Dal (also spelled dahl, dhal or daal) (Devanagari दाल, Telugu పప్పు, Banglaদ্দাল) is a preparation of pulses (dried beans) which have been stripped of their outer hulls and split. It also refers to the thick, spicy stew prepared therefrom, a mainstay of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi cuisine.

In South India dal is also used to make the dish called sambar. The word Dal derives from the Sanskrit term to split.

Common varieties

  • Toor dal (called toor dal (Marathi),tuvar dal (Gujarati), arhar dal (in Uttar Pradesh, Orissa & Bengal) or togari bele (Kannada), kandi pappu (Telugu), tuvara parippu (Malayalam) or tuvaram paruppu'துவரம் பருப்பு' in (Tamil)) - yellow pigeon peas; available either plain or oily
  • Chana dal - (chholar dal in Bengali, (Buta daali in Orissa) sanaga pappu (Telugu) or kadale bele (Kannada), or kadalai paruppu (Tamil)) - split chickpeas without seedcoat. Chana dal is produced by removing the skin of Kala chana and then splitting it. Although machines can do this, it can be done at home by soaking the whole chickpeas, and removing the loose skins by placing the chickpeas between two towels and rubbing with a rolling pin.
  • Kala chana - small chickpeas with brown skins - Kondai kadalai in Tamil. In the US and Canada it is known as desi chickpea and the variety most used is called Myles. It is very disease resistant.
  • Kabuli dal - known for its black coat, it is an average size chickpea. It grows naturally with the black coat (not roasted as some believe) and it is said to be nuttier in flavor.
  • Mung dal (pesara or uddhi pappu (Telugu) or paasi paruppu (Tamil)) - mung beans or hesaru bele (Kannada),
  • Urad dal (kolai dal (Bengali) ( Biri daali Orissa) or minapa pappu Telugu or ulutham paruppu (Tamil)) - urad, sometimes referred to as black gram or uddina bele (Kannada),
  • Masoor dal - red lentils
  • Rajma dal - kidney beans

Split and whole pulses

Although dal generally refers to split pulses, whole pulses are known as saboot dals and split pulses as dhuli dals. . The hulling of a pulse is intended to improve digestibility and palatability, but affects nutrition provided by the dish, reducing dietary fiber content -- as with milling of whole grains into refined grains. Pulses with their outer hull intact are also quite popular in India and Pakistan as the main cuisine. Over 50 different varieties of pulses are known in India and Pakistan.

Preparing dal

Most dal recipes are prepared quite simply. The standard preparation of dal begins with boiling a variety of dal (or a mix) in water with some turmeric, salting to taste, and then adding a tadka (also known as tarka, chaunk or baghaar) at the end of the cooking process.


Tadka or tarka (also known as chaunk or baghar) consists of various spices or other flavorings fried in a small amount of oil. The ingredients in the tadka for each variety of dal vary by region and individual tastes, but common tadka combinations include cumin, chilli powder [cayenne powder], and onion or mustard seeds and garlic. In some recipes, ginger, tamarind, unripe mango, or other ingredients are added while cooking the dal, often to impart a sour flavor. Some preparations also call for mashing the cooked dal a bit with a hand masher or suitable rolling pin.

Other common tadka ingredients include asafoetida, fresh or dried chili pods, cilantro, garam masala and cumin seeds. The raw spices are fried for a few seconds in the hot oil first, and then the remaining ingredients are added. The garlic is typically only fried for a minute or two, but the onion is fried for 10 minutes or until browned. The tadka, or spice-infused oil, is poured over the cooked dal and served with bread or over Basmati rice.

All of the beans & pulses listed above can be used with this method to make the variety of different dals eaten across the region.

Pejorative Use

The usage of the word dal can at times be used in a disparaging fashion as some use the label "Dal Khor" (literally dal eater in Persian) in a belittling manner toward Pakistanis or those from the Indian Subcontinent. Some Pakistanis living in rural areas have been nicknamed dal khor seemingly more often than those living in the urban cities given the popularity of vegetarianism in the countryside.

See also


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