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This authentic Gujarati Dal is a treasured recipe that has been adapted to cook in the Instant Pot. Best of all? You can cook your rice simultaneously, thanks to the pot-in-pot method.
Growing up in Bombay (now Mumbai) meant being able to experience different kinds of regional cuisines through your neighbors, and friends’ lunch boxes and, of course, the countless restaurants we had access to.
I learned how to cook Gujarati food by following Tarla Dalal’s recipes. She was a popular cookbook author (she wrote over 100 cookbooks) and host of one of India’s first cooking shows. This recipe has been inspired by hers and modified to make it in the Instant Pot.
A little about Gujarati dal
Every Indian household has a version of dal that is cooked at home. Most dal recipes are usually mildly spicy but what makes this recipe special is its sweet and tangy taste.
Gujarati dal (also known as khatti meeti dal) is made with tuvar (tur) or arhar dal (split pigeon peas) and is commonly served with steamed rice and a side of veggies. The consistency is thinner than dal fry, and usually, the dal is cooked till it is completely mushy.
It is traditionally served with rice and a side of veggies (sabzi). The dal-rice combo is also called dal bhat or dal chawal.
Traditionally you will see kokum used to make Gujarati Dal, but I’ve selected lime juice as a souring agent since it is more commonly available worldwide. If you have access to kokum, try using it in place of the lime juice in this recipe.
Fun fact: Kokum (Garcinia Indica) is a fruit indigenous to India’s tropical forests. The outer part is dried and used in a variety of dishes as a way to add sourness and beautiful red color. It is a very common ingredient in traditional foods from Gujarat but is also widely used in Assamese cuisine.
Reasons to love this recipe
- A comforting, one-pot meal that is a good source of protein.
- Contains no onion or garlic – a good meal to make when you are doing a religious fast.
- Can be made vegan and gluten-free
- Perfect for pot-in-pot cooking: Cook sona masoori or Basmati rice along with this dal.
Here’s what you need to make the recipe
- Toor dal/ tuvar dal – Also known as split pigeon peas, these form the base of the dish. If you can’t find pigeon peas, you could use moong dal instead (split green gram).
- Avocado oil – This is neutral in flavor and great for those who like to eat a vegan diet. You can use your favorite neutral-tasting oil or ghee.
- For tempering – You will need cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds (methi), asafoetida (hing), curry leaves, dried red chilies, cloves, cinnamon stick, fresh ginger, Indian or Thai green chilies (bird’s eye), chopped tomato, turmeric powder, and Kashmiri red chili powder.
- Raw peanuts – make sure you find some that are skinless. These are optional but encouraged since they are traditionally used.
- Dates – another optional ingredient, but it is traditional to use. These add a nice sweetness.
- For finishing – You’ll need jaggery, lime or lemon juice, and cilantro/coriander leaves.
Variations to try
- Suran (elephant yam) – Some Gujarati households add this vegetable to this dal. You can add about 1/2 cup of diced suran along with the dal.
- Peanuts and dates are optional, but the traditional recipe calls for it.
- Ghee – Substitute oil with ghee during tempering for a flavor boost.
- Dal substitutions – Usually, tuvar dal (pigeon peas) is used, but you can also use moong dal (split green gram)
- Using kokum or tamarind for the tang. Lime juice is used in this recipe since it is more readily available.
- Gluten-free dal – Make sure to use gluten-free asafoetida.
- Tempering process – you can finish off with the tempering too. I started with it since I wanted to make this dish one-pot.
How to prep ahead
If you would like to prepare your spiced dal ahead, you can easily make a double batch (or a single batch if needed) and store it in the freezer for up to a month.
If you want to make your Gujarati Dal just a day or so in advance, allow it to cool completely and store it in an airtight container. Keep it in the fridge for 1-2 days before reheating and serving.
Allow your leftover Gujarati dal to cool completely before transferring them to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for no more than 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Thaw your dal in the refrigerator overnight before reheating and serving.
Serve it with
This Gujarati dal recipe can be a complete meal when served with rice and a veggie side dish (sabzi). Here are a few of my other favorite recipes to serve with this dish.
