Whole Masoor Dal: Brown Lentil Curry

Heartwarmingly delicious is the best to describe this whole masoor dal. It is a dal brown curry that is best enjoyed with plain basmati rice. Though any flatbread can be equally delicious to have it with.

A bowl of whole masoor dal.

What is whole masoor dal?

Whole masoor dal is a lentil that is also known as brown lentil. It is the type of legume that is used a lot in the Indian sub-continent. From India to Pakistan. From Bangladesh to Nepal. And most regions in between.

They all have their own version of cooking this brown lentil.

Rice covered with whole masoor dal, yogurt, chili pickle, and cilantro.

But they all have similarities in some spices and methods. Because they all originated from India anyway.

When you try this dal, you know why it spreads so widely across the globe because the legume has a delightful texture that marries well with the spices.

And it is so easy to make this lentil dish, yet it gives you a satisfying and heartwarming meal. What’s not to love?

Mind you, lentils are widely used and cooked in Indian meals. There are many varieties of lentils. Moong dal, chana dal, yellow dal, toor dal, and urad dal are some of them, including masoor dal.

To cook these whole brown lentils, you can use the old-fashioned style of cooking, which is using an ordinary cooking pot. Or, you can use your modern gadgets such as a pressure cooker or an instant pot.

Rest assured, whether you cook the dal in an ordinary cooking pot, a pressure cooker, or an instant pot, your cooked masoor dar will taste equally delicious.

And if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you will be happy to have found this recipe because this dal is vegan.

What is the difference between red lentils and masoor dal?

If you go to Asian shops, you can find there are two types of masoor dal. Red masoor dal and brown dal.

The washed ones are called red lentils (red masoor dal). They do not have skins/ husks.

The whole ones are called brown lentils. They do have skins/ husks that are also called sabut masoor dal. Because sabut literally means skin/ husk.

Here, I’m sharing with you the recipe for the latter one, dal brown curry. It’s our favorite dal in our household. Of all the variety of lentils, there is, we love this brown dal the most.

Ingredients to make sabut masoor dal

Like most of my curries, I don’t put too many varieties of spices in this sabut masoor dal recipe.

If you often cook Indian food anyway, chances are you will have all the ingredients needed.

You only need brown lentils, ginger, garlic, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, ground black pepper, tomatoes, whole cumin seeds, whole black mustard seeds, salt, and cooking oil.

You might come across recipes that use garam masala to make this dal. Not in this one. As I don’t use garam masala in this recipe.

I must say that my recipe here is rooted in the Pakistani way of cooking that I learned from my sister-in-law. Though throughout the years I tweaked the recipe and the spice proportion to my own liking.

However, this recipe has earned a lot of positive remarks and acknowledgment from my extended family and friends.

Hence, I want to share the joy and smile with you.

How to make whole masoor dal in a regular cooking pan

To cut down the cooking time, I suggest you soak the lentils overnight. Or, at the very least, 4-6 hours.

So, if you are cooking this dal for dinner, you can start soaking the lentils in the morning. Make sure you place them in a big enough bowl that can hold the water three times as much as the lentil because legumes do soak water and expand.

When you are ready to cook, drain and discard the water.

In a large cooking pan, bring the water to a boil. Or, you can use hot boiling water from the kettle or the tap.

Then put all the ginger and garlic with ground spices into the water.

Add the chopped tomato and let the water reboil. Once it reboils, add salt and let it cook for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes soften.

Next, you add the lentils. Give it a good stir before you put the lid on, and let it cook at medium-low heat.

Take care, and keep checking every now and again to ensure the lentil does not get burned at the bottom of the pan. It takes me around 30 minutes to cook.

When the lentils are soft and done, mash them a little bit. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to mash about a third of the lentils. Or, you can use a handheld blender to do it.

Then you make the tadka/ tarka. Saute the whole cumin seeds, whole black mustard seeds, and chopped garlic in cooking oil until they release an aroma. You can see that the garlic turns golden brown in color, and some of the seeds will be crackling.

If you like, you can add a few green chilies or dried chilies in the tarka.

Carefully pour the oil with the whole spice into the dal and let the dal simmer for about 7-10 minutes until you get the right consistency.

If you find the dal is too thick, you can add water to it.

Dal brown lentil curry.

How to make masoor dal in a stovetop pressure cooker 

The beauty of using a pressure cooker to make this whole masoor dal is that you don’t have to soak your dal long in advance.

An hour or two at max is more than enough. To be honest, I often soaked it for about 10-15 minutes only.

