Toor Dal (Split Yellow Pigeon Peas) Recipe (2024)

By Tejal Rao

Toor Dal (Split Yellow Pigeon Peas) Recipe (1)

Total Time
1¼ hours, plus soaking
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Dal can be made with all kinds of lentils and cooking methods. These vary not just from region to region, but also from day to day, mood to mood. Some cooks like dal soupy, others chunky. There are dals for special occasions, seasoned with charcoal smoke and butter or padded out luxuriously with cream, as well as lighter, leaner dals that can restore you when you’re not feeling well.The flavor of this everyday, Gujarati-style dal comes from the pure nuttiness of split pigeon peas, boiled until tender and bolstered with spices bloomed in hot ghee. This fat-tempering technique, called vaghar in Gujarati, has many names and many uses across the country. In this case, the tempering is a great introduction to the resourcefulness and finesse of Indian home cooks: Just a few tablespoons of carefully seasoned fat, tipped in at the very last moment, transform an entire pot.

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Yield:4 to 6 servings (about 3 cups)

    For the Dal

    • 1cup toor dal (split yellow pigeon peas)
    • 2Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
    • ¼teaspoon ground turmeric
    • ½teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¼cup raw whole peanuts

    For the Tempering

    • ¼cup/55 grams ghee
    • 1sprig fresh curry leaves
    • 3small pieces Indian cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
    • 3red dried chiles, such as chile de árbol
    • 3cloves
    • ¼teaspoon black mustard seeds
    • Pinch of asafoetida

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (6 servings)

161 calories; 13 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 2 grams sugars; 4 grams protein; 162 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Toor Dal (Split Yellow Pigeon Peas) Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Prepare the dal: Soak the pigeon peas in a large bowl of warm water for about 1 hour. (They will have swelled a little.) Thoroughly rinse the soaked pigeon peas with fresh water, then tip the drained pigeon peas into a pot.

  2. Add tomatoes, turmeric, salt and 5 cups water, and bring to a boil over high. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until very tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

  3. Step


    Use an immersion blender to purée some of the dal, leaving some intact and getting some very smooth, or whisk vigorously to break up some of the soft dal. Stir in the peanuts and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal is very tender, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust with salt. If the dal has become too thick for your liking, stir in a splash of water.

  4. Step


    Prepare the tempering: In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the ghee. When hot, carefully add all of the tempering ingredients (the mustard seeds will sputter!) and swirl the pan until you can smell all the toasted spices, about 30 seconds. Pour everything over the hot dal.



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Cooking Notes

Asha S.

My thoughts from decades of toor dal making: curry leaf has a unique flavor, great if you can get it, but not necessary. Instead, add a generous handful of chopped fresh cilantro to the dal at the end. Ghee is nice but not necessary. I use canola oil or a mix of canola and ghee. Asafoetida is great, but can substitute minced garlic or chopped onion. A little lemon at the end is nice. I've never used peanuts but looking forward to trying. Toor dal is delicious and endlessly variable.


I have never seen curry leaves in a grocery store and I don't have access to an Indian market. Is there any substitute?


I don't really think there's any substitute for curry leaf (they do freeze reasonably well if you can find a stash at an Indian/Pakistani store), but also, tempering choices are super regional and vary from household to household. In the version of toor/arhar dal I am most familiar with, you'd temper with garlic and red chili (& maybe cumin? Ma, you there?)in ghee. Or you could use the mustard seed tempering here, and just skip the curry leaf. Or you could use cumin seed. Or ... you get the idea

merry winslow

i solved this problem by buying a curry leaf plant and growing it in a pot in my house. Always a fresh supply of curry leaf!

Jon Goerner

Fresh curry leaves are hard to find; what would the equivalent value be using dried ones?

Michael Sierchio

Please don't try to substitute dried curry leaf for fresh – it's truly foul. The inclusion of asafoetida derives from its use as a substitute for alliums, prohibited for Brahmins because they are considered impure. You can use a shallot.


Tips from an Indian. For tempering, use mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, curry leaves, asafoetida and dry chilli peppers (in that order). Asafoetida is a natural anti-flatulent. You get herbal medicines in India which are made of asafoetida. Never heard of the theory about Brahmins as somebody claimed here. Split peas and many beans cause gas and asafoetida adds a lovely pungent taste to dal as well as reduces gas caused by these foods. So only add a pinch.


