Indian Yellow Split Pea Dal

Indian yellow split pea dal in a serving bowl with a spoon

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 50 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
222 Calories
4g Fat
36g Carbs
13g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 222
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 608mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 13g 47%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 13g
Vitamin C 3mg 14%
Calcium 36mg 3%
Iron 3mg 19%
Potassium 500mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cook up an easy vegetarian yellow split pea dal for dinner. Dal (sometimes spelled dahl or dhal) is a staple of Indian vegetarian cuisine and the spice lists can get lengthy. This recipe is nice and simple, requiring just a handful of common ingredients to create a flavorful dal featuring yellow split peas.

The dish is straightforward. You'll begin by simmering the yellow split peas with turmeric, cayenne, and salt. Then, you'll make a tadka (a tempered mix of onion, cumin, and clove) that's added to the split pea dal to give it a great flavor. It does have a bit of a kick, and you can eliminate or reduce the cayenne for a milder version. For vegan diets, make sure the margarine you're using doesn't contain animal-derived ingredients. Use water or an additive-free vegetable broth, and this recipe is also gluten-free.​

Serve the dal with rice for a simple vegetarian Indian meal, or add extra liquid and cook it a little longer to make the dal more like a soup. Add a side of paneer pakoras or baked samosas, and you'll have a complete Indian meal that's still light and flavorful.


Click Play to See This Indian Yellow Split Pea Dal Recipe Come Together

"This dish was tasty and easy to fix. I used water, but vegetable broth would give it richer flavor. This dish uses plain yellow split peas, not chana dal (split chickpeas) or toor dal (split pigeon peas). If using other kinds of yellow split peas, the cooking time might have to be adjusted." —Diana Rattray

Indian Yellow Split Pea Dal Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 cup yellow split peas (uncooked)

  • 2 cups water (or vegetable broth)

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon margarine

  • 1 medium onion, diced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, whole seeds or ground

  • 2 whole cloves

  • Dash pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Indian yellow split pea dal recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. In a large pot, combine the uncooked yellow split peas and the water or vegetable broth. Bring to a slow simmer.

    Yellow split peas covered with water in a large Dutch oven

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the turmeric, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cover.

    Turmeric and cayenne added to yellow split peas with water

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Cook for at least 20 minutes, covered, until the yellow split peas are fully cooked, stirring occasionally. If you prefer a smoother texture, continue to cook the dal for an additional 10 to 15 minutes to allow the yellow split peas to break up even more.

    Yellow split peas cooked to a mushy texture

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck 

  5. Once the split peas are almost done, in a separate large skillet or frying pan, heat the onion, cumin, and clove in the margarine. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

    Diced onion and spices being fried in a skillet and stirred with a cooking spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Add the spiced onion mixture to the split peas, and allow to simmer for at least 5 more minutes.

    Spice and onion mixture being stirred into the cooked yellow split peas

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Add a dash of pepper and more salt, if desired, and serve hot with rice or alone in a soup bowl. Enjoy!

    Salt and pepper being added to Indian yellow split pea dal

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Recipe Variations

  • Yellow lentils will work great in this recipe, but will likely need a little less time to cook.
  • When using whole peas, soak them first or extend the cooking time.
  • If you happen to have asafoetida hing spice on hand, add a little to the onion mixture during the last 30 seconds of cooking for extra flavor.
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the dal along with the tadka.

Do Yellow Split Peas Need to Be Soaked or Rinsed Before Cooking?

Generally, split peas do not need to be soaked because they're small and cook quicker than other legumes. Some people prefer to soak split peas, either for a few hours or overnight, and this can reduce the cooking time. Rinsing is a good idea if you're not soaking them. Pick through the split peas first and remove any debris that found its way into the package, then rinse quickly in a colander to wash away dirt.

What's the Difference Between Yellow Split Peas and Yellow Lentils?

Both split peas and lentils are pulses (dried legumes). They break down well and are called dal in Indian cuisine; dal is also used to describe the stew-like dishes that feature the pulses. While the yellow varieties of each look similar, they are from different plants.

  • Split peas are field peas that are grown specifically to be dried. The whole round pea is split in half before packaging for quicker cooking. Green split peas are a little sweet, while yellow split peas are mild and somewhat earthy.
  • Yellow lentils are a little more confusing and may be different depending on where you shop. The name may refer to any yellow-colored lentil or a specific variety, such as mung dal or toor dal. Lentils are flatter than peas and often packaged split. If they have a red interior, yellow lentils might be called red lentils once split. To make it even more confusing, sometimes split lentils are labeled "yellow split peas" in international food markets.