You're looking at one of my favorite Indian food dishes that I used to eat at friends' houses and order at restaurants. In fact, Yellow Moong Dal was the very first Indian recipe I made at home. This recipe is so comforting, delicious and not spicy at all.
It might look like a chunky soup with lentils that melt, but trust me when I say that yellow moong dal is a soup takes your breath away. The flavor is incredible, comforting, and full of spices without being spicy. But for me, as a cook, the most unique thing about it is that the onions and spices are stirred into the pot at the end of cooking!
Side note: I'm not against chunky lentil soups, because my Lentil Cauliflower Soup is the perfect thing if you like a hearty vegetable-rich soup. But today, this bowl of yellow moong dal is creamy, smooth deliciousness.
If you like my Rajma, this another Indian recipe for you! Lentils and beans are so good for you, and adding lots of Indian spices makes them so delicious. If cooking Indian dishes is new to you, this yellow moong dal recipe is a great place to start! It was the very first Indian dish I ever learned how to make.
The 'moong' or 'mung' in the name of this recipe refers to the fact that we're using lentils. The whole lentil is dark green and contains the skin is called 'moong'. When the lentil is split and de-husked, it becomes a red lentil. Using split lentils speeds up cooking time considerably. They can be found in the dry bean aisle or an Indian grocery store.
How to Make Yellow Moong Dal
This Indian yellow moon dal soup is incredible with rice and hot naan on the side. It feels unique to me, because instead of starting a pot of soup by sautéing vegetables in oil, the lentils are actually cooked in the pot first! While the lentils cook, the onions and spices are cooking in a separate skillet. The fragrant onions have cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and garlic for even more incredible flavor. After the spicy onions and lentils are combined, the final step is whisking butter and cilantro into the pot. This makes yellow moond dal soup so creamy and unforgettable.
- Red Lentils. Please look at the photo of the ingredients above to see that red lentils are actually orange. And furthermore, they turn yellow when cooking. I'm not sure why they are even called red lentils, but I do know that they are easily available in every grocery store in the dried beans and lentils section. You need 1 cup, and using the bulk bin is a great place to get only what you need for one recipe.
- Tomatoes. Classically, yellow moong dal is made with fresh tomatoes. Fresh garden tomatoes (like Roma or slicing tomatoes) break down so easily while cooking, but if you only have canned, use them! I don't recommend grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, because their skins are thicker and they don't break down in the soup as easily.
- Oil. Use any neutral oil, like canola oil, vegetable oil, or grapeseed oil.
- Red Onion. One medium red onion finely chopped is about 1 ½ cups total.
- Cumin. We need half of a teaspoon ground cumin.
- Coriander. We also need a full teaspoon of ground coriander, which is the seeds of the cilantro plant.
- Turmeric. Then, ¾ teaspoon of ground turmeric for flavor and color.
- Cayenne Pepper. Spice is optional and use to your taste in yellow moong dal. Personally, I add ¼ teaspoons, but it's your choice.
- Garlic. Two cloves of garlic, minced.
- Butter. After cooking, one tablespoon of salted butter in the pot makes this supremely luscious!
- Cilantro. I think fresh cilantro, about a handful of leaves, is a great way to finish yellow moong dal in the pot just before serving.
The first step to making yellow moong dal is to rinse your lentils very well in a mesh strainer. Then, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes. This helps hydrate them so that they break down into a silky smooth texture in the pot. Drain after 30 minutes.
Now, combine the lentils, tomatoes and 3 cups of water in a large stock pot. Bring this mixture to a gentle boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are soft and collapsing, about 45-55 minutes. Taste the lentils to see if they're fully soft before proceeding.
During the lentil cooking time, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, and sauté until softened and starting to turn golden around the edges, about 10-15 minutes. Stir this mixture often, and lower the heat if the onions threaten to burn.
Next, add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, optional cayenne, and chopped garlic. Cook this mixture while stirring frequently for about 30 seconds, just to release the oils in the spices.
Once the lentils are fully soft, stir the onions and spices into the pot.
Finally, whisk in the tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle in fresh cilantro just before serving with rice and naan.
Best Yellow Moong Dal Recipe
We serve this yellow moong dal over white or brown rice with cilantro on top. A wedge of lemon for squeezing on just before serving is nice, too!
Other recipes that use delicious red lentils include my Chickpea Noodle Soup. Similar to this yellow moong dal, the lentils melt and thicken the whole pot. A dish that contains red lentils as the star is my Red Lentil Chili. It is so thick and hearty that you will not miss the meat, I promise!
If this is your first time making any cuisine from India, welcome! I'm so glad to have you here. I suggest you also check out other Indian blogs, like Archana's Kitchen, or one of my personal favorites because it's all vegetarian: Dassana's Veg Recipes of India. Also, check out Indian Healthy Recipes by Swasthi.
Storage/ Make Ahead
Store leftover yellow moong dal in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, add it to a pot on the stove over low heat. An extra squeeze of lemon juice is nice to perk up leftovers.
This soup can be frozen once fully cooked for up to 3 months in freezer-safe containers. Defrost in the fridge overnight, and then heat in a pot over low heat until steaming.
- 1 cup red lentils (split yellow moong)
- 2 medium garden tomatoes, diced
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped (1 ½ cups)
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Handful chopped cilantro
- Rinse and soak the lentils in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain before proceeding.
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, add the drained lentils, diced raw tomatoes, and 3 cups of water. Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook the mixture until the lentils are soft, about 45-60 minutes.
- About half-way through the cooking time, heat the oil in a separate large skillet. Add the red onion and saute until softened and starting to turn golden around the edges, about 10-15 minuets, stirring often.
- Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, optional cayenne and garlic to the pan with the onions, and saute for another 30 seconds.
- Once the lentils are fully cooked, they will start to collapse when you stir then. When the lentils are fully cooked, it's time to add the entire contents of the skillet with the onions spices into the pot.
- Add the salt and butter to the lentils, and whisk to break up the lentils and make everything semi-smooth. Finally, stir in the cilantro and serve.
Lentils: Red lentils actually appear orange and cook up yellow. They are commonly found in any grocery store next to the dried beans. In an Indian market, they are labeled 'moong', which means they are de-skinned and split lentils.
Tomatoes: I really recommend a garden tomato that you would slice and use on a sandwich. Roma tomatoes are fine here (use 4), but do not use grape or cherry tomatoes here because their skin is too firm.
Oil: Any neutral oil is fine--vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, etc.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 158Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 454mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 4gSugar: 3gProtein: 4g