Toor Dal Fry| Dhaba Style Dal Fry

Dal Fry refers to a lentil gravy that is very popular in Indian restaurants, especially the dhabas of North India. It is an absolutely delicious dish, full of brilliant flavours, and makes for a beautiful accompaniment to rotis and rice alike. Today, I am going to share with you all the recipe for Dhaba Style Dal Fry.

Dhaba Style Dal Fry

What goes into Dal Fry?

The principal component of Dal Fry is mostly toor dal, while there may be other lentils added in at some times. The dish gets its name from the sauteed onions and tomatoes (‘fried’ in common parlance) that go into it – though there is really no deep-frying involved here.

Dal Fry is usually mildly spiced, with a bit of garam masala, lemon juice and kasoori methi greatly adding to it. However, it is the special tempering added to it that elevates the Dal Fry to a whole new level – mustard, cumin, garlic, curry leaves and a few other aromatics sizzled in ghee.

What is the difference between Dal Tadka and Dal Fry?

Both Dal Tadka and Dal Fry are popular dishes in Indian restaurants. The major components of both dishes are the same, but there is a difference in the way they are cooked, due to which the taste of both is completely different.

In Dal Tadka, the lentils are cooked along with the tomatoes and onions, after which it is salted, spiced and tempered. In Dal Fry, the tomatoes and onions are cooked separately and then mixed with the cooked lentils.

Different types of dal

I am a huge fan of different varieties of dal, and keep experimenting with various types at home. You might want to check out this Dal Moradabadi, Hyderabadi Khatti Dal, Maharashtrian Drumstick Dal, Gujarati Khatti Meethi Dal, Parikkai Pitla (a Tamilnadu version of sambar or dal), and Dal Dhokli.

Next up on my list is this Panch Phoron Dal that my fellow blogger Sujata ji has shared. Sujata ji‘s blog, Batter Up With Sujata, is a treasure house of unique baked goodies and Bengali recipes. I love the deep-red colour of this dal that Sujata ji has prepared with masoor dal and the Bengali five-spice mix called Panch Phoron.

How to make Dhaba Style Dal Fry

Making Dhaba Style Dal Fry at home is not very difficult. I have been fortunate enough to learn some dhaba-special dishes from a wonderfully talented cook in Delhi, such as this Aloo Matar Sabzi and Pakodewali Kadhi. This Dal Fry too I learnt from her, years ago, and have made countless times myself.

Here is how I go about it.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1/2 cup toor dal
  2. 1 medium-sized tomato
  3. 1 medium-sized onion
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. 2 green chillies
  6. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  7. Salt to taste
  8. Red chilli powder to taste
  9. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  10. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  11. 1/2 teaspoon jaggery powder
  12. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
  13. 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  14. 3/4 tablespoon kasoori methi

For tempering:

  1. 3/4 tablespoon ghee
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  4. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  5. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  6. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  7. 2 dry red chillies


Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Centre left and right: Steps 3 and 4, Bottom left and right: Step 5

1. Wash the toor dal well under running water. Drain out all the water. Place the washed and drained toor dal in a wide vessel.

2. Add in enough water to cover the toor dal completely. Keep the water about 1/2 inch above the dal. Place the vessel in the pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 7-8 whistles or till the dal is completely cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Chop the tomato finely. Peel the ginger and onion, and chop them finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

4. Peel the garlic cloves. Pound them roughly using a mortar and pestle. Keep aside.

5. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down fully, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash the cooked dal thoroughly. Keep aside.

Top left and right: Step 6, Below top right and bottom right: Step 7, Bottom left: Step 8

6. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the finely chopped onion and ginger and the slit green chillies. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till the onions start browning.

7. At this stage, add the chopped tomatoes to the pan. Also add in a bit of salt and a little water. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the tomatoes turn mushy.

8. Still keeping the flame at medium, add the cooked toor dal to the pan. Also add in about 3/4 cup water or as needed to adjust the consistency of the Dal Fry.

