Go Back

Lemon-Cumin Dal

This is my favorite and unconventional dal, using mung beans
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6 people


  • 1 cup mung beans, rinsed and picked over for unusable beans or inedibles
  • cup black-eyed peas
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp shaa jeera (optional but I think it's important)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne powder (I like it spicy; reduce if you do not)
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cloves smashed with the flat side of a knife and chopped
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 tbls butter
  • 2 tbls lemon juice
  • ¼ cup picked cilantro


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the beans and peas. Add 3 ½ cups/840 milliliters water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the water has reduced to the level of the beans and the beans are tender, 45 minutes.
  • In a small dish, combine the cumin, kala jeera, turmeric, cayenne, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, garlic, and ginger. In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and cook until the frothing subsides and the butter has browned slightly. Add the spice mixture and sauté for 20 seconds or so. Stir into the dal. Bring the dal to a simmer, remove from the heat, and stir in the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and add more lemon or salt as needed. Serve garnished with cilantro, if desired.


This thick bean dish is in the style of Indian preparations that often use red or yellow split peas or lentils. Here, I combine mung beans and black-eyed peas because I particularly like the earthiness of the peas. Adapted from a recipe by an Indian chemist turned restaurateur I once wrote about, it’s a staple in our house. The dal takes an hour to cook but only about five minutes of prep time. It is finished with a serious dose of acidity, in the form of lemon juice, but if you have access to tamarind pulp, use that in place of the lemon. I like the smokiness of the kala jeera, also called black cumin (available at Indian food markets), but the dal is delicious without it. In addition to demonstrating the impact of acidity, this recipe cooks the spices and aromatics in butter before they are added to the beans. Once you’ve seen how powerfully this technique works, it is open to many interpretations and different spice levels. A traditional dal would use ghee, or clarified browned butter, another option. The dal makes a hearty vegetarian meal with some basmati rice and fried bread, my favorite being pappadams.
Keyword blackeyed peas, Dal, Indian cuisine, Mung beans