2 Ways To Cook Toor Dal Without Pressure Cooker

How to Cook Toor Dal Without Pressure Cooker
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How to Cook Toor Dal Without Pressure Cooker

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Indian cooking, toor dal is a vegetarian stew made with split pigeon peas. These legumes look like yellow split peas but they’re smaller and are a type of lentil. Most yellow Indian dals are made using toor dal legumes.

Often, they’re made into a soupy lentil stew or curry that is served with rice or roti. Indians probably make dal more than anything else. Dal is a staple of Indian cooking so it’s worth learning how to make it.

Plus, it’s delicious! Of course, it’s quicker and easier to make in a pressure cooker but what if you don’t have one? No worries – we’re going to share with you two ways to cook toor dal without a pressure cooker.

Many varieties but a basic cooking method for all

Toor dal (or any other dal for that matter) can be made to suit any occasion. Sometimes a light, basic dal is made as a restorative for those who are sick. For special occasions, the dal is enriched with butter and cream and seasoned with many beautiful spices.

The spices are often bloomed in hot ghee before being added to the cooked dal.

Why bother to make toor dal?

If you haven’t tried this staple yet, you’re in for a treat. It provides a filling yet light meal, especially if served with rice. Toor dal is a very nutritious addition to your diet as it contains protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, not to mention iron, folic acid, and manganese.

It supports weight loss and is useful for diabetics as it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.

How to Cook Toor Dal Without Pressure Cooker

Yellow Toor Dal
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Hopefully, by now, we’ve convinced you to give it a try. Here are two ways to prepare the dal if you have no pressure cooker:

  1. Cook toor dal using your stovetop

Step 1:

Try to use fresh lentils (that is, they are dried but not past the expiry date on the packet.) If your dal is old, it may not become soft no matter how long you cook it.

Step 2:

Clean toor dal thoroughly by picking through it and removing any sticks and small stones. Put it into a colander and wash it in the sink using cold, running water.

Step 3:

Soak the dal in room temperature water for at least an hour or two. As a pressure cooker is not being used, soaking will help the dal to cook and become soft in a shorter time.

Woman cooking food in pot on modern kitchen stove
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  • To cook, use a ratio of 2:1 for water to dal. For instance, if you are cooking one cup of toor dal, 2 cups of water would be required. If you live in an area with hard water, it may be better to use filtered water for cooking your dal or it may not become soft. Put the water and dal into a pot. If you want to cook on medium-high heat, do not cover it with the lid. If you want to cook on low heat, bring it to a boil then cover it with the lid. You need to check if the dal is cooked after about 25 minutes.

Step 4:

As the dal cooks, you must scoop off any scum or foam that gathers on the top of the water. If you leave this, it can give the dal a bitter taste.

Step 5:

Are you supposed to add salt when you cook dal? Yes, because it greatly improves the flavor. However, we prefer not to add it at the beginning of the cooking time as some people say that it prevents the dal from softening properly.

So, when the dal is almost cooked, add half a teaspoon of salt for every cup of dal you used. Once the dal is finished and drained, you can taste it and add a little more salt after adding the tarka if you like.

Step 6:

Drain all the water after the dal is cooked then further use the dal to complete the recipe.

Daal Curry traditional Indian food
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Step 7:

Flavor the dal with a tarka of your choice. A tarka is a mix of whole spices fried in ghee. This flavors the dal and finishes it off beautifully. A tarka may consist of whole dried chilies, onion rings, garlic, and cumin seeds.

Be careful when using mint, turmeric, and spinach as too much of these in a tarka can make your dal taste bitter.

  1. Cooking toor dal using the microwave

Step 1:

The first step is as before – to clean the dal thoroughly. Ensure that there are no dust particles or small stones in it.

Step 2:

Use double the amount of water to dal for microwave cooking as well. Once cleaned and drained, put boiling water and dal into a microwave-proof bowl and cover with a microwave lid. This helps the dal to steam as it cooks.

Step 3:

For every cup of toor dal that you’ve used, use high heat mode for 15 to 20 minutes. Inspect the dal after that time and add half a teaspoon of salt. If your dal is undercooked, cook it further in 5-minute increments. You need to cook it for longer if you are cooking dal in a larger quantity.

woman's hands closing microwave door
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Step 4:

Once cooked, remove it carefully from the microwave, being careful of the steam. Drain it in a colander in the sink and proceed to flavor it as per your recipe.


As you can see, toor dal is simple and quick to cook on the stovetop or in the microwave. Don’t let the lack of a pressure cooker deter you from cooking this healthy and delicious dish. As a bonus, we’ve included below a recipe for you to try that uses toor dal. Let us know if you enjoy it!

Simple Toor Dal Variation


  • 1 cup toor dal
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • For the tarka:
    • 2 tablespoons ghee or cooking oil
    • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
    • 1 diced tomato

Arhar or Toor dal (Pigeon Pea)
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  1. Cook the dal as described in the instructions in the article, adding the turmeric and salt halfway through cooking. Once cooked, whisk the dal then add the lemon juice.
  2. For the tarka,
    • heat the ghee or oil in a small saucepan.
    • Add the garlic, hing, and cumin seeds. Allow them to cook for half a minute.
    • Lastly, add the chili powder and tomato with a tablespoon or two of water. Cook this for a few minutes until the tomato is mushy and the oil begins to separate out.
    • Pour this mixture over the dal, straining the whole spices out. Mix everything together and serve hot with rice and roti.
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