This healthy vegan black lentil/kali dal is creamy, indulgent, satisfying, and a great comforting meal. You can enjoy it as lentil soup or with steamed rice.
Every Recipe has a story
My ex-colleague back in India makes the best Kali dal ever! But that is a story in itself. Read on. Personally, I was never a fan of this dal variety. However, once when she had invited us (her team) over for lunch, she had prepared Kali Dal. While all my colleagues were going ga-ga over the Dal, I barely touched it. Noticing that I was not saying anything about her Dal, she came to me with a bowl full of it and asked me to taste it and tell her how it was. I was in a fix.
She was my senior and I was a little scared to tell her that I don't want to eat it. I then did the obvious. I quickly took a spoonful and gulped it down immediately without really tasting it. Then with a smile, I complimented the Dal she had made and she flashed me a 1000-watt smile in return. It was as if she was seeking my approval which seemed a little strange.
Then I overheard her telling my other colleagues how happy she was that I had liked her Dal. I couldn't understand the fuss over this so I decided to ask her. Upon asking her, I got to know that she had always admired my cooking and wanted to up her cooking game too. She had been practicing really hard to cook more often and to try out new recipes just like me. I was at a loss for words and felt so small.
I couldn't look at her eye-to-eye anymore because I was ashamed of myself for behaving like this. It was very immature of me to have wrongly complimented her without even caring to taste the dish she had made. I was really very young back then and had made a mistake as we all do at some point in our lives. I had to correct my wrongdoing. The first step was to confess. I called her aside and told her the truth.
Her reaction back then will stay with me for life! She laughed it out as if it was no big deal and told me that it was OK to have goofed up like this. But seeing me all apologetic, she told me that I had to now really taste the Kali Dal and that is when she would feel better. That day, two things happened. We became friends more than colleagues and I developed a special liking for Kali Dal.
I tasted her Dal and found it all right. But since then, I have had this Dal at her place on so many occasions, that I have gotten used to it now. It's funny that I don't like this Dal prepared by anyone else but her. When we were chatting the other day, she casually asked me why I have not yet featured her recipe on Cookilicious. Since I only ate this Dal at her place, I had never made it at home, myself. So I decided to share her recipe with you for her sake!
What is Kali Dal
Black Lentil Dal (Black Gram) is known by names like Kali (which means black in Hindi) Dal (which means lentils) or Maa ki Dal. It's associated with the kind of comfort one gets with mom's cooking, hence the name - Maa ki Daal. Not many know that is actually a good source of protein and carbs. It is widely used in Indian cooking and is consumed either as a whole, split, or even as split and peeled. In fact, India is the major producer and consumer of this black gram which explains the variety of recipes involving it in Indian cuisine.
As this black lentil cooks, it naturally creates a creamy base for any dish that calls for it and is also well suited for the slow cooker. I normally only prepare Chainsoo Dal using black lentils whenever I am craving it. On other days, it's just lying around untouched in my pantry. Now that I have tried this Kali dal, I should try out some other recipes using black gram lentils. What do you think?
Many North Indian cuisines cook with this lentil extensively. In fact, Kali Dal is a North Indian preparation. Some may confuse this recipe with Dal Makhani but technically, it is not. Kali Dal is made using just this one lentil whereas Dal Makhani is made using whole urad lentils, kidney beans (rajma), and channa dal (split small chickpeas).
How to make it
If you are looking for a hearty and healthy dish to make for lunch or dinner on weeknights, then give this a try. The recipe to make Kali Dal is very simple. It is a one-pot meal and can be cooked in an Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, or over the Cook-top. Today, I am sharing my friend's recipe with you which is the Cooktop version.
I have not tweaked the recipe in any manner as I wish to dedicate this post to her and to the memories we share over this particular Dal. As she says, "There is nothing more comforting or delicious than a nice simmering cup of kali dal!" Let's now get to making this recipe. Since this is an everyday recipe, there is no addition of cream.
First, soak the black lentils in water overnight. Drain the water the next day and pressure cook them in salt + turmeric water along with mustard oil. Give it 3-4 whistles. Take it off the flame and keep it aside for now. Prepare a smooth paste of onion, ginger, garlic, green chilies, and tomato using any blender. Keep that aside for now.
In a pan, heat mustard oil, and once it's hot, add cumin seeds, bay leaves, and asafoetida. Fry for 15 seconds and then add the onion paste along with coriander powder, turmeric powder, dry mango powder (amchur), and red chili powder. Give it a good stir and continue to cook the masala for 5-7 minutes.
Then add the cooked black urad dal to the pan. Add salt and mix it all together. Continue to cook it for another 8-10 minutes on low flame. Garnish with chopped cilantro and some chopped raw onions. Black Lentils Stew/Kali Dal/Maa Ki Daal is ready! Serve with steamed rice or any bread.
Check out these recipes for inspiration if you love to cook with lentils - Indian Dal Shorba | Lentil Soup Recipe, Spicy & Steamed Vegan Lentil Balls, Lentil & Rice Noodles | Paruppu Sevai, South Indian Medu Wada | Lentil Fritters, and Methi Dal | Fenugreek Lentil Stew.
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For the Black Gram
- 1 cup whole urad dal/black gram
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- salt as required
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil
- 3 cups water
- 1 onion
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 inch ginger
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- 2 green chilly/jalapeno
- First, soak the black lentils in water overnight. Drain the water the next day and pressure cook them in salt + turmeric water along with mustard oil. Give it 3-4 whistles. Take it off the flame and keep it aside for now.
- Prepare a smooth paste of onion, ginger, garlic, green chillies and tomato using any blender. Keep that aside for now.
- In a pan, heat mustard oil and once it's hot, add cumin seeds, bay leaves and asafoetida. Fry for 15 seconds and then add the onion paste along with coriander powder, turmeric powder, dry mango powder (amchur) and red chili powder. Give it a good stir and continue to cook the masala for 5-7 minutes.
- Then add the cooked black urad dal to the pan. Add salt and mix it all together. Continue to cook it for another 8-10 minutes of low flame.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and some chopped raw onions. Black Lentils Stew/Kali Dal/Maa Ki Daal is ready! Serve with steamed rice or any bread.