Dahl with mellowed spices is a vegetarian dish and provides for an extensive taste pallet, especially the next day after making. The main ingredients are protein and fiber rich lentils. But the rich taste comes from freshly ground spices and fresh vegetables.   

Origin of dahl with mellowed spices

This dish is common on the South-Asian sub-continent, from Nepal in the north to Sri Lanka in the south.  In this region people largely observe a vegetarian diet. The lentils are important protein and fiber sources and the dried lentils can be easily stored. It is eaten with cooked rice or with flat breads such as naan.

The art of making dahl with mellowed spices

Obtaining the spices and freshly toasting and grinding these are key to this lovely tasting dish. When following the right sequence of addition, this  vegetarian dish will display all its splendor.

The first activity is to soak the lentils for several hours, but preferably overnight. Dicing the onions is important and smothering them will further contribute to taste. You can use a vegetable oil, or use ghee, but not butter. Butter will brown and cannot reach the higher temperature that you can reach with ghee.  The result is a burned butter taste, whereas the spices may not have developed their full taste.

Some people swear by adding some (sour) cream, which softens all spice aroma’s further. You may also add some yoghurt or eat it at the side.

Special equipment

  • spice grinder
Dahl with mellowed spices©️Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

Dahl with mellowed spices

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Indian



  • 1 1/2 cup brown lentils
  • 1 diced middle sized brown onion
  • 3 peeled middle sized ripe tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tbsp grated or finely sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 small red Asian chilli peppers
  • 1 (2 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche or cooking cream



  • Soak the lentils in water for at the least 5 h. Shorter soaking time causes cooking time to go up. Overnight soaking is also fine
  • Weigh all the spices and grind the cardomom seeds (after peeling them first). Place the mustard seeds, the cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick together
  • Place the ground cardomom and turmeric together
  • Grate the ginger, and mince the garlic and keep them together
  • Take the seeds out from the red peppers and finely slice the peppers
  • Boil hot water, place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour the hot water over them. After 2 minutes replace by cold water. After a while peel and then cut the tomatoes
  • Dice the onion
  • Place the soaked lentils in a pan with some water. Add the salt. Bring them to a boil and cook them for 20-30 min
  • Place the oil in another pan and heat up with medium fire
  • Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cinnamon stick and wait until the musterd seeds start to pop (1-2 minutes)
  • Then add the chilli peppers, the onion, the ginger and the garlic and cook for about 10 min, until the onions are tender. First high fire, later at low fire
  • Add the ground turmeric and cardomom seeds and the diced tomato. Wait until the tomato falls apart (5 min). Take the cinnamon stick out and discard
  • Check the lentils for done-ness. if there is surplus water, remove this with a siff. Add the lentils to the pan with the spices and cooked vegetables and stir. A thick slightly fluid appearance is what you should aim for 
  • Just before serving,  add the cream or crème fraiche to the dish and garnish with coriander leaves or offer the latter separately.


Method: boiling, pan frying
Food allergy & intolerance information: none
Keyword fragrant, Lentils, vegetarian


  1. The taste will markedly improve and mellow when storing the food overnight, see Knowledge, food storage and taste.

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