Yellow Split Pea Dal

My favorite meal this winter here in Australia has been dal. Every time we go out for Indian food, I order one of their dals and lately I have started to cook my own. So far I have made a Chana Dal and this Split Pea Dal. Both turned out wonderfully flavorful and deliciously satisfying. They are quick to make, very economical and left-overs are easily frozen and re-heated in a pinch. I have ordered an Indian vegetarian cookbook online, so expect more fantastic Indian food soon.

The main ingredients here are yellow split peas, which are loaded with fiber and protein, and a range of aromatic spices and vegetables which add a depth of flavor. All are easy to get and make excellent pantry/fridge staples. If you haven’t cooked with ghee before, try it out. It is clarified butter, a staple of Indian cooking and highly regarded for it’s healing properties in Ayurvedic medicine. Ghee keeps well in the fridge. Use olive oil instead, if you are cooking dairy free.

This recipe makes a large pot of food and fed the 5 of us on two nights. You can easily use only half of the ingredients or save the rest for another night.


  • 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
  • 2 generous cups (500g) dried yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 6 cups of water or vegetable broth
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons freshly minced ginger
  • 2 red chilies (seeds discarded), minced
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes or 6 fresh plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh coriander (cilantro), leaves and small stems, washed and roughly chopped


In a large pot melt 2 tablespoons ghee over medium heat and add onion and chilies. Saute for 5 minutes before adding garlic and ginger, continuing to saute for a few more minutes. Add turmeric, cayenne pepper (or chili powder), split peas and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. The total cooking time will be 45 minutes to one hour. Check split peas after 30 minutes and then every 10 minutes after that. They are ready when they are soft and easily fall apart. Add more water if the mixture gets too thick.

In the meantime, melt one tablespoon ghee over medium heat, before adding mustard and cumin seeds. Stir frequently until mustard seeds have popped and cumin seeds are lightly browned. Have a lid nearby in case mustard seeds pop out of the pan. Add tomatoes and mix well.

When split peas are almost soft (after approx. 45 minutes) add the spice/tomato mixture to the pot. Simmer for 10-15 more minutes.

Just before serving season with salt and sprinkle chopped coriander over dal.

Serve over rice or quinoa.

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