9 Ways To Pack Flavours Into A Dal Amidst A Tomato Price Hike
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As the price of tomatoes continues to soar, home cooks and food enthusiasts are seeking inventive ways to maintain the rich and delectable flavours of their beloved dals without over-relying on this now-costly ingredient. Tomatoes have long been a cornerstone of Indian cuisine, lending their tangy sweetness and enhancing the overall taste of dal.

However, the recent unprecedented price surge calls for a thoughtful approach that allows us to savour the delightful essence of a dal-based dish in different ways without relying too much on tomatoes or missing their absence in dal preparation. Let us explore clever techniques to reduce tomato usage while introducing a medley of alternative ingredients, spices, and flavours to elevate the taste of your dals to new heights. By striking the perfect balance with these dal-elevating ingredients, we can continue to enjoy the flavours of our cherished dal recipes, even in the face of the tomato crisis.

9 Tips To Flavour Your Dals Without Tomatoes

Fortunately, Indian cuisine boasts a myriad of aromatic spices, herbs, and other ingredients that can effortlessly elevate the taste of your dals, making them just as delectable without a single tomato in sight. Let's delve into five fantastic methods for adding rich, tangy, and savoury notes to your dals, ensuring that your meals remain irresistibly delicious.

The Allure of Kokum:

Kokum, a small purple fruit native to India, offers a marvellous alternative to tomatoes when it comes to introducing tanginess to dals. To harness its tangy essence, soak a few pieces of dried kokum in warm water until they soften and release their delightful flavour. Then, simply add the kokum-infused water to your dal while it simmers, allowing the unique tang to infuse throughout the dish. The result is a dal that boasts a pleasant tartness, complementing the earthy notes of the lentils and creating a symphony of flavours that dance on your palate.

Curry Leaves And Garlic Tempering:

The simple addition of finely chopped or sliced garlic to the tempering process brings a robust and pungent flavour to the dish. As the garlic sizzles in the hot oil, it releases its aromatic compounds, adding a delightful depth to the dal. Curry leaves are a staple in Indian cooking, known for their distinctive aroma and flavorful essence. When curry leaves are tempered with garlic and incorporated into dals, they impart a subtle yet delightful taste that complements various lentils and legumes. As they sizzle and release their essence into the oil, add the tempering to your cooked dal. The fragrance and taste of curry leaves will infuse the dal, enhancing its overall appeal.

Luscious Lemon In Your Dal:

When life hands you a tomato price hike, embrace the zesty allure of lemon to invigorate your dal. Lemon dal, a tantalising variation, infuses the dish with the bright and fresh taste of citrus. To create this delectable version, squeeze the juice of one or two lemons into your cooked dal and gently stir. The lemon's vibrant acidity will add a burst of tangy flavour, harmonising with the lentils and spices to create a tangy sensation that will leave your taste buds singing with delight.

Dried or Raw Mangoes:

Mangoes, whether in their dried form (amchur) or raw, provide an excellent tanginess that mirrors the acidity found in tomatoes. Amchur, the powdered form of unripe mangoes, can be added directly to the dal during the cooking process, infusing it with a pleasantly tangy taste. On the other hand, using finely chopped raw mangoes introduces a more pronounced and fresh tang that complements the earthy notes of the lentils. Adjust the quantity of mango according to your taste preferences, and relish the delightful twist it imparts to your dal.

Tempering with Clay:

Tempering, an essential step in dal preparation, involves infusing hot oil or ghee with a blend of aromatic spices before adding it to the cooked dal. To elevate this technique further, consider using a clay pot for tempering. The porous nature of the clay allows the flavours of the spices to intensify, resulting in a nuanced and deeply aromatic tempering. The infusion of these enhanced flavours into the dal will transport you to a realm of sensory bliss, where each spoonful becomes a delightful journey of taste.

Cumin and Mustard Seed Tempering:

The classic tempering technique, involving cumin and mustard seeds, can work wonders in enhancing the flavour of your dal. When the seeds crackle and release their warm, nutty aroma in hot oil, they provide a delicious base for your lentil dish. This method not only adds depth but also brings out the natural flavours of the lentils, creating a comforting and soulful meal. Feel free to customise the tempering with other spices like asafoetida (hing) or fenugreek seeds (methi) to elevate the taste even further.

The Magic Of Using Multiple Dals:

Expand the horizons of your dal by combining more than one type of lentil in your recipe. Mixing dals like red lentils (masoor dal) with yellow lentils (moong dal) or split chickpeas (chana dal) creates a symphony of textures and flavours. Each lentil variety brings its own unique essence to the dish, resulting in a dal that is not only visually appealing but also a gustatory delight. The combination of dals adds complexity and depth to the dish, making it a wholesome and satisfying meal.


Tamarind, with its pleasantly tart taste, is a classic souring agent used in many Indian dishes. Just a small amount of tamarind pulp or concentrate can replace the tanginess that tomatoes offer in dals. To incorporate tamarind, soak a small ball of tamarind pulp in warm water and then extract the juice. Add this tangy liquid to your cooked dal, stirring it in until the desired level of sourness is achieved. Tamarind not only imparts a unique flavour but also balances the overall taste profile of the dal.

Embracing Whole Red Chillies:

Move over from chilli powder - whole red chillies are here to revolutionise your dal's spiciness. When added to the tempering, whole red chillies infuse the oil with their fiery heat, releasing an irresistible aroma that tantalises the senses. As you break the chillies while eating the dal, their seeds release a gentle heat, enhancing the overall flavour profile. The subtle warmth of whole red chillies adds a delightful kick to your dal, taking it to new levels of gastronomic delight.