Learn how to make authentic Hyderabadi Khatti dal at home with this step-by-step recipe. I’ve made lentils (dal) in many different ways over the years. But my family is particularly fond of this red lentil (masoor dal) that packs a delicious tangy taste, making it irresistible. It’s simple, light, nutritious, and perfect for beginner cooks too.
What is Khatti Dal?
Khatti literally translates to “sour”. This recipe uses tamarind to add a nice tart/tangy flavor to the dal. Hyderabadi Cuisine in India/Pakistan is notorious for using tang as a prominent flavor in their recipes. And that is where khatti dal originated from too. Their tamatar ka khatta (tangy tomato chutney) pairs sooo well with so many pulaos outside of their Cuisine too.
Khatti dal (tangy dal) is usually made of red lentils (masoor dal) or split pigeon pea (arhar dal/tuvar dal). It’s eaten with steamed rice, paper, and other sides made with meat or vegetables. (my favorite being fried fish)
2 of my khalas (maternal aunts) got married into Hyderabadi families. And I love all the authentic and traditional Hyderabadi food that I’ve gotten to experience through them over the years. And now, that I have so many of you as readers of this blog, I can’t wait to share more.
You need basic South Asian pantry staples to recreate this dal at home. Here are a couple of notes on the list:
- Lentils – We usually make this dal with red lentils which is masoor dal. But people also make it with split pigeon pea (tuvar/arhar dal). Masoor dal is easily available in most stores around the world, distinctive of its orange color.
- Tomato, onion, and garlic – These are staples for any South Asian recipe. Only use fresh tomato for this recipe. No puree, paste, or canned tomato.
- Seasoning – You need standard spices like turmeric, salt, red chili flakes, red chili powder, green chilies
- Whole spices – These are fried in oil and added on top of the dal. Mustard seeds, curry leaves, and cumin seeds are the main trio that makes this dish Hyderabadi
- Oil – Any neutral oil like vegetable oil is used for this recipe. You can also use coconut oil etc for your recipe, just remember these oils have a slight aroma and flavor of their own too.
- Coriander leaves – Chopped coriander leaves for the garnish.
Tamarind (emli) – This is the star of this recipe and the main ingredient that brings out the tart flavor. Most grocery stores hold tamarind in either its original raw form, in a block form or a ready-to-use pulp bottle. If you use raw or block tamarind, you will have to soak it in hot water for 10 mins to release the pulp. Then you can simply use your hands to squish the block to release the pulp. Strain and use. To skip this entire process completely, simply get the ready-to-use tamarind pulp. The quantity of tamarind depends on your own preference. You can always add more or less depending on how much tanginess you like.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities
Step By Step Instructions
All dals are usually prepared in 3 easy steps – Soak, Boil, and Baghaar.
Once you soak the dals, almost all dals require 2 cooking steps. One step is boiling the lentils to soften them up. And the other step is making Baghar/Tarka. A baghar (tempered spices) is a process of adding fried spices to a dish, either as the first or as the last step. This dal uses a finishing tarka.
How Long to soak the lentils?
This has become an ongoing debate amongst online communities mostly because someone somewhere read the word “antinutrients” online and freaked out. In simple words, anti-nutrients are just some chemicals found in naturally occurring pulses like legumes, beans, and lentils. They are usually removed by soaking them before cooking and cooking itself. (you can read more about anti-nutrients here if you want). Red lentils are the smallest-sized lentils out there, and 30 min of pre-soak time is enough to get rid of any anti-nutrients in the dal.
STEP 1 – Rinse the dal with water at least once and then soak the dal in water for 20 to 30 mins.
STEP 2 – Boiling the Dal
STEP 2a- Add spices, tomato, and soaked lentils in a pot with water and bring to a boil. Now cover with a lid and boil for 20 mins or so
STEP 2b– After the end of 20 mins, use a hand whisk to mash the tomato into the dal. Whisk the dal to make sure all the dal is mushy and you have a nice somewhat smooth dal mix.
PROTIP: Keep the lid of your dal slightly askew, to prevent your dal from boiling over and dripping all over your stovetop. If your dal is not disintegrating to form a nice soupy consistency, then use a hand blender to quickly reach your soupy consistency.
STEP 2c– Soak a small block of tamarind in a bowl of hot water for 15 mins to release the pulp
STEP 2d– Use a fork or a spoon to break the block and release all the juices from the pulp.
STEP 2e– Pour the tamarind liquid into the dal through a strainer.
