What is dal?


dal¹ /dɑːl/
(also dhaldaal)

1. A split pulse (ie lentil, bean, pea or other dried legume seed)
2. A stew, soup or similar dish made of pulses, split or whole

"Cooking dal is magical; a couple of handfuls of pulses cooked up with nothing more than water and a few spices delivers one of the most comforting, nutritious and economical dishes on earth."

There are countless classic dals from across the Indian subcontinent, often named for their main pulse ingredient, such as chana dal, meaning split black chickpeas. Other names describe other ingredients or characteristics of the dish, for example dal makhani or “buttery dal”. Cuisines around the world have similar traditional dishes, from the refried beans of Mexico and fava dips of Greece to Britain’s pease pudding and mushy peas. 

Dictionary of dal

The naming of dal and pulses can be very confusing. English names are used very variously, with split yellow peas, split mung beans and split urad beans all different species of legume but all often described as lentils. Hindi names are generally much more precisely used.

chana dal

Split black or desi variety chickpeas (Cicer aretinum). Other chickpea varieties are sometimes used and split yellow peas, which are very similar in appearance, are often substituted. Find recipes for chana dal...

chickpea (also garbanzo bean)

A pulse of the species Cicer aretinum with two principal varieties, the large and light kabuli and the small and dark desi or black chickpea.

masoor dal

Split brown / red lentils (Lens culinaris). Find recipes for masoor dal...

mung dal (also moong dal)

Split mung beans (Vigna radiata). Find recipes for mung dal...


Whole red kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

sabut masoor

Whole brown lentils (Lens culinaris). Find recipes for sabut masoor...

sabut moong
(also sabut mung, hare mung, hare moong)

Whole mung beans (Vigna radiata)

split fava beans

Split fava or faba beans (Vicia faba), smaller seeded varieties of the broad bean species, grown in the UK

split green peas

Split green or blue varieties of common pea (Pisum sativum), grown in the UK

split yellow peas

Split yellow varieties of common pea (Pisum sativum), grown in the UK

toor dal (also toovar dal)

Split pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan). Find recipes for toor dal...

urad dal

Split urad beans (Vigna mungo)

urad gram

Whole urad beans (Vigna mungo)

vaal dal

Split hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus). Fava beans or butter beans are often substituted.