- Jeera Rice (cumin rice) – One whiff of this aromatic, fluffy basmati rice tempered with cumin seeds is enough to get your taste buds tingling.
- Homemade rotis or chapati – Your rotis will turn out soft, delicious, and perfect every single time with this foolproof recipe.
- Bhindi masala – Cooked in a tangy onion-tomato masala, this vegan and gluten-free okra dish tastes great with freshly made rotis.
- Jeera aloo – this simple yet delicious side dish is perfect for those new to Indian cooking.
Frequently asked questions
There are more than three types of dal in Indian cooking since dal includes all split versions of all the Indian pulses. A few of the most popular dals include split green gram with skin (moong dal chilka), split green gram without skin (dhuli moong dal), split pigeon peas (arhar/toor dal), split red lentils (masoor dal), split black lentils (urad dal), and split Bengal gram (channa dal). For more info, read – Pulses 101, an easy guide to beans, lentils, and peas.
Yes, you can freeze Gujarati Dal for up to 1 month. Just allow the leftovers to cool completely, then transfer them to an airtight container and freeze until solid. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
Tadka refers to tempering in Indian cuisine, and it is the process of roasting whole and ground spices in oil or ghee. In Gujarati, the word used for tempering is vaghar, and it is a widely used technique in Gujarati cuisine.
Other dal recipes to try
- Tadka Dal – This tempered dal is a one-pot Indian lentil soup recipe that is easy to make and delicious to enjoy with fresh rotis.
- Instant Pot Mung Dal – this vegan-friendly lentil dish pairs perfectly with rice, rotis, and many other popular Indian dishes.
- Instant Pot dal fry – This recipe for Dal Fry is very close to my heart because it comes from my mom’s kitchen. A recreation of the hearty and lip-smacking dal I grew up with!
- Langarwali dal – Satisfy your soul and your stomach with this flavor-filled authentic langarwali dal – a creamy mixed lentil curry.
Easy Gujarati Dal Recipe (Instant Pot + Stovetop)
- 1 cup toor Dal / tuvar dal
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
- ⅛ a pinch of asafoetida hing
- 7-8 curry leaves
- 2 dried red chilies
- 2 cloves
- 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 1 inch piece ginger grated
- 2 Indian or Thai green chilies (Bird's eye) chopped
- ½ cup finely diced tomatoes (1 small tomato)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
- 2 tablespoons raw peanuts (without skin)
- 2 chopped dried dates optional
- 4 cups water
- salt to taste
- 2-4 tablespoons powdered jaggery
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro / coriander leaves for garnishing
- Wash and rinse toor dal in water till the water runs clear.
Instant Pot method
- Add oil to the steel insert of the Instant Pot and press the Saute function and set it to “medium,” and wait till the display reads “Hot.” Add mustard and cumin seeds.
- When the mustard seeds start to sputter, add fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, dried chilies, cloves, cinnamon stick, green chilies, and grated ginger. Saute for about 30 seconds till the raw taste of ginger disappears.
- Add cut tomatoes along with turmeric powder, chili powder and salt. Mix well.
- Add the rinsed dal, peanuts, dates and water. Mix well.
- [Optional Step] – You can cook Basmati rice along with dal. Place a trivet over the dal. Place the bowl with rice and water over the trivet. For 1 cup of rice, add 1.25 cups of water.
- Press the “Warm / Cancel” button and then select “Pressure Cook.” Adjust the time to 10 minutes and set the pressure selection to high.
- Cover the Instant Pot lid and lock it. Make sure the vent is at sealing position.
- Once the cooking cycle is complete allow the pressure to release naturally.
- Carefully remove the rice using tongs.
- Mash the dal using the back of your spoon.
- Dilute the dal if required. Add jaggery, lime juice and cilantro. Mix well.
- Do a taste test – add more salt / lime juice if desired.
- Serve it hot with rice and a veggie side dish.
- Follow the same instructions as above in a stovetop pressure cooker. Cook for 2-3 whistles. Let the cooker cool completely before opening the lid.
- Dal will thicken as it cools down, so dilute it as needed.
- To make gluten-free Gujarati dahl, use gluten-free asafoetida.
Disclaimer: Approximate nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.