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Sana's DIY Dal

Sana's DIY Dal

Sana's DIY Dal

Recipe By:

Sana Javeri Kadri

This is my go-to dal, made using Priya Krishna's amazing Instant Pot guide. We batch cook this dal every weekend using different combinations of lentils and whatever veggies we have on hand, and then eat it throughout the week. It's the most comforting thing, and infinitely customizable. 


  • 2 cups dry lentils (I use 1/2 chana and 1/2 toor, highly recommend mixing and playing! Chana and urad are another great combo) 
  • 5 cups water or broth (I use homemade chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup ghee or sesame oil or peanut oil or coconut oil (using smoked ghee here would be a genius upgrade
  • 1 big onion - diced
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 2 inch ginger - minced 
  • 3 zucchini’s - diced
  • 1 small butternut squash - diced 
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes (+ 1 tsp coconut sugar / jaggery if the tomatoes are quite sour) 
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked Aranya Black Pepper to taste 

Core spices: 

Optional but very delicious: 



    1. Cook the lentils and liquid (water or broth) in the instant pot on high pressure - I did 10 minutes. It's better to do this ahead of time to allow the IP to release it's pressure naturally before opening it! I usually do this the night before! 
    2. Now measure out all your spices. You can mix together the cumin+ coriander powder, the mustard seeds, the whole chilli, bay leaf and the whole cumin in a small bowl. In a second bowl, mix together the turmeric, chilli powder, cardamom, cinnamon, asafoetida, and cloves. 
    3. Sauté your onions ginger and garlic in half the ghee in a Dutch oven on medium heat until onions are translucent. Reduce heat to low.
    4. In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt the remaining ghee and when it’s starting to bubble just a little, add your first spice bowl - with cumin and coriander etc. As soon as the mustard seeds start to crackle, take off the heat.
    5. Add the spiced ghee mixture to the sautéed onions that should be lightly browning by now. Add spice bowl #2 as well and stir to mix. When the spices smell fragrant and nutty (but no hint of burning!), pour in the cooked lentils.
    6. Cook for 3-4 mins. Season with s+p. If you were adding ground meat like beef or lamb - this would be the step to add it in and cook until slightly browned! 
    7. Add the diced butternut squash and crushed tomatoes, and more liquid (water or broth!) if needed so that the bottom isn't burning and the dal is still runny. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Mixing intermittently to prevent the bottom from burning. 
    8. Then add the diced zucchini and cook for an additional 10 minutes until both the squash and the zukes are soft. Add more salt and pepper to taste, and broth/water to get the consistency that you want! If you used water instead of broth, you'll need more seasoning and fat to get it as tasty and rich as if you'd cooked it in broth! Ghee is your friend, dollop away! 
    9. If you were adding spinach, add it in 2 mins before taking it off the heat and cover so it’s just barely wilted! 
    10. Eat piping hot on top of hot rice, a dollop of yogurt, and plenty of fresh cilantro for garnish! I like to add Brooklyn Delhi’s garlic achaar or Shaquanda’s hot pepper sauce for extra heat and umami!