Indian/ Mains

Smoky Daal (5 different lentils)

smoky daal

Learn how to make a smoky daal with a mixture of lentils, tempered with garlic and curry leaves before being infused with charcoal.

Being Indian, we grew up with an array of traditional food that made up the majority of our meals. Beans and lentils were always present, and served as curries of daals. There’s a huge variety of lentils and each one can be utilised to make a different daal. Our day to day daal is always made with toor daal (split pigeon peas/yellow lentils) and it’s a simple and easy dish. But whenever we feel like going the extra mile, we make this daal which incorporates 5 different types of lentils.

This smoky daal is our go-to whenever we crave a fakeaway. The charcoal just takes it to the next level and the mix of spices and smokiness adds a ton of depth. Pair this with some roti (traditional Indian flatbread), or some rice, or even some naan. You’ll find my naan recipe here:

Wholemeal naan and dhaal


To get the charcoal flavour and smokiness, we use a method called dhungar. This is the finished touch to the dish and hence it is done right at the end. A piece of charcoal is placed on an open flame until smoking and there are visible red and white patches. It’s then transferred to a bowl and placed in the centre of the daal. Following this, 1tbsp of oil or ghee (clarified butter) is placed on top of the activated charcoal. This will cause it to immediately start smoking. Cover the pan with a lid and allow it to smoke for around 1 minute.

Wholemeal naan and dhaal

Smoky 5 Daal

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people



  • 2.5 tbsps Red split (masoor daal)
  • 2.5 tbsps Split and skinned black lentils (urad daal)
  • 2.5 tbsps Split bengal gram (channa daal)
  • 2.5 tbsps Yellow pigeon peas (toor daal)
  • 2.5 tbsps Split green (mung daal)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 tbsp oil/ghee
  • 6 curry leaves
  • 400 g tinned tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder/paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 piece of charcoal



  • Rinse lentils and boil on medium heat. Add enough water so it’s 1.5 inches above the level of the lentils. Add half the chilli and turmeric, and salt the water. From dry lentils this will take ~45 minutes. Or soak lentils for several hours to shorten cooking time.
  • Blend onions, garlic and ginger into a puree
  • Temper cumin and curry leaves in oil/ghee until the cumin slightly browns
  • Add onion puree and continue to sautee for 3-4 minutes
  • Add tinned tomatoes and dried spices, continue to simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add lentils and simmer for 5 minutes. Add water if required until desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
  • Add freshly chopped coriander and a squeeze of lemon
  • Turn the heat off and place a bowl in the centre of your pan. Light a piece of charcoal until ashy and smoking. Place this into the centre of the bowl – not in contact with the daal. Pour 1 tbsp of oil on top of the charcoal and cover the pan with a lid for around 1 minute to allow the smoke to infuse.


Optional: temper curry leaves and garlic in oil/ghee and pour directly on top of the daal when serving. You can use any lentils you have, and if you’ve only got 3, just use 3 and increase the quantity of each
Keyword dhaal, indian, lentils, smoky, vegan

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