This simple and creamy moong dal recipe comes together on the stove in minutes --no pressure cooker or instant pot needed. It's a great dal recipe full of delicious flavor.
What is dal?
Dal refers both to dried lentils as well as the final cooked dish made from these lentils. Dal in my native tounge, Tamil, is called paruppu. There are many types of dried dal ranging from moong dal which is a thin dal that can be quickly cooked into a stew or "curry" to urud dal which is a thicker, plumper dal used in dishes like dosas or idlis. This blog post goes into details about the common dried dal varieties used in Indian cooking if you are looking to learn more.
Dal, the dish, for many South Indians like myself is a staple that was always around. It was easy to whip up and there were tons of variations to be created based on the vegetables in season to the tempering or thalipu we decided to flavor the dal with.
Moong Dal is easy to cook on the stovetop
We will be using moong dal in this creamy, delicious dish. Moong dal which is also called green gram dal in english and payatham paruppu in Tamil is a thin yellow dal that cooks super quickly. When searching for this dal at the Indian super market you want to look for split moong dal. This split dal can either be pressured cooked in a pressure cooker or instant pot or cooked on the stovetop until the lentils loose their shape and meld into a homogenized "curry" that tastes so decadent.
However, in this recipe, we will cook the split moong dal on the stovetop. Moong dal is an ideal dal for stovetop cooking compared to other dals due to its thin shape which allows it to cook quickly and gently --without the need of a pressure cooker to hasten the process. My grandmother would say that this is the dal that that will feed an unexpected guest at dinner. It's simple, it doesn't need soaking, and it tastes so creamy.
Ghee and lemon juice - no fancy thalipu (tadka) needed
When I titled this recipe as a simple dal, I really meant it. It is a basic dal that really hi-lights the legume itself and isn't pretentious. It can be used as a base dal recipe to add into sambars or even rasams to add more protein.
That is why I choose for this dal to not have thalipu or tadka on top. It uses the nutty and buttery flavor of ghee as a topping and optionally lemon juice to add the acidity needed to balance the creaminess. But does that mean you can't add thalipu or tadka? Absolutely not! Make this dal your own with the tempering or flavor enhancers of your choice, this is just a great and simple weeknight dish to start your love affair with dal. If you are looking for a dal with more spices, you can also try out the spinach dal which is a great way to get your greens in!
Techniques to make the creamiest dal
I want weeknight dal to be as easy as making your weeknight pasta dish. I want it to become so second nature that you don't even have to think about it. But as with making pasta, there are a few tricks that really help when making this simple stovetop dal.
- Wash your dal - Please please please wash your dal and also your rice if you make it to accompany your dal. Removing the residues and starches will help give a cleaner flavor to your dal and ensure a creamy and consistently cooked dal. To wash the dal, simply rinse and gently scrub the dal. The water will be murky in the beginning but pour it out and repeat the process until the water runs mostly clear.
- Add oil to the water when making dal on the stovetop - Adding oil to the dal cooking water will not only help your dal emulsify into a creamy consistency later when the dal is cooked but this trick helps prevent the water from boiling over when cooking dal. Why? The surface tension of the oil that floats on top of the water helps disrupt and pop the starchy water that tends to foam and overflow! This is exactly the same principle for pasta water
- Whisk your dal - Whisking cooked dal with a dollop of ghee makes the creamiest dal. There are wooden Indian whisks that were traditionally used to whisk yogurt and dal but you can use the whisk that you use to beat your eggs or even a wooden spoon to really help emulsify the fats and the water in the dal into a homogenous creamy mixture. This trick really elevates your dal from good to great!
Related Recipes To Try
If you are looking for other recipes to try that are similar to this dal recipe. Checkout the spinach dal recipe which will get your daily dose of vegetables in and is layered with a delicious tadka loaded with warm spices. The other recommendation is to try out the pumpkin sambar which utilizes this simple dal recipe and layers it with even more spices and sweet butternut squash for a delicious curry that will want you craving more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Masoor dal is a great substitute for moong dal. It is thin like the moong dal which makes it a great candidate for stove top cooking with no soaking needed. Read this post about other dal varieties and substitutes.
You can absolutely soak your moong dal before you make it but it is not a requirement unlike thicker dals. Soaking is just an insurance policy to ensure that the dal cooks throughout and saves time during the cooking process. However, if you didn't have the hindsight to soak your moong dal, do not fret as it is a forgiving dal which cooks quickly regardless of soaking.
Yes you can absolutely make your dal in an instant pot.
Yes. It's highly recommended that you wash dal before cooking. Washing the dal removes the excess starch and residues that are present during the factory processing stage and ensures that the dal has a clean taste and consistency.
You can easily buy split moong dal online or at your local Indian grocery store.