Kale and Toor Dal

by on May 4, 2006
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As we sat down to a kid-free dinner last night, the conversation went something like this:

“Hey, this is good. Really good.” (My husband, between bites.)

“But it’s ugly.” (Me, tilting my head and looking at it from different angles.)

“So? It tastes great.”

“But it won’t look good. On the blog, I mean.”

“So you’re only cooking for the blog now?”

“Well, no, but I couldn’t help but think . . . . Does it bother you that I think about what would be good on the blog?”

“Not at all. I’m the one who gets to eat all this great food!”

And it was great, though definitely not pretty. I had intended to call it Toor Dal with Kale, but after it was prepared I saw that the amount of kale greatly overwhelmed the dal. But if you’re looking to get more leafy greens into your diet, this is the recipe for you.

Kale and Toor Dal

Miscellaneous acknowledgments and an apology:

I took ideas from several sources to come up with this recipe. The cooking technique and some of the spices come from Swiss Chard Dal on the blog Sugar and Spice. I also got spicing hints from Neelam Batra’s The Indian Vegetarian: since I didn’t have the sambar powder that Sugar and Spice mentioned, I looked at a sambar masala recipe to see exactly what was in it. Finally, I took a look around to see if anyone had blogged specifically about kale and dal and found a recipe for a soup, Toor Dal with Squash and Kale, which, though I didn’t use the recipe, introduced me to an interesting blog I hadn’t seen before.

And I must apologize to all of you. Despite the best efforts of my college creative writing teacher, Tim Gautreaux, I’ve never be able to write dialogue. Sorry to inflict it on you. Be thankful I didn’t attempt a dialect.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Frances September 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm

I made this using mung dal and it was delicious although much uglier than your picture despite a last ditch effort to beautify it be mixing in some fresh cilantro. I also grated in some fresh ginger during the cooking which was good. Guess I'm just incapable of strictly following a recipe, no offense 🙂

I discovered it is an excellent breakfast dish. I really struggle to find something filling to eat in the morning. I can eat 5 pieces of fruit and drink huge green smoothies but I'm still ravenous by 10am. This really kept me going until lunch time. Thanks as always for the inspirational recipes.


2 fishes September 20, 2009 at 9:12 am

Doesn't look that ugly! I have a similar recipe, but I always soak the chana dal for many hours before cooking. I find it cooks more evenly. Before I go to work, I put 1-2 cups of chana dal in a pot and cover it with lots of water. (3-6 cups). Put a cover on top and let it sit on the cold stove all day. I rinse when I get back and they are ready to cook/use. http://fishes.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/chana-dal-with-mustard-greens/


3 Susan September 29, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I think this sounds great and I'm going to try it. Did you use ground Fenugreek or the seeds intact in this recipe?


4 SusanV September 29, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Susan, I used ground fenugreek. I hope you'll give it a try!


5 Susan October 2, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Thanks! I tried this recipe and really loved it.


6 sandi October 28, 2009 at 11:14 am

Ugly? I think it looks beautiful. What is fenugeek and where would you find it?


7 SusanV October 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Sandi, I have found ground fenugreek in spice stores and Indian groceries. It's flavor is hard to describe, but it's a little bit maple syrupy.


8 Bex June 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm

This is another one of your recipes that I keep on going back to time and time again. So very tasty. I often serve it as a side dish for omnivores and they love it also.


9 Sarah June 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Hi Susan — My partner and I joined a CSA for the first time this year, and as you can imagine, we’re learning to cook with greens like never before! We’re hoping to make this recipe tonight, but don’t think I’ll be able to get fenugreek or asafetida in time… any chance we could use garam masala as a substitute? Or yellow curry powder? Or some mixture of others? I have a pretty good spice selection at home, so any advice would be appreciated : )



10 SusanV June 28, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Sarah, for the asafetida, I would just use a little more garlic or 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder. There’s no really good substitute for the fenugreek (it has a maple syrupy taste, but that would be too sweet), so just leave it out and you will never miss it. I hope you enjoy the dish!


11 Sarah July 1, 2010 at 9:32 am

Thanks for the help, Susan! Definitely enjoyed the recipe… and would consider adding other veggies next time. We’re making your spring rolls and lo mein tonight, so wish us luck!



12 Sm December 27, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Being a South Indian, I am glad to see Indian recipes here. I just happened to see your blog for the first time. All the ingredients for this recipe can be bought in an International Store or an Indian Store in your city(if u have one).

Toor dal is a staple for us. We usually cook it with greens/tomatoes. We mix it with other Indian vegetables too. I usually pressure cook the dal for upto 4 whistles. Once the pressure is off, the dal will be of a nice consistency.


13 carolyn December 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I just found your site and am ready to try some of your recipes. But don’t have all the ingredients. I want to try kale and toor dal. What is fenugreek and asafetida and what can I sub for them? Thank you, Carolyn


14 SusanV December 30, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Hi Carolyn. Do you have an Indian grocery store nearby? You can find both fenugreek and asafetida there, as well as toor dal. They are both seasonings that are commonly used in Indian cooking. Fenugreek tastes a lot like maple syrup and asafetida is garlicy, so if you can’t find them, you could try substituting or just leave them out.