Top left: Step 9, Top right and below: Step 10, Above bottom right: Step 11, Bottom right: Step 12, Bottom left: Step 13

9. Add salt and red chilli powder to taste, as well as the turmeric powder. Keep the flame at medium. Mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes.

10. Now, add the garam masala to the pan, along with the jaggery powder. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the mixture starts thickening. Switch off gas when the mixture is still a bit runny, as it will thicken further with time.

11. Add in the finely chopped coriander at this stage. Rub the kasoori methi roughly between the palms of your hands and add it to the pan too.

12. Add in the lemon juice too. Mix well.

13. Lastly, we will do the tempering for the dal. Heat the ghee in a small tempering pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Now, turn the flame down to medium and add in the cumin seeds, asafoetida, pounded garlic, curry leaves and dry red chillies. Let the ingredients stay in for a few seconds, taking care to ensure that they do not burn. When the garlic browns, switch off gas and add the tempering to the dal in the pan. Immediately cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, to seal the flavours of the tempering into the dal. Your Dal Fry is ready to serve after 15 minutes of keeping it closed. Serve it hot with rotis, parathas, naan or rice.

Is this a vegan and gluten-free recipe?

The above recipe is completely vegetarian, but it is not vegan (plant-based) due to the use of ghee. Using a plant-based oil instead of ghee in the tempering would make it vegan.

This Dal Fry is not gluten-free because of the use of asafoetida. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour to a greater or lesser extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. To make this dish completely gluten-free, skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Also, do ensure that the garam masala you are using is gluten-free too.

Tips & Tricks

1. Make sure the toor dal is completely cooked, soft and mushy before proceeding to make the Dal Fry. There’s no need to soak the toor dal before cooking it, but you may if you want to.

2. I have used home-made garam masala here. You may use a store-bought version instead, too.

3. You may add some coriander powder to the Dal Fry, along with the garam masala. I usually skip this.

4. You may skip adding the jaggery if you don’t prefer it. Personally, I would definitely suggest using it, as it rounds off the other flavours nicely.

5. I have used ghee here in the tempering, which adds a beautiful taste to the Dal Fry. You may use oil instead, if you so prefer. Make sure none of the ingredients burn while doing the tempering.

6. Don’t forget to keep the Dal Fry closed for some time, after the tempering is done. This is very important to infuse the flavours of the tempering beautifully into the Dal Fry.

7. Adjust the amount of salt, red chilli powder, garam masala, green chillies, jaggery and lemon juice as per personal taste preferences.

8. Adjust the amount of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Dal Fry you require. The ideal consistency is thick, but not too thick, and definitely not watery.

9. I have used only toor dal to make the Dal Fry. You may mix in some masoor dal and/or moong dal too.

10. Some also add cinnamon and cloves to the tempering, along with the other ingredients mentioned above. I don’t.

11. If you want to keep the Dal Fry really mild or are, maybe, serving it to kids, you could skip the red chilli powder. The green chillies would add a mild heat to the dal in this case.

12. Some use the ‘dhungar‘ method with charcoal to infuse the Dal Fry with a smoky flavour. However, I avoid this.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

15 thoughts on “Toor Dal Fry| Dhaba Style Dal Fry

  1. This dish looks amazing! Thank you for posting this enticing recipe.
    On a related note, I have a huge bag of dried curry leaves. Please suggest some ways to use them, if you have time. Thank you! 🙂


    1. @Suko

      Thank you so much! 🙂

      You can use the curry leaves to make a chutney, with some lentils and dry red chillies. They can also be heated in oil, along with some mustard and asafoetida, and used to temper dishes like Dal Tadka, Sambar, Rasam, Dal Fry and chutneys. Do let me know if you would like some recipes.


  2. I love Dhaba-style dal fry with phulkas or naan. This looks so delicious and very flavorful too. Love the tempering with lots of garlic


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