Tarka Dhal (Red Lentil Curry)

Here is how to make tarka dhal. This recipe is incredibly comforting and healthy that’s rich in spice, flavor, and fiber, and low in fat and calories.

This is an ideal Indian meal prep recipe because it’s straightforward to batch cook and store in the fridge for the week ahead.

What is Tarka Dhal?

Tarka dhal is a popular Indian dish made of red lentils, garam masala, onions, garlic, tomatoes, turmeric, and other spices.

It’s particularly popular in North India but every Indian city has its own variation and uniqueness to this dish.

Tarka dhal is often served with fresh rice or roti which can be incredibly comforting for lunch or dinner.

What’s the difference between Dhal and Tarka Dhal?

Tarka is essentially the fried onion, garlic, and spices that are added to the cooked lentils once tempered. Whereas dhal is a dish made of slow-cooked lentils.

Therefore, tarka dhal has plenty of flavor, spice and taste.

fresh tarka dhal in a bowl

Tarka Dhal Recipe

Tasty, healthy and comforting tarka dhal recipe that is ideal for weekly rotation and meal prep. Simply cook the lentils and add the flavorsome tarka at the end.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Indian
Servings4 people
Calories (per serving)116.15 kcal





Prep and boil lentils

  • Rinse the lentils in water for 30 minutes and drain water.
    rinsing red lentils
  • Add the lentils, turmeric powder, and a pinch of salt to the saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat for 30 minutes. 
  • Cover and stir occasionally until they are tender.

Cook Tarka

  • In a saucepan over medium-high, add ghee, dried red chilli, cumin seeds and fennel seeds. Allow it to cook for several minutes.
  • Add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, garam malsala, and salt. Continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  • Once cooked, pour the tarka into the saucepan with the lentils and stir.
  • Allow it to cook for medium-high heat for 10 minutes.
  • Garnish wiht cilantro and serve with your preferred side dish such as rice or fresh roti.


  • Replace ghee with vegetable oil if vegan. 


Calories: 116.15kcalCarbohydrates: 14.6gProtein: 5.18gFat: 4.65gSaturated Fat: 2.84gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.28gMonounsaturated Fat: 1.24gCholesterol: 9.6mgSodium: 599.75mgPotassium: 262.92mgFiber: 5.17gSugar: 2.16gVitamin A: 48.42IUVitamin C: 4.11mgCalcium: 39.96mgIron: 2.29mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

How to reheat Tarka Dhal?

Microwave3 minutes (remove and stir halfway)
Saucepan5 minutes on medium heat

Tarka Dhal Storage Instructions

How long to refrigerate tarka dhal?3 to 4 days
How long to freeze tarka dhal?4 to 6 months

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