15 Jay April 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I used split moong dal, but keeping majority kale, and it turned out really nice. I kept the dish a little dry, so the moong beans remained whole with a bite to them…not pureeing the dal, made the dish really looking amazing (and not ugly!)


16 Catherine May 5, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Hi Susan,

I tried this recipe using 4 cups of water to 1 cup of red lentils, and the dal came out very runny. I’m unfamiliar with Indian food, so don’t know if that is the way it is supposed to be, but it looks thicker in your photo. Should I have increased the amount of lentils?

Thank you so much for all the work you do here. Your recipes help keep me on track.


17 Leena May 6, 2012 at 6:21 pm

What a superfood combo you smashed it again well done .. Wow you speak my language


18 SEEMA May 6, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Wow I have kale stuck in my fridge over a month and surprisingly it hasn’t turned bad. Didn’t know how to make it. Always wondered how I could make it the Indian way since we are Indians. Thanks for the great receipe.


19 Nikki November 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Hi Susan – just have to say I LOVE your blog!! I’m vegetarian, not vegan, but only eat a bit of dairy, and try to keep things as close to fat free as I can, so this is THE blog for me!!
My question here is, I have only ever eaten kale raw, and find it intolerably bitter… is the bitterness completely taken away once it is cooked? This looks soo good and I want to be able to eat kale for it’s nutrition, but am very sensitive to bitterness (I think I’m a ‘supertaster’).


20 Susan Voisin November 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Hi Nikki, I’m not a supertaster, so my experience may be different from yours, but I find kale to be the mildest of the greens, kind of similar to spinach. I think it’s less bitter once it’s cooked. I hope you’ll give it a try, if not in this recipe then in one of my other kale recipes.


21 rams February 12, 2013 at 12:31 am

Hi.. Nice blog i must say.. I am an indian, this is kind of every day stuff for us, not considered a delicacy at all.. we make it a lil more water so that it can be mixed with boiled rice and consumed, however will also go well with Roti (made of wheat).


22 Stephen April 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Good recipe (I had over red rice). Next time I will double or triple the spices.


23 SusanS May 3, 2013 at 6:06 pm

This looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it! I went shopping at an Indian market and now I can use my new spices 🙂 How much kale is a “bunch”? I want to make sure I use the right amount. Thanks!


24 Susan Voisin May 3, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I estimate it at about 8 ounces per bunch, but you really can use more–up to twice as much.


25 Wendy Cromwell May 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I your recipes but often you mention things I’ve never heard of before; it would be great if you could tell us not only WHAT it is, but where to find it (like is it a spice or a baking ingredient, etc)
Specifially, I don’t know what the dal is (I always thought that was a finished product – not something you start with);

And I don’t know what asafetida is or the fenugreeek. If I knew what they were or what they were for, then perhaps I could substitute for them.


26 Susan Voisin May 3, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Hi Wendy, dal is a word for legumes such as lentils and split peas (though in Indian cooking, there are many different varieties). Asafetida and fenugreek are spices. You can find all three in Indian grocery stores.


27 Shellie May 5, 2013 at 6:16 pm

The Toor Dal is blended and ready to go. Got all the ingredients out and making some brown rice to serve it on. The only kale I have is a large clamshell box of baby mixed kale, 1 lb. Should I use half the box and not chop it? It seems like the dish is kind of thick to serve it on rice. Is your pic, which looks great, on rice?

Hope someone sees this soon….the rice will be done in 30, and the toor dal is still warm yet quite thick in the blender. Does it need to be thinned down at all?

Thanks for some outstanding recipes.

BTW….the pic looks fantastic. Can’t wait to taste it.


28 Susan Voisin May 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Shellie, yes, I would use half the box of kale, and if it’s as small as I think it is, no need to chop it. Feel free to thin it down if you need to. It can vary widely in moisture depending on how much water evaporated off, among other things. I did serve it on rice, so add as much water as you need to so that it will be a good thickness for that.


29 Shellie May 6, 2013 at 8:17 am

Thanks Susan. It was absolutely delicious. I ended up using the entire box of kale (1 lb.) so it looked like yours in the pic….nice and thick. Those little baby leaves cook down to nothing. Definitely something we’ll have again.


30 Sandra May 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Hi there… just wondering if the fenugreek you used is a seed or a powder? Is the asafetida a powder??

Can the oil be skipped, and use broth instead?



31 Emily September 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Is toor dal the same as yellow split peas? Or is it some kind of lentil? Thanks!


32 Harper October 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I bet this would be delicious with dried methi leaves as well rather than the powdered seed!


33 Cheryl April 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

I just tried this using chana dal, (it was in the cupboard). I still haven’t found fenegreek and I don’t have black mustard seeds so I tossed in the yellow ones for both. I had everything else. It’s good.


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