When you use a stovetop pressure cooker, you pretty much follow the same steps mentioned above.

The difference is that the amount of water you put in is about one cup extra.

So you put 5 cups of water, hot boiling water in your cooker. Turn the stove on to medium-high heat.

Add the minced ginger garlic, all the ground spices, salt, and chopped tomatoes. Let the water reboils.

Then add your dal in. Stir well before you put the lid on your cooker. And start cooking according to your pressure cooker’s manual.

When we pressure cook on medium heat, it only takes about 15-20 minutes from the moment the pressure cooker whistles.

Do take care and wait for the pressure to stop completely before you are tempted to open the cooker.

I will let the pressure release naturally.

Once the pressure has gone and it is safe for you to take the lid off your cooker, make the masoor dal tarka as explained above.

Pour the oil and spices into your dal and simmer the dal. Here, I usually use an ordinary cooking pan lid to cover my cooker.

How to make this whole masoor dal in an instant pot

If you want to make the lentil using an instant pot, you do it in a similar way as cooking in a pressure cooker. So, you will be using the pressure cook function of your instant pot.

Pour your hot boiling water into the instant pot pan, followed by ginger, garlic, ground spices, salt, and chopped tomatoes. Then, add the lentils in.

Put the lid on and make sure it is secure.

Choose the pressure cook setting and set the time to 15 minutes. Now, I must remind you that there are a few different types of instant pots. So please refer to your IP manual and make sure you choose to cook on high pressure.

Mine is Instant Pot Duo Crisp, which doesn’t have an option for choosing the type of pressure.

When your instant pot beeps at the end of cooking time, use the quick-release button to depressurize the cooker. Otherwise, it will continue to pressure cook.

As you wait for the pressure to release naturally, saute the whole black mustard seeds and add cumin seeds. Followed by chopped or finely sliced garlic.

Once you are sure it is safe to open your instant pot lid, do so and pour the oil and whole spices into the dal. Mix well. At the same time, I would mash some of the lentils.

Then put the lid back on and set your IP to pressure cook again. This time, you just do it for 2-3 minutes.

Masoor dal tadka

I have to mention that you can elaborate on your tarka. Although it is basically made with whole spices, you can also brown the onions and then add chopped garlic to your oil.

Then add the black mustard seed and cumin seeds and let them splutter. Sometimes I also add whole dried red chilies too or even fresh green chilies. All these make the oil smell amazing.

And don’t forget to garnish your lentil with chopped coriander leaves/ cilantro. This will make the dal have a more delicious aroma.

What to eat with your brown lentil curry

If you ask me, this whole lentil curry goes well with rice. Just simple white Basmati rice. And if you like, you can have it with a dollop of natural yogurt or Greek yogurt. Plus, a teaspoon of chili achar. Simply yummy.

However, this lentil is equally mouthwatering to enjoy with flatbread. You can choose chapati/ roti, naan bread, or even pitta bread.

Storage matter

When you cook masoor dal, try to do it in batches as it keeps well for one week in the refrigerator.

Mind you, this recipe makes 6 generous portions that I always have some leftover to keep in my refrigerator.

Like many foods, the dal made the night before tastes better than the freshly made one maybe because all the spices and flavoring have developed better in time.

This dal also freezes well for up to two months. So, it can be handy for when you are having a busy week and running out of time to cook.

Whenever you need it, you can take it out of the freezer and leave it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. If you do this, make sure you finish the thawed food within a few days. And you must not refreeze it.

More ideas for legume recipes

Thank you for checking this whole masoor dal recipe. I hope you will try it. When you do, could you rate the recipe and share what you think of it in the comments below? I’d really appreciate it.

Before you go, you may want to check my other legume recipes that you may like

Lastly, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. To sneak a look at what’s cooking in my kitchen. 

Take care and all the best.

Whole masoor dal recipe card

A bowl of whole masoor dal.
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5 from 51 votes

Whole Masoor Dal: Brown Lentil Curry

Heartwarmingly delicious is the best to describe this whole masoor dal. It is a dal brown curry that is best enjoyed with plain basmati rice. Though any flatbread can be equally delicious to have it with.
Author: Devy Dar
Prep Time6 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Pakistani
Servings: 6 portions


  • Mixing bowls.
  • Wooden spoon
  • Pressure cooker.
  • Cooking pan with a lid.
  • Instant pot.
  • Frying pan


  • 1 cup whole masoor dal/ brown lentils.
  • ½ inch ginger.
  • 4 cloves cloves garlic.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder.
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder.
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder.
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.
  • 1 tomato, chopped into small pieces. medium size.
  • 1 teaspoon table salt.
  • ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds.
  • ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds.
  • 2-3 fresh green chilies or dry chilies (optional)
  • ¼ cup olive oil.
  • 4 cups water.