STEP 3 – MAKING THE TARKA
STEP 3a– Add whole spices, garlic, onions, and curry leaves in a frying pan and fry in oil.
STEP 3b– Fry them until the onions turn golden brown.
STEP 3c– Add the tarka (tempered spices) to the dal.
STEP 3d- After adding Tarka, cover the dal with a lid for 5 mins. There is no mixing involved. Simply allow the tarka to sit on top of the dal till you are ready to serve.
While the Tarka sits on top of your dal, the flavors and aroma infuse together to create a simple yet delicious dish. When you are ready to dish out, garnish with chopped coriander or cilantro and serve hot with rice and all the amazing combos mentioned below
- For the reasons mentioned above, it’s always best to soak dal before using it, this removes anti-nutrients and reduces cooking time. Discard the water that was used for soaking and use fresh water to boil the dal.
- Some versions of masoor dal or any dal, sometimes take too long to disintegrate in the water to give a smooth consistency. On those days I like to use my hand blender to quickly give my dal the consistency I want. You can find one here on Amazon.
- You can use the microwave to reheat dals, but they are best reheated on the stove.
- Let your dal sit in the pot for 10 mins after you’ve added your tarka/tempered spices, this helps in infusing the flavors in the dal.
What is Khatti dal paired with?
Eaten with rice or roti, these are other things you can pair with khatti dal
- Papad and Achar like Carrot Pickles (gajar ka achar)
- Any vegetable curry like Lauki ki bhujia (Bottle Gourd mash)
- Spicy masala fish fry
- Spinach and potato cutlets
- Grilled Chicken Tikkas
There is nothing wrong with over-soaking your lentils. It will only reduce cooking time, that’s all. Let’s say you soaked your dal and decided not to cook it that day, simply put it in the fridge, and bring it out the next day when you decide to cook it.
Dals are best for weekly meal plans because they can easily stay fresh in the fridge for up to 5 days. Simply reheat them in a pot and they will be good as new.
If you think you are not going to have the leftover dal right away, it’s always best to freeze it. If you are meal planning, freeze the dal BEFORE adding the tempered spices. Whenever you are ready to eat, simply thaw it on the counter, heat it up, and make fresh Tarka to make the dal taste as good as a freshly cooked one.
I use all my leftover dals to make oats khichdi. Tangy lentil oats are a great way to utilize leftover dal.
You can also add pieces of leftover roti or chapati to the dal and cook for 10 mins. Then eat it with a spoon.
NGL, the perfect tang in this recipe comes from tamarind. But if you are cornered, you can use mango powder or vinegar instead.
Do you have any questions? I’m happy to help! And of course, If you try this recipe, I’d loveeeee to see it or simply hear about it! Hit me up in the comment section below and I’ll get back to asap! Happy Cooking!
Hyderabadi khatti dal
- 1 cup red lentils masoor dal
- 1 large tomato with the stem removed
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder haldi
- 2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 4 whole green chilies
- 2 inch block of dry tamarind or Emli soaked in 1 cup hot water see notes
- coriander/cilantro for garnish
For Tempered spices or Baghaar
- 1/2 an onion sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic sliced or chopped
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds rye daana
- 7 to 8 curry leaves
- 5 to 6 whole red chilies
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup oil or less if you want
- Soak lentils for 30 mins to 1 hr. Discard the water
- In a pot add lentils and all ingredients for the lentils along with 4 to 5 cups of water.
- Bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce flame to medium and cover the pot. Do not cover the pot all the way through, leave the lid a little askew. You can also use a pressure cooker for this step
- After 30 mins or so, use a whisk (or a dal ghotni) to whisk the dal around and make it more uniform. Let the dal simmer on the stove.
- In a bowl, soak tamarind in hot water for 5 mins. Use a sieve to strain the tamarind to get puply water and remove all the impurities in the sieve. Collect all the water released from it. Add it to the dal.
- Cook for another 10 mins to cook the tamarind.
- Turn off flame.
Baghar – Tempering the dal
- In a pan add oil and all the ingredients for tempered spices. Fry them at medium flame until the onions turn a nice golden brown.
- Put the tempered mix on top of the dal and let it sizzle.
- Make sure you get all bits of tempered spices into the dal.
- Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice and papad.
- You can also use tamarind paste instead of tamarind blocks. Just mix the paste with water to make a diluted version and add to the dal. I’ve given standard quantities, but feel free to add more tamarind if you like.
- Your dal can stay in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- You can freeze your dal for up to 3 months.