Dal Bhaji–A Recipe Redux

by on June 14, 2007
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Think of it as the Indian version of sloppy joes. Pav Bhaji, the wonderful street food of Mumbai, traditionally consists of a potato and vegetable curry (or bhaji) served on a bun (or pav). I’ve never had the pleasure of sampling Pav Bhaji in Mumbai, but I did cook up my own version last year, and it was immediately one of my favorite foods.

Dal Bhaji
I got a craving for pav bhaji last week, but there was a little problem: I’ve been limiting my servings of starchy vegetables lately, and if I wanted to stick to my diet, I could either have the bread or the potatoes but not both. So I decided to do a little revamp of the recipe and substitute quick-cooking moong dal for the potatoes. I have to say that it was a huge success. I think I’ll be making dal bhaji from now on!

I also strayed from tradition in my choice of bread. My husband and I ate this hot off the stove packed in whole wheat pita pockets for dinner. The next day, we ate the leftovers cold, scooped up with triangles of pita bread; hot or cold, it makes a great dip for pitas or crackers. Serve it at your next party and it may be the most colorful dip your guests have ever seen, with its flecks of green and orange and red vegetables. And with all those vegetables and its 14 grams of fiber per serving, it will definitely be the healthiest!
Dal Bhaji: A lentil-based version of Pav Bhaji, a curried vegetable sandwich from Mumbai.

Dal Bhaji--A Recipe Redux
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
I used zucchini in this recipe because I didn’t have any cauliflower, so feel free to substitute other vegetables for the ones listed here. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, be careful with the masala and the chili pepper. Add a little and taste; you can always add more if necessary.
Serves: 6
  • 1 cup masoor dal, moong dal or red lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup each of each of these vegetables, finely diced: green beans, carrots, zucchini, cabbage
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 large onion chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2-3 teaspoons pav bhaji masala (spice mix available at Indian markets) (use less for less spicy bhaji)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Put the dal and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the dal is softened, about 15 minutes. Add more water if necessary to prevent it from drying out.
  2. Cook the green beans, carrots, zucchini, and cabbage in water until soft. (I did this in the pressure cooker, with 1/2 cup of water at high pressure for 5 minutes.) When they’re soft, add the peas and mash the vegetables well, in the liquid. Stir in the cooked dal.
  3. Heat a good non-stick wok or large pot. Add the onions and cook, adding a little water as necessary, until they begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and bell peppers and cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the pav bhaji masala, red chili powder, turmeric, and salt. Add the tomatoes, and cook until they start to break down, about 5 minutes. Add the mashed vegetables and salt to taste. Cook on low for about 20 minutes. Add lemon juice and serve on toasted buns, with pita bread, or as a dip.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/6 of recipe Calories: 169 Fat: 1g Carbohydrates: 31g Sodium: 39mg Fiber: 14g Protein: 12g

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A lentil-based version of Pav Bhaji, a curried vegetable sandwich from Mumbai. Think of it as Indian sloppy joes. Vegan and gluten-free!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous September 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm

To those who wondered about substituting garam masala for the pav bhaji masala. I wouldn't recommend it! The two masalas are quite different — and garam masala isn't usually used in amounts over 1 teaspoon.

An Indian Cook


2 Chitra February 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Simply great with no potato. I tried this recipe last Friday and turned out to be a hit. My whole family liked it. I liked the simplicity and no carb.

Thank you and looking forward for healthier food substitution recipe like this.


3 Brenda Exline June 15, 2011 at 9:35 am

What can you substitute, if anything for the masala. You read my mind I was thinking garam masala since I have some. Also my husband hates cabbage. What veggies could I substitute. Thanks!


4 SusanV June 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

I would probably use curry powder over garam masala; to me that would be closer to the flavor of pav bhaji masala, but if garam masala is all you have, use it to taste. Instead of cabbage, you could use more of the other vegetables or substitute any vegetable your husband likes. Cauliflower would probably be best, but kale or other greens would also be good.


5 Rita June 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm

This is almost exactly like a soup/stew I make with mung beans. It’s a bit more texturey because the mung beans won’t break down as fully as the lentils, but like this, it’s a riot of colour and I usually make twice what we’d normally eat for dinner because the flavours develop beautifully overnight.
Like yours, leftovers are just as good cold as heated. We stuff pitta, or eat with naan bread. Nyom nyom!


6 Shimmering September 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I have made pav bhaji the traditional way and never once thought of substituting dal. And after looking at your recipe, I made it with dal to make it more healthy. I didn’t replace the potato but the cauliflower, because I didn’t have any at home. It came out awesome. One other time I tried it with toor dal ( pigeon dal), and that turned out awesome too.
My personal suggestion would be not to replace the pav bhaji masala, it is a mix of some 16 or more different spices and it really makes all the difference.
Thanks for such and awesome recipe idea.


7 Sarah Clark October 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm

We made this for dinner tonight, and it was a hit! I gave my younger two kids a taste of the dal bhaji as I cooked it and then had a hard time keeping them out of it before dinner. I did end up substituting garam masala, so it was obviously different in taste from this recipe, but it was still delicious. When I have a bit more time, I’ll track down a market where I can buy the right masala and see how it changes the taste. 🙂 Thanks for all of the wonderful recipes!


8 Anna February 17, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I made this tonight subbing in curry powder for the masala, adding more veggies and kale in the last couple minutes. Delish!


9 Lisa June 12, 2012 at 7:48 am

Sounds yummy! I might attempt to make my own pav bhaji masala at home, as I have most of the spices needed in my cupboards. You can find recipes for that by googling. Thanks for this!


10 Shiv mantra June 18, 2016 at 5:48 am

I LOVE your blog and website so much. It’s a true inspiration. Thank you for doing what you do


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