Masoori Dal (Nepali Lentils)
Yield: 4-5 servings
This "every day" South Asian dish is healthy comfort food at its best and requires just a short list of basic ingredients. The quick pickled cucumber recipe that follows adds something special. I quarter the rounds to incorporate more flavorful pieces throughout.


  • 1 cup (6.5 ounces/185 grams) brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or other mild oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed (not powder) or Bada masala*
  • 1/2 a small yellow onion, sliced lengthwise
  • For serving: hot cooked rice**; chopped fresh cilantro; sliced scallions; pickled vegetables (see separate printable recipe below)


  1. Bring the rinsed lentils, water and salt to a boil, and then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until done. Depending on the age of the lentils and precise level of heat, this could take anywhere from 20-40 minutes. I start tasting after about 15 minutes to avoid overcooking.
  2. In a separate skillet, heat the oil over medium-low. 
Add the cumin seeds or Bada masala, and stir for a few seconds until aromatic.
 Add the sliced onions and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent and golden, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I like to then reduce the heat to low and let the onions cook for an additional 10 or so minutes while the lentils simmer. This allows the onions to caramelize a little more – it’s not a critical step but does enhance the flavor.)
  3. Stir the onion-spice mixture into the boiled lentils. Add a little more salt to taste, if needed, and then simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered, to blend the flavors. Serve with rice, cilantro, scallions and pickled vegetables.


*Cumin seeds as opposed to cumin powder bring special flavor to this dish. As an option, Bada masala is a Nepali 5-spice mixture that can be purchased at South Asian or Indian grocery stores (like Everest International Grocery Store on Columbia Avenue for locals). It can also be made with equal parts cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella and fennel seeds. The use of Bada masala is typical in the Nepali preparation of this dish, while the use of cumin seeds is commonly used in India.

**I like a long grain, white Basmati rice, as it is lightly aromatic and complements the dal nicely, but your favorite brown or white rice may be used.

Tip: If the dal (lentils) becomes too thick, thin with additional water. They are meant to be a soupy consistency and then served over rice.

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