  • Rinse the lentils, and leave them to soak in plenty of water for at least 4 hours.
  • When you are ready to cook, bring 4 cups of water to boil in a cooking pan. Or, you can use the hot boiling water from the kettle or hot boiling water tap.
  • Peel and mince the ginger and 3 cloves garlic. Add them to the boiling water together with cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, chili powder, ground black pepper, and salt. Let it simmer for about a minute or two.
  • Drain the lentils and put them into the water.
  • Add the chopped tomato and give it a stir.
  • Put the lid on the pan and cook at medium-high heat until the water reaches boiling point again.
  • Once it reboils, turn the heat down and cook at medium-low heat.
  • Check and stir the masoor dal every now and again.
  • It takes approximately half an hour for the dal to cook.
  • When you think the dal is fully cooked and soft, get your tadka/ tarka ready.
  • Chop the remaining garlic. Then heat the oil in a small frying pan.
  • Add the black mustard seeds and whole cumin seeds to the oil. Fry them for a few minutes before adding the chopped garlic and green chilies/ dried chilies (if using).
    Once the garlic turns light brown, carefully pour the oil together with all the spices into the whole masoor dal.
  • Give the dal a good stir and leave it cook for about five minutes.
  • Serve the lentil with plain basmati rice, a dollop of yogurt, and chili achar. Garnish with chopped cilantro and chopped green chilies (if you like). You can, of course, eat your dal with flatbreads such as roti/ chapati, naan bread, or pitta bread.


  • You can use ordinary red chili powder, cayenne pepper, or paprika powder. The difference is the heat of each spice. As a comparison, I find Kashmiri red chili powder has milder heat than some red chili powder. 
  • Cayenne pepper and paprika powder are definitely not as hot as Kashmiri red chili powder. Making them a good choil if you are not up for spicy food. 


Serving: 6portions | Calories: 210kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 456mg | Potassium: 395mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 291IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 3mg


Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.

Author: Devy Dar

Title: Food Writer, Recipe Developer, and Digital Content Creator.


Devy Dar founded So Yummy Recipes and Drizzling Flavor to share her love of food after exploring various cultures and cuisines for more than two decades. Her mission is to help others easily recreate traditional and non-traditional food with readily available ingredients. Her works have been featured in Reader’s Digest, Al Jazeera, MSN, Yahoo, Bon Appetit, and more. 

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  1. Jennifer F says:

    5 stars
    We love the flavor of this recipe and how comforting it was! Tried your pressure cooker method and it worked fabulously – thank you!

    1. Well don you. I love cooking it in pressure cooker as it can be ready in a jiffy.

  2. 5 stars
    This brown lentil curry is an absolute winner! The combination of ingredients creates a delicious flavor that makes me want more! This recipe is a must-try!

    1. Yes, it’s a winner at my household too. I always have to have these lentils in my pantry.

  3. 5 stars
    I never thought that brown lentil curry could be this good and comfy! It is also rich in flavor! Highly recommended!

  4. 5 stars
    I served this dish over rice and it was a hit with my husband. The seasoning is very tasty.

    1. We love eating it with rice too. Don’t forget to add a dollop of yogurt with it. Yummier

  5. Giangi Townsend says:

    5 stars
    Velvety rich and full of flavor. Our new favorite dinner. We all love lentils, but you brought them to a new level with this recipe.
    I used a little less chiles than the recipe required and it was delicious too.
    Thank you.

    1. Oh yes, you can always adjust the chilies to how you like it. So happy you like it.

  6. 5 stars
    My wife and I are vegan. We love lentils, love curries, and have collected quite a few dal recipes over the years. I was looking for something spicy and found this one ~ It’s really good, and has just the right level of spiciness. We’ll definitely be making this one again. One question, though: your ingredients list calls for “2-3 fresh green chilies or dry chilies” but I couldn’t find in the recipe what to do with them.

    1. I’m glad this recipe works for you. And apologies for missing an explanation for the fresh chilies. I have amended the recipe card now, thank you for pointing this out. Basically, you can add the green chilies/dried chilies in your tarka, or add chopped green chilies at serving. But all of this is optional.

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