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Sweet and Sour Yellow Lentils
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Yellow dal is a staple in all Indian homes, I grew up eating it for at least two meals every day. Now I know you are wondering: how can I eat the same thing so often? Well, we found ways to get creative with it. We’d jazz up dal by adding different types of “tadka” (spices tempered in oil) or vegetables like spinach, bottle gourd, pumpkin, eggplant, or whatever was in season. My best friend’s mother made a sweet and sour dal which was truly the highlight of my meal every time I went to her house. This recipe is inspired by “amti,” which loosely translates to “any dal that has an acidic component.” This type of dal is made in Maharashtra, a state in the western part of India.

To start, make sure you get toor dal (yellow lentils) that are flatter in shape, as opposed to chana dal which tend to be thicker. Also, to speed up the cooking process,soak the dal in water for 30 minutes before cooking. The asafoetida (a tree gum with digestive properties that should be available at your local ethnic grocery store) tadka offers a pungent, oniony flavor. You always need to temper asafoetida in fat and cannot just sprinkle it over dishes as the flavor will overpower the dish. Traditionally, the acidic component in this dish is fresh tamarind and jaggery, which also adds sweetness. To make this recipe a little more accessible to my entire food community I substituted lime juice and light brown sugar. That being said, if you can find fresh tamarind and jaggery at your local ethnic grocery store I highly recommend using these ingredients for an authentic taste. Curry leaves have a citrusy, anise-like flavor which is hard to replicate but if you can’t find any, feel free to leave them out. The flavors will be slightly different, but delicious nonetheless. 

If you are looking to try something new and want a comforting bowl to get through the end of winter, these Sweet and Sour Lentils with steamed rice is just the dish to dig into!


Prep time 20mins
Cook time 40mins
Yield: Serves or Makes 2-4
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  • 8 ounces toor dal, dry (soaked in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Simply Organic Ground Turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 medium plum tomato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon La Tourangelle Olive Oil
  • pinch asafoetida
  • 3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Thai green chili, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Steamed rice, to serve


  • Step 1

    In a medium pot combine soaked lentils and water with turmeric and cook on medium heat until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add coconut, brown sugar, curry leaves and tomato, stirring to combine.

  • Step 2

    In a large skillet, heat oil until shimmering. Add asafoetida and mustard seeds, and sauté for 10 seconds until fragrant. Add the garlic and chili and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add this “tadka” to the lentil mixture and stir to combine. Simmer for 10 minutes, and remove from heat.

  • Step 3

    Season to taste with salt, and finish lentils with lime juice and cilantro. Serve immediately with steamed rice.