Lentil Dumplings Simmered in a Sweet Tamarind Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
lentil dumplings in a tamarind sauce

This fragrant and elegant dish really needs no elaborate introduction and I think your eager taste buds will agree. To me, this is pure comfort food, especially when served as part of a fancy spread. These stimulating and succulent lentil dumplings smothered in a sweet and spicy tamarind gravy as the centerpiece of a special Indian-themed vegetarian menu are a perfect choice, but honestly I could eat these for breakfast, lunch AND dinner, just as is.

For my special Indian dinner, I served this dish with spicy green beans, Indian Mulligatawny soup, saffron rice and, for dessert, well, obviously not a traditional end to an Indian meal, but my blueberry goat cheese pie which seemed just right all the same. If you have the time, consider serving stacks of steaming hot savory Indian flatbreads with the meal too.

lentil dumplings with tamarind sauce

I've adapted this recipe somewhat from Raghavan Iyer who has for the past few years greatly influenced my approach to Indian cooking. I am a proud owner of three of his informative books. 660 Curries continues to occupy a special place on my shelf and snuggled up next to it is Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking, from which this recipe has been slightly adapted, and a lovely copy of The Turmeric Trail. Mr. Iyer's recipes are based on traditional Indian creations from all over the continent. Combined with helpful and detailed information about pantry basics, culinary traditions and easy to follow instructions, it is always a pleasure to cook from his books; of course, once the dishes you are making are complete, an absolutely exquisite meal awaits. Regrettably, I am not able to pull up a chair at Mr. Iyer's table, but the next best thing is to have a treasure trove of tried and tested recipes at my fingertips to inspire my own culinary efforts.

Included in this dish is sambar powder and I always have some on hand because this fragrant spice mixture especially popular in South India is a great addition to not only sambars, but rasams and any other curry dish that you want to spice up with a special touch. It's easy to find in any Indian grocer, but the homemade recipe which I have included below keeps well for months in a sealed jar stored in a cool, dry place. If you don't have sambar powder on hand, you could use curry powder instead or a combination of your favorite spices for the sauce.

Lentil Dumplings Simmered in a Sweet Tamarind SauceLentil Dumplings Simmered in a Sweet Tamarind Sauce
Recipe by
Adapted from Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking
Cuisine: Indian
Published on October 23, 2012

Soft, creamy and spicy lentil dumplings simmered in a fragrant tamarind and spice sauce

Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 18 to 20 minutes

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 1 cup toor dal, channa dal or yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons urad dal or yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 3 dried whole red chilies
  • 2 fresh red or green chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 1-1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • generous handful of dried curry leaves
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons rice flour or unbleached white flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste, seeds removed
  • 6 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, butter or oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons channa dal or yellow split peas, rinsed
  • generous handful of dried curry leaves
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sambar powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne, to taste
  • generous handful of fresh parsley or cilantro
  • Begin by soaking the rinsed dals for the lentils in enough water to cover for a few hours or overnight. Drain and rinse.

  • In a food processor, combine the dal, dried and fresh chilies and ginger. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the curry leaves, flour, salt and asafetida.

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet, saucepan or wok over medium heat. When hot, add the processed dal mixture. Stir and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is soft and somewhat dry. Transfer this mixture back to the bowl, cover, and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

  • Shape the dough into roughly 16 round balls (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter), adding a bit more flour if the dumplings are too sticky.

  • Whisk together the tamarind and 6 cups of warm water in a medium or large bowl.

  • Heat the ghee, butter or oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and stir for 30 seconds or until the seeds turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Toss in the fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds and stir for another 30 seconds. Add the channa dal or yellow split peas and stir for another minute or until the dal darkens a bit.

  • Now add the curry leaves, sambar powder, asafetida, salt, turmeric and cayenne. Stir for 30 seconds and then pour in the tamarind water. Bring to a boil.

  • Gently add the dumplings to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring very gently every few minutes or so. Once the sauce has reached your desired consistency, remove from the heat, transfer to serving bowls, and garnish with fresh parsley.

Makes 6 servings

lentil dumplings

More recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen featuring dumplings:
Chickpea Flour Dumplings in a Spicy Yogurt Sauce
Ricotta Dumplings Smothered in Mushroom Sauce
Split Pea Cilantro Dumplings in a Coconut Curry


mynaturalself said...

Oh my goodness! This is an amazing recipe. Thank you. I will be following your blogs :-)

Lisa Turner said...

Thanks for dropping by. Enjoy!

Raghavan Iyer said...

You are always welcome at my table - thanks for all your support and am glad you are enjoying the books.

Lisa Turner said...

I will remember that invite Mr. Iyer :) Thanks for all you do. I truly adore your recipes and books.

Spandana said...

The dumplings look so very good!! Delicious bowl of dumplings and rice on a cold cozy evening :)
Love it!

Finla said...

They look absloutley delicious and a real comfort platter of food.

Venera@veggykitchen said...

Looks great as usual Lisa!
I admire you for making such great dishes every day! You make your family so happy)))

Lisa Turner said...

What a lovely comment Venera. Thank you!