Persian Dal

Prep: 45 minutes Cook: 1 hour


By Tiffany Hobson
Over the years, I have enjoyed many variations of Dal from India. This particular recipe is a modification from the south of Iran. To be precise, it is from the once thriving non-oil port city of Khorramshahr (Khorram – happy, shahr – city). I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.


  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils
  • 4 cups plus 3 tbsp water
  • 2 russet potatoes, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 7 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2-1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Rinse and clean lentils with water until the water is no longer murky. Place the lentils in a pot with 4 cups of water and let them soak for 45 minutes. Once the lentils have puffed out, add the potatoes and cook over high heat. Continually stir the lentils and potatoes. Once the water starts to boil, continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes. As the lentils and potatoes are cooking they will foam up in the pot. Using a spoon, remove the foam. You will have to do this a few times while they cook. After boiling the lentils and potatoes for 15 to 20 minutes, lower the heat to medium.

Place the onions and 3 tablespoons of water in a saute pan and cook over medium high heat. Spread the onions throughout the pan so they cook evenly. You want the onions to turn translucent with a nice golden brown color; this will take about 5 to 10 minutes. Once the onions become golden brown, add the garlic and mix well. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, then add the tomato paste and mix well. Once the tomato paste is mixed in, add the turmeric and mix well.

Add this mixture to the pot with lentils and potatoes. If there is anything left in the saute pan, add a small amount of water and scrape off the remaining ingredients and add to the pot of lentils and potatoes. After mixing everything in the pot, add the crushed red pepper flakes and salt. Mix well. Cover and cook over low heat for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice.

Note: This dish is tasty all by itself, but Sriracha and Cholula hot sauce also go well with this.