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Grandmother's Gujarati Dal
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4.97 from 26 votes

Grandma’s Gujarati Dal

Gujarati Dal - the flavors of this are a delicate balance of spicy, sweet and sour.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: dal, gujarati, lentils, sour, spicy, sweet
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 268kcal


  • 1 cup split pigeon peas tuvar dal or toor dal
  • 4 to 5 pieces kokum or use lemon juice or tamarind, see substitutes in my notes below
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar or jaggery
  • 1 Serrano chili or to taste
  • 1 tsp ginger grated
  • 3 tbsp peanuts raw
  • 2 tbsp ghee use coconut oil or canola oil to keep it vegan
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • tsp fenugreek seeds optional
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp chili powder or to taste
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • big handful chopped cilantro


  • Rinse the pigeon peas in cold water until the water runs clear (about three times).
  • If using a pressure cooker: cook the pigeon peas and the kokum with 2 1/2 cups water for 20 minutes.
  • If you don’t have a pressure cooker: In a large pot (I use my Dutch oven), boil the pigeon peas and kokum in 6 cups water for about 90 minutes, until the peas are soft. (This may take longer if your peas are old. Just cook until the peas have softened.) Keep an eye on the water level. You will probably need to keep adding water. If the water runs low, just add enough so that the water covers the dal but not too much.
  • Once the dal is cooked, add 3 cups of water, brown sugar, green chili, ginger, peanuts and salt. Bring to a boil.
  • While the dal is boiling, work on the “vaghaar” (tempering). In a small saucepan, heat the 2 tbsp of ghee or oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds. Let cook for about 10 seconds. There should be a lot of sizzling and popping.
  • Add the turmeric and chili powder to the hot oil, stir and immediately pour into the lentils.
  • Let the lentils continue to boil for at least 15 minutes. You can boil for up to 45 minutes. Just make sure to add water if you boil longer. The water should just cover the lentils.
  • Turn off heat. Stir in the cilantro. Serve warm with rice.


It is said that the longer the dal is boiled, the better it is. So if you want your flavors to be really well integrated, boil the dal for longer. Kokum is available at Indian stores and online. But if you don’t have it on hand and want to make this dal, it is no problem. You can substitute lemon juice, tamarind or even tomatoes. If using lemon juice, add 2 tbsp of lemon juice at the end after you’ve turned off the heat. If using tamarind, soak a 1 inch sized ball in 1/4 cup of warm water for about 20 minutes. Add this water to the dal after the dal with the ginger and green chilies. You can also use tomatoes, but try to use some that are tart (as opposed to sweet ones like Roma). Add about 1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes to the dal when you add the ginger and green chilies.


Calories: 268kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 622mg | Potassium: 67mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 115IU | Vitamin C: 0.7mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1.8mg