Delicious! Didn't have fresh roma's so opted for tomato paste, caramelized with a bit of onion before starting the yellow split peas which ended up working just as well - a perfect quarantine food


Possible substitutes for curry leaves: bay leaf, lime zest, lemon balm, basil leaves


Too much water in this recipe. I’ve been cooking for over an hour and there is still way too much liquid. I would reduce to 3.5-4 cups and add only if you need to.


Most everyday Gujju cooks will pressure cook the daal (with or without the salt and turmeric, which can just as easily be added to the daal once cooked) and then proceed to mash/puree, add tomatoes and peanuts and temper.

Joan K.

I bought plants on-line from


Assuming you're asking because you'd like to have quick servings, it's worth noting that dal freezes very well. I often cook double the fairly standard 1 cup dal/5 cups water, finish cooking entirely, then freeze several smaller servings in different containers for later. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, or slowly on the stove, or microwave, which is my last choice.


The curry leaves can be omitted. Dry don't have much flavor. The fresh are better but based on the quantity you need a trip to the Indian just for that is not worth it. If you do make a trip pick up the Asafoetida (aka hing) that adds a distinct flavor to the tempering. And, also to get a nice flavor and bright color ask for the mild red Kashmiri ground pepper.

Trey P.

You can sub bay leaves for curry leaves, or just some lime zest.

Poornima F

Tastes like mud. Next time please use recipes by cooks who have lived in India?


This is a fantastic dal. The cooking time in the second stage isn’t rigid; as the instructions state, simmer the dal down to your preferred consistency or add water if it seems too dry. You can also wait for a bit after adding the tempering spices if you like; the longer you wait, the more the dal takes on those complex flavors.There is no substitute for curry leaves; omit them if you must and forget about using dried. Fresh ones last several weeks if you have an Indian grocer in your area.


alliums = garlic! I'm a brahmin (or ... was!). I recall an uncle telling me brahmins avoid garlic because "it stirs the passions". I was like ... bring it on!!! :)I feel there is too much water in this recipe. Next time, I will start with 3 1/2 cups. Peanuts in the dal! This got me to try it ... and it's a very nice idea. Tastes GREAT!


Cut back on water


If you see Split Yellow Dal at the Indian grocery, do not buy it. You need Toor Dal which is what you want, though they look almost similar. They cook differently.


This is my comfort food (I'm indian) and my husband's (non-Indian) fav. nightly dinner. I soak 1.5 cup toor daal for half hour or so, add 2 cups water in instant pot & pressure cook for 25 min. I freeze all except half cup and add water and boil in a pot on stove- enough to make it slightly thick. I add salt, turmeric, red chili pepper and ginger. Lastly, I temper with ghee or canola oil and add cumin, sometimes curry leaves, and a pinch of asafoetida. You can eat with rice or roti.


I think you must have a typo? You pressure cook in the Instant Pot for 25 minutes? That's almost the same cook time as indicated for the stove top.


I buy fresh curry leaf at my local Asian market H Mart.

Laura S.

For tempering add mustard seed, cumin, garlic, hing, Kashmiri chili in that order.Only use 4 cups broth to 1 cup lentils.Use instapot.


This is our absolutely favorite dal. We make it all the time. To speed things up, I use the Instant Pot: I put one cup of the toor dal into the pot with 3 cups of water and cook it for all of 3 minutes. From there, you can add water if needed or reduce it if it's too soupy (I find it depends on how watery my tomatoes are). Don't skip the raw peanuts! They really add something.


Don’t burn the tempering, add garlic, Kashmiri chili, and lime juice, lime zest. Get fresh curry leaves and freeze them. Add extra tomatoes


This recipe is totally foolproof and substitute-friendly. I had to substitute butter for ghee, yellow mustard seeds for black mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes for the chiles. Didn't have a curry leaf. It was still, somehow, one of the best things I've made in a long time.

Nancy Manahan

I've made this twice. The first time I could not find fresh Curry leaves but found fresh Bay leaves instead. I liked it better with the Bay leaves! Love this recipe+++

Anne B

After all effort, including tracking down the curry leaves, I so disappointed in this recipe. It lacked flavor and was, like others commented, extremely watery.

Tej S.

This recipe was great, coming from an Indian family! No need for peanuts at all though, traditionally those are not in dal.


Do you leave the curry leaves in after everything is combined together? I figured yes since the recipe doesn't say to take it out.

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Toor Dal (Split Yellow Pigeon Peas) Recipe (2024)


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