May 10, 2023

Plant-Based Whole30 Dal Tadka

Dal in Hindi means lentils. and tadka in Hindi means tempering. 

Dal Tadka is a popular traditional Indian lentil dish made with split lentils. The lentils are cooked with aromatics until soft. Then, the dish is finished with a tempering of hot oil and spices. The tempering is definitely the flavor maker of the dish, so you don’t want to overlook or compromise on this.

Dal Tadka is probably one of the most popular dishes you will find in Indian restaurants and a staple in most Indian homes. While every house, family, or chef has their own variation of this recipe, what you get is always the same. A bowl of warm, comforting, and delicious goodness.

This dish, while its flavors are complex, is actually an extremely simple and easy lentil-based curry.

You may find this dish made with a variety of different lentils or combinations of lentils. But, to keep things simple, we will only be using split pigeon peas, also known as toor dal. If you don’t have access to these, feel free to use red lentils (masoor dal), split chickpeas (chana dal), or moong dal (split green gram).

If you are new to going plant-based or to lentils, they can be a little hard to digest at first because of their fiber. The spices used in this recipe, like fennel, coriander, and cumin, will definitely aid digestion. However, it might be a good idea to soak your lentils with a little acid after rinsing them. I suggest adding 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, soak for at least one hour before cooking. 

I love this dish paired with simple cauliflower rice and having some baked spiced okra alongside to complete the meal!

Plant-Based Whole30 Dal Tadka

Recipe and photos by Riyana Rupari of Heathyish and Happy

Plant-Based Whole30 Dal Tadka

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


Dal (Lentils)

  • 1 cup split pigeon peas (toor dal)
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1.5 tbsp Avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger grated or finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 green chili finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Tadka (Tempering)

  • 2 tbsp avocado or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder or paprika


  • more chopped fresh cilantro
  • lemon wedges



  • ADD dal into your pot and rinse them well until the water runs clear, then soak them for 20 minutes. Drain them one last time.
  • POUR 4 cups of water into the pot with your clean dal. Bring this to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and allow the dal to simmer for 20 minutes or until the dal is soft and mushy. Remove any scum that forms on top of the dal while simmering. While the dal is cooking we will make the seasoning.
  • HEAT 1 1/2 Tbsp avocado oil in a medium size pan. Once hot, add your cumin seeds. Once they start to sizzle add the garlic, and ginger, and sauté on low heat until fragrant.
  • ADD the chopped onions and green chilies and continue to sauté until slightly golden.
  • REDUCE the heat and add the turmeric and coriander powder. Give a quick stir.
  • STIR in the tomatoes along with salt and sauté until the tomatoes become soft. The mixture should be nice and aromatic.
  • POUR your seasoning mixture from the pan into the pot of cooked dal and simmer for about 5 to 6 minutes. If you find the dal is too thick, you may need to add a bit more water.
  • TASTE for seasoning and add more salt at this stage if needed.
  • ADD the chopped fresh cilantro and turn off the heat.
  • TRANSFER your hot dal to its serving bowl and make the tadka (tempering).
  • PLACE a small frying pan, ideally with no more than a 4” circumference on a low flame and add 2 tbsps of avocado and heat through.
  • ADD the cumin seeds and fennel seeds and let them cook on low heat until aromatic.
  • ADD the garlic and fry until aromatic and slightly brown.
  • STIR in the Kashmiri chili powder or paprika.
  • REMOVE the pan from the heat and add the tadka (tempering) to your dal
  • GARNISH with more fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lemon.
  • SERVE with cauliflower rice and enjoy!

Instant Pot

  • ADD dal into your pot and rinse them well until the water runs clear.
  • POUR 3 cups of water into the pot with your clean dal. Set your instant pot to high-pressure cook. Make sure your vent is closed and cook for 10 minutes.
  • ALLOW the pressure to release naturally. When you open the pot, give the dal a little mash with the back of your spoon. Add more water if you needed at this point.
  • FOLLOW steps 3 onwards from the stovetop method.
Ryani Rupani wearing a white shirt, sitting in a chair with a coffee mug, smiling at the camera.

Riyana Rupani

Riyana is a Holistic Nutritionist (NTP), focused on helping others create lasting changes through real food & lifestyle. A Mom of 3 who worked in the corporate world for 15+ years, she understands the pressures of work and home. A real Foodie, Riyana is also a recipe developer and founder of Healthy-ish & Happy, a blog where she shares delicious recipes and useful tips to help you live life in balance, and Everiday Foods, a line of flavor-forward sauces and pantry staples created to elevate your everyday. Riyana's philosophy: “Nourishing yourself doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s all about finding what works for you.” Riyana found her passion for nutrition after suffering from health issues herself. After years of medication & doctor visits, she was able to turn her health around with the power of real food & lifestyle and is now passionate about helping others do the same.