How to Cook Dal Bhat, Tibetan Style

Dal Bhat

Dal bhat is a traditional Nepali or Indian food consisting of lentil soup (dal) served with rice (bhat), which Tibetans began to cook after we came into exile.

Traditionally Tibetans in Tibet don’t cook dal, but it is a very common dish of Tibetans who live outside our country, especially those who live in India and Nepal.

It is a healthy meal that is fast and easy to cook and loved by our vegetarian friends. I learned how to cook dal when I was living in India and very often cook it at home.

There are all kinds of lentils we can use but I like to use red lentils, called masoor dal, because they cook fast. There are some black and green lentils that taste great, but that take much longer to cook.

The lentil soup is often called masala dal or dal masalamasala is a term used in Indian and Nepali cooking to describe a mixture of spices.

Dal Bhat Recipe

For 2 people
Preparation time: ~ 40 minutes

Dal Bhat: Ingredients
Dal Bhat: Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils (masoor dal) (recommended, as other types of dal can take much longer to cook)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric*
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)*
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder*
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • ½ tablespoon butter or ghee (optional, but it gives a nice flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro and/or green onion, chopped, for garnish
  • Water, to make soup
  • basmati rice (or any kind you wish)
  • Indian chutney or pickle (achar) of your choice. We love Patak’s lime pickle.  You can also find Patak’s at pretty much any Indian grocery, and some Safeway, Whole Foods and other large grocery stores in the US.
  • Optional: add pepper of your choice, or red pepper flakes. We don’t add any pepper, as we don’t favor super hot food, and the dish is very flavorful without heat, especially if served with an Indian pickle relish.

* If you prefer, you can use Shan Dal Curry Mix, or garam masala instead of the turmeric, cumin and coriander. We have used the Shan’s and it tastes great. Any type of garam masala would also do just fine, and you can make your own if you prefer or don’t have access to it.

Preparation

  • Wash the lentils and rinse a couple of times. Be careful to remove any stones if you don’t want to break your teeth 😉 If you have time, soak the lentils in water as long as you can, up to overnight, before you cook. They get very soft and can cook faster. Normally, I don’t have much time, so I wash the lentils and cook it right way.
  • Begin preparing the rice any way you like so it will be ready when you’re done cooking the dal. We use a rice cooker.
  • Chop your onion, and mince the garlic and ginger. You can combine if you wish and set aside.
  • Chop the tomato and set aside.
  • Wash your cilantro and or green onion. Chop for garnish and set aside.
  • Heat oil on high for a minute or two.
  • Add ginger, garlic and onion, and stir fry on high until the onion is a little brown on the edges, 1-2 minutes.
  • Stir in cumin seeds, salt, turmeric, mustard seed and coriander powder. Turn the heat down to medium (6 out of 10 on our stove), and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Note: The stove’s temperature will remain at medium (6/10) for the rest of the cooking process, and you will stir occasionally.
  • Add tomatoes and butter. Stir, cover with lid and cook for 4 minutes.
  • After 4 minutes, stir in the lentils, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • After cooking for 5 minutes, add one cup of water, cover with lid and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • When the 5 minutes are up, stir in 2 more cups of water, as the water will begin to decrease as you cook.
  • Continue cooking on medium for 10 minutes.
  • Now your dal is ready Turn off the stove and sprinkle the chopped cilantro and/or green onion on top.

Serve

  • Serve with rice. Many Tibetans like to serve the dal in a small soup bowl, beside a plate of rice. Some people like to ladle the dal over the rice and mix it up to eat. Indians and Nepalis often eat dal baht with their hands, as do some Tibetans, but many of us also use a spoon.
  • Add some Indian chutney or pickle (achar) or hot sauce. We can’t more highly recommend the Patak’s Lime Pickle or relish, which is just heavenly and is perfectly complementary with this dal bhat. You can get it medium or hot. Medium is more spicy in a flavorful way than a hot way. The hot has some bite!

Enjoy! You are going to love this.

Tibetan Home Cooking

Tibetan Home Cooking

Bring joy to the people you love by making your own delicious, authentic Tibetan meals

Updated on January 25, 2020. First published on January 14, 2011.

Your Tibet travel advisors, Lobsang and Yolanda

Most people who want to go to Tibet don't know how to get there or who to trust for help. We’re Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon, and we help make Tibet travel more simple, safe and ethical so you can feel peace of mind about your trip. Learn more about us and YoWangdu here.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Nicola says

    Hello wonderful cooks. Can you give me advice on how to cook or where to find a recipe for a Tibetan dish (I think it is) called nyamo kyarmo? I can’t find it anywhere but a friend had it in a Tibetan restaurant and wants to prepare it. Thank you!

  2. Marla says

    I am going to the Indian grocery after work tonight to get the Patak’s (and Shan mix, and more lentils and urad dahl for another recipe). I’ve found Indian pickles intimidating in the past but this makes me want to try it again.

  3. Kino says

    Hello!

    Thank you very very much for this super-delicious recipe!
    : ]

    I have cooked quite a few types of dal in my life but this is really really good..
    ..totally agree with Michael above – it’s really fantastic comfort food for the cold season.

    Thank you again, I really appreciate you sharing this!

    Love from Berlin!

  4. Martin Brown says

    yowangdu, thank you for access to all the great Tibetan food recipes. I have been to Nepal twice now and really enjoyed discovering the food there. Of your recipes I have made Dal Bhat, MoMo and Thenthuk with great success. Your recipes and directions are concise and clear to understand. The photos are most helpful also. Can’t wait to try sepen with the momo. One question. I have some Marcha (yeast) from Nepal and would love to see a recipe for making Tungba (Tongba?). Do you have any interest in this?

    • yowangdu says

      Thanks so much for your super kind comments, Martin! We don’t know what Tungba is — can you describe it a bit, or is there a photo you know of?

