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Sana's DIY Dal

Recipe by: Sana Javeri Kadri

Sana's DIY Dal
Photo by:  

Alex Lau for Bon Appetit

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. 

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  • 2 cups mixed, 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
  • 1/2 cup ghee or sesame oil or peanut oil or coconut oil (using smoked ghee here would be a genius upgrade
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 2-inch piece ginger, minced 
  • 3 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar or Madhur Jaggery (optional) 
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked Aranya Black Pepper to taste 

Core spices: 

Optional but very delicious: 



    1. Place the lentils and water or broth in an instant pot and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release and set the cooked lentils aside.
    2. Before you start the dal, measure out all your spices. In one bowl, mix the ground cumin and coriander with the whole cumin seeds and black mustard seeds, whole chilli and bay leaf, if using. In a second bowl, mix the turmeric and powdered chillies with the cardamom, cinnamon, asafoetida, and cloves, if using.
    3. Heat a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add the half the ghee. Add the onions, ginger and garlic and sauté until the onions start to turn translucent and light golden, about 6–8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low while you temper the first round of spices.
    4. Heat the remaining half of the ghee in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the ghee is just starting to bubble, add the first bowl of spices with the ground cumin, coriander, etc. As soon as the spices start to sputter and become fragrant, remove from the heat and pour into the sautéed onion mixture. (If you are using ground meat, this is the step where you would add it and brown the meat until it is halfway cooked.)
    5. Add the second bowl of spices to the onions, stirring to combine and cook until fragrant (but not burnt!), about 30 seconds to a minute. Then, add the cooked lentils, stirring to combine and cook for 3–4 minutes. Add the butternut squash, crushed tomatoes and a little more water, if necessary. (You want enough liquid for the squash to cook and the dal to have a spoonable texture.) Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butternut squash is just starting to get tender, about 10 minutes.
    6. Add the zucchini and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the butternut squash is fully cooked through and the zucchini is tender, about another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, as necessary. (If you were adding spinach, stir it in now, off the heat, and cover for a few minutes until the greens wilt.)
    7. Eat piping hot on top of hot rice, a dollop of yogurt, more ghee 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! 

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