Toor Dal with Drumstick Vegetables (Indian Lentil Recipe)

Toor Dal with Drumstick Vegetables (Indian Lentil Recipe) Recipe

If you're not familiar with drumsticks, they are long, thin, green pods commonly used in Indian cuisine. They are often used in sambar soup but they can also be a substitute for spinach or green beans in dal dishes.

I prepared toor dal, which is the most common lentil paired with drumsticks, although I've seen this dish prepared with mung beans and chana dal (garbanzo) as well. To guarantee optimum tenderness, I choose immature drumsticks at the market; otherwise they become a little too fibrous. When the lentils are soft and gravy-like, drumsticks are added. The drumsticks are chewed until all the artichoke-like texture is eaten, then the outer skin is discarded. If you can get your hands on some, give them a try. They're definitely out of the ordinary.


Yields: 8 servings

1 cup toor dal (see tips)
2 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
6 fresh curry leaves
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon red chili powder
2 jalapeño peppers
1 teaspoon jaggery (palm sugar), grated
4 dried red chiles, stemmed
2 teaspoons salt
6 fresh drumsticks
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate, or lemon juice
2 tablespoons ghee (or more oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
3 cloves fresh garlic


Create a 2-inch incision in the fresh whole peppers. Note: remember not to rub your eyes after touching jalapeño peppers.

Wash and clean the drumsticks thoroughly. Trim the ends and partially scrape the outer skin using a sharp knife. Cut them into about 5-inch pieces.

Wash the lentils. Discard any floating or odd-shaped lentils. Wash and rinse thoroughly in several water baths (about three times). Drain the lentils, removing as much of the water as possible. No soaking required.

In a pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the curry leaves. Once the leaves start popping (after about 2 minutes), add the fresh green chiles, the drumstick pieces, turmeric powder, 2 dried red chiles, jaggery and red chili powder. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Add 3 cups of water; the water should cover the lentils completely. Bring to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for one hour. Add 1-½ teaspoons of salt half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the lentils and the lentils will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so the lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the tamarind concentrate.

Transfer about one third of the amount of cooked lentils (leaving the drumsticks in the pot) into the bowl of an immersion blender. Coarsely blend the mixture and pour it back into the pot. Depending on how thick you like toor dal, you can add up to 1 cup of boiling water (I only added an additional ½ cup of water). Add little mounds of ghee into the lentils. Adjust seasoning. Check the doneness of the drumsticks and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes over low-heat (I did). Transfer to a serving bowl.

Coarsely chop the garlic (I cut each clove into thirds).

This step is called baghar: When you're ready to serve, heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan, add the garlic pieces, cumin seeds, 2 dried red chiles and mustard seeds. Cook until the garlic darkens and the oil starts spattering. Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to the toor dal. Cover the lentil dish with a lid to preserve the nice fragrance.

Bon appétit!


Toor dal (also known as "split pigeon peas") can be found in any Asian or Indian stores.

toor dal picture

For a faster coking time, you could pre-cook the lentils in a pressure cooker beforehand. I usually don't use a pressure cooker for cooking the drumsticks as they can be easily over-cooked and lose their shape.

Drumstick Recipe with Picture

Drumsticks (pictured above) are not the most glamorous vegetables to eat; they're very fibrous and look like a real drumstick. You have to suck on them to get the edible part out (and discreetly discard the rest).

Baghar is a very common step toward the end of cooking in many Indian dishes. It consists of a layer of oil with fried darkened garlic cloves and a few other spices. I use a small 0.3-quart saucepan that I use exclusively for baghar.

You can get all the ingredients listed in any Indian market.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on August 2, 2011.


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