Creamy South Indian Mung Dal

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Creamy South Indian Mung Dal

A new favorite that I turn to often when I want a relatively quick meal to serve alongside rice, this simple, fragrant, and creamy spiced South Indian split mung dish is a fine mid-week meal or accompaniment to a more elaborate spread. A cross between a thick sambar (a thick and fiery first course often featuring tamarind as a base and any variety of vegetables or split dals) and more soupy tangy rasams (traditionally served during the second course of a meal), mung beans really shine in this versatile dal.

Note: If you prefer, use whole mung beans instead of split ones, but if you do, soak them for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Mung Dal
Creamy South Indian Mung DalCreamy South Indian Mung Dal
Recipe by
Cuisine: South Indian
Published on October 25, 2023

Simple, fragrant, and creamy spiced South Indian split mung dish that makes an easy midweek meal paired with rice and any vegetable

Preparation: 20 minutes + 30 minutes tamarind soaking time
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

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  • 1 cup split mung beans (moong dal)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup tamarind pulp
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 to 3 red or green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger, grated or minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • small handful fresh cilantro or parsley, trimmed and finely chopped (for garnish)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • 1 dried whole red chilies, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida
  • small handful dried curry leaves, crumbled
  • In a strainer, thoroughly wash the split mung beans under cold running water. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to heat to medium-low, cover partially, and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal is soft, roughly 1 hour. Set aside without draining.

  • While the dal is cooking, soak the tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for 30 minutes or longer. Strain the tamarind into a bowl, reserving the tarmarind water and discarding the pulp.

  • Heat the ghee or oil for the temperating in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and fenugreek seeds (if using), and cook until the mustard seeds to turn grey and begin to splutter and pop, about 60 seconds. Add the dried chilies, asafetida, and curry leaves, and cook for another minute.

  • Add the chilies and ginger, and stir for another minute. Add the turmeric, coriander, and cumin, stir once, and pour in the reserved tamarind water. Cook for another minute, stir in the tomato, and cook for another 5 minutes, until the tomato is softened. Add the cooked dal with its remaining cooking liquid to the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes, adding a bit more water if the dal seems too dry. Stir in the salt and black pepper. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro or parsley, alongside hot fresh cooked rice and/or your favorite Indian flatbreads.

Makes 6 servings
South Indian Mung Dal

Other dal dishes to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Toor Dal and Spinach (Toor Palak Dal)
Simple Lemon Urad Dal
Urad Dal with Spices
Classic North Indian Mung Beans with Cumin, Onion and Ginger

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