      • Losang Tsekyi says

        Hello, does Martin might means the noodle soups Thugpa or Thentuk? I adore both of them, they are just great for delicious winter dinners. Tashi delek from Strasbourg

    • Ratna says

      Martin means Himalayan millet beer. Usually served hot in the winter. To ferment: Steam millet until swollen. Line a momo streamer tray with muslin cloth for this step. Allow grain to cool. Crushed marcha powder (yeast for fermenting alcohol) and sprinkle over the cooled, cooked millet. Mix in gently. Pack millet in a large glass or stainless container and cover. Leave for several days to allow fermentation. The smell will tell you when its ready. To drink: Place about one cup of fermented millet into a large mug (one pint or larger), add boiling water, then strain or drink thru a straw. Thongba drunk through a metal or bamboo straw that has a pin across the bottom so that grain is not drawn up. Water may be added until no flavor / alcohol is left. The dry lump of marcha will keep for years. Grind to powder before using. Don’t worry if some bugs have infested. Just shoo them away. You can also by white balls of yeast in Chinese grocery stores in North America and Europe. Flavor profile ends up a little different for Nepal’s but very nice.

    • susie says

      Combien inutilement dégoûtant de vous, et si grossier!

      Prenez votre nez-cueillette ailleurs, vous cochon.

  5. Shelly Freiberger says

    Thank you for sharing this recipe! My son visited far Northern India (where the exile Tibetan government is headquartered) and became enchanted by the people and the food. He learned a lot and came home wanting to learn to cook dal specifically. Thank you for posting this easy and delicious recipe. It is very “user friendly”, we have multiplied the recipe and made it for large groups camping. It was a huge hit. This recipe has become regularly requested by my family and my son says it is almost as good as his host Tibetan host mom’s.
    Thanks again.

  6. Deidre says

    Love this recipe, thank you.
    I have tried it with various side products and have to tell that mango chutney,
    sour cream or onion marmalade are also fantastic.

    Happy cooking and always remember the secret ingredient, ” love”

  7. Ellis says

    Great recipe, look forward to trying it myself when I get the chance. If you have any other Tibetan recipes for pulses I hope you post them on your website as well.

    Ellis

  8. Marisa says

    Great recipe, thank you :)) And the lime pickle really is the perfect accompaniment, thank you for sharing this recipe! Namaste x

  9. Eddie says

    Hey, making this recipe now, its really awesome. Thank you guys. BTW is the lime pickle supposed to be added into it while cooking, or served as a sort of topping? Thanks!

    • Yolanda says

      We’re glad you like it! For us, after the dal is finished cooking, each of us puts some lime pickle on the top of his or her own serving.You can mix it in or not at that point, as you wish 🙂

  10. Wendy says

    I have been craving a good recipe for years …. Only looking in my cookbooks to be disappointed by the outcome. Thanks to the google, I found your site and this recipe. It is so perfect, I ate it 3 days in a row!!! Just like when I was in Nepal. I was even able to get my husband to try … and like it.l. Can’t wait to try some of your other dishes.

  11. Asparke says

    Great tasting and easy recipe!! It reminds my husband and I of our incredible time in Nepal. My whole family enjoys it… Thank you so much!

  12. wojtek says

    this is great! never thought of using red onions with curry spices but it comes out great. first attempt wasn’t so successful as the (yellow) lentils we not soaked long enough and needed lots more cooking. so lesson for next time. this is great recipe.

    • yowangdu says

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Wojtek! Yes, different kinds of lentils need different cooking times, especially the black and dark green lentils take a long time to cook. All the best to you!

  13. Dominic says

    A fantastic recipe! I’ve been looking for a good Dal recipe ever since I visited Nepal, and this is the first time I’ve been satisfied with the result. I made the minor addition of putting some vegetable stock into the lentil boil water, which is something to consider if you have it on hand.

    • yowangdu says

      Hi Dominic and thank you so much for writing in 🙂 Putting the veg stock in the water for boiling the lentils sounds like a great idea. We will try this!

  14. Ella says

    I made this for first time tonight. Had to substitute whole cumin and mustard seeds for powdered, and paired it with leftover brown rice. It was tasty. and I will make it again, will try with the lime pickle if I can find it. I had soaked the lentils, and found out that i didn’t need to add nearly as much water as indicated in recipe. Next time I make this I may not bother soaking the masoor dal first.

    • yowangdu says

      Hi Ella. Sounds great to sub whole cumin and mustard and serving with brown rice. And thanks for the info on soaking the lentils, we’re sure others will find this helpful 🙂 Definitely try with the lime pickle — that makes a perfect flavor! Thanks for writing 🙂

  15. Shabkar says

    It would be very nice if this website had regular text you could cut and paste so I print the ingredients list without printing all those pictures, etc. Looking forward to trying it.

    • yowangdu says

      Hi Shakbar,and thanks for letting us know this. We removed the cut and paste ability recently because some people were cutting and pasting our entire articles and stealing the content for their web sites without offering any credits to us 🙁 This is a good reminder that we should look for a print function that is text only so that you don’t need to print all the pics. Thanks!

  16. Mia P. says

    The Dal Baht is almost ready. I can’t wait to try it. Just a question – in the photo there is a bottle of sesame oil but I don’t see it listed as an ingredient. Did I miss something? Thanks!!

  17. Susanne Nelson says

    I have just made and eaten Dal Baht and it was absolutely fantastic. I had to tell you straight away. Thanks for such a good recipe.

  18. Michael says

    Delicious recipe- this was the best dal I’ve had! Perfect comfort food for a rainy day. I doubled it so I would have some leftover to heat up for an easy dinner during the week, and I will try that with the patak lime pickle.
    Thanks!