Indian Dal with Yogurt and Cucumbers

As Indian cooks know, spiced foods paradoxically help us feel cooler in hot weather but can also drive out the chill. Although simmering this pot of lentils barely heats up the kitchen, it fills the house with spicy fragrance that stimulates the appetite. Plus red lentils fall apart so quickly that you spend little time in the kitchen.

Many Indians eat dal every day as a valued source of protein. Red lentil dal is particularly easy to make. Like other lentils, they do not need soaking, and depending on how much liquid is used, this dish can be served as a light yet nourishing soup or be cooked down until thick enough to scoop up with pita bread. While the dal cooks, there is enough time to assemble a cooling garnish of yogurt and chopped vegetables so you can have everything on the table in 30 minutes.

Make it a meal: Top dal with a mini-salad of chopped cucumber, scallions, dill, and a dollop of yogurt. Then, serve it with pita bread that has been wrapped in foil and warmed in the oven. If you prefer, you can toast wedges of pita until crisp and also increase the yogurt to a generous quarter-cup.

Indian Dal with Yogurt and Cucumbers
(Makes 4 servings)

Indian dal with pita, cucumber, dill, and Greek yogurt


*Note: If you do not have garam masala, use ½ teaspoon each ground cardamom, coriander and cumin, ¼ teaspoon each ground cinnamon and black pepper, and ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves.


  1. In large bowl, place lentils. Fill bowl with cold water. Using your fingers, stir lentils 3-4 times, then drain. Repeat 2-3 times, until water runs nearly clear when drained. Transfer lentils to large saucepan. Add onion, garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, and oil. Stir to coat ingredients with oil.
  2. Set saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add hot water, bring to boil, cover, and simmer until lentils are soft, 20 minutes; dal will thicken as it cools. Uncover and pour dal into wide, shallow bowl. Set aside until lukewarm (20 minutes). Season to taste with salt.
  3. Divide dal among 4 small soup bowls. Top each with one-fourth of cucumber, scallions, and dill, plus 1 tablespoon yogurt. Cut pitas into 6 wedges. Set each bowl on dinner plate, surround with pita wedges, and serve.

If desired, dal can be covered and refrigerated up to 3 days. Before serving, warm in microwave or in covered pot over medium heat, stirring often.

Nutrition Facts

Per serving

Calories: 260
Total fat: 5 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Carbohydrate: 40 g
Fiber: 8 g
Protein: 15 g
Sodium: 135 mg