. Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot to pressure cook mode for 8 minutes on high pressure (images 5 and 6).
Step 4: Do a natural release of pressure for 10 minutes, then do a quick release. Open the lid and mix the dal well. Top with cilantro (images 7 and 8).
Alternate cooking methods
I love making dal using this Instant Pot method. However, here are some alternate cooking methods you can use to make it.
Stovetop pressure cooker: Follow this recipe to saute onions in a stovetop pressure cooker. Add the lentils (arhar dal), spice powders, and enough water to cover the dal by 2 inches. Cover with the cooker lid and let it boil on high heat. Once the pressure builds, reduce the heat and cook for 3 whistles.
Stovetop: Rinse the dal in a colander until the water runs clear. Saute onions and add the dal to a pot. Add enough water and bring it to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until the dal is soft. Skim off any foam that may rise to the top.
Slow cooker: Saute onion, ginger, and garlic as per this recipe in a frying pan. Transfer it along with pigeon pea lentils and spices to a slow cooker and add 1:3 water. Slow cook for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high, until the lentils are fully cooked.
Expert tips to make dal fry
You may choose to add a tadka/seasoning just before serving. I have skipped it here.
Tuvar dal does not need any soaking; however, rinsing it before using is essential. Rinse the dal well under running water 2-3 times.
I am not using tomatoes in this recipe. However, you may add chopped tomatoes and saute them before adding the dal and spices.
The amount of water I am using gives me a slightly thick dal. You can add or reduce the water content to adjust the consistency to your liking.
If you don't have access to amchur, skip it and add lemon juice (or lime juice) along with fresh cilantro once the dal is cooked.
You can follow this recipe using red lentils (masoor dal). In that case, reduce the cooking time to 4 minutes.
Optional ingredients and spices
I am keeping this dal tadka fry very simple and using minimal spices. However, here are some additional spices you can use in this dish:
- Add garam masala and kasuri methi along with coriander leaves to the cooked dal.
- Use mustard seeds along with cumin seeds in the initial tempering.
- Use whole spices like cinnamon stick and bay leaf along with cumin seeds.
- I skipped ginger in my recipe and used only garlic. However, you can add minced ginger along with garlic or also use ginger-garlic paste. Make sure you deglaze the pot well as the ginger-garlic paste tends to stick to the pot.
- Add coriander powder along with other ground spices used in this recipe. For this measurement, you will need 2 teaspoons of coriander powder.
- Use green chilies to add more heat to the dal.
- Make a second tempering using mustard seeds and curry leaves and add it just before serving the dal.
Click here to browse through my collection of Instant Pot lentil recipes.
Variations of dal fry
Use mixed lentils: Combine different types of lentils such as toor dal, chana dal, masoor dal, and moong dal to create a flavorful and nutritious mixed lentil dal fry. The combination of dal adds complexity to the dish.
Vegetable dal fry: Enhance the nutritional value and texture of dal fry by adding vegetables such as carrots, peas, bell peppers, cauliflower, or spinach. Sauté the vegetables along with the tempering spices before adding the lentils.
Tomato dal fry: Incorporate the tangy flavor of tomatoes by adding chopped tomatoes to the dal fry. Cook them along with the tempering spices until they soften and blend well with the dal.
Coconut milk: Add a touch of coconut milk towards the end of cooking to add richness and creamy texture to the dal.
What to serve with Instant Pot dal fry?
Instant Pot dal fry pairs well with various accompaniments to create a complete and satisfying meal.
Pickle and yogurt: Accompany the Instant Pot dal fry with Indian pickles. The tangy and spicy flavors of mango pickle, lime pickle, or mint chutney can add an extra zing to the meal. Serve a side of plain yogurt or raita to balance the flavors and provide a cooling element.
Storing leftover dal
To store leftover dal, allow the dal to cool down to room temperature before storing it. Transfer the dal to an airtight container. Make sure the containers are clean and dry before adding the dal fry.
Place the leftover dal in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. However, note that the texture of the dal may become thicker as it sits in the fridge. Add a small amount of water to adjust the consistency when reheating.
If you want to store the dal for a longer period, you can freeze it. Freezing helps retain the freshness and flavors for an extended period. Ensure the containers are freezer-safe. Leave some space at the top of the container to allow for expansion as the dal freezes. Dal can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
More Instant Pot dal recipes
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Instant Pot Dal Fry
- Wash the toor dal well. Drain the water and set it aside.
- Set the Instant Pot in saute mode and add oil.
- Once it heats, add cumin seeds and let it splutter.
- Add onion and garlic. Saute until they are translucent (3-4 minutes).
- Add the toor dal, turmeric powder, chili powder, amchur, and salt.
- Add 6 cups water and mix well.
- Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot to pressure cook mode for 8 minutes.
- Do a natural release of pressure for 10 minutes, then do a quick release.
- Open the lid and mix the dal well.
- Top with cilantro and serve hot.