Whole mung dal is my favorite Indian dish of all time. This recipe is easy, with simple ingredients, and very, very yummy!
It features earthiness from the cumin seed, gentle heat from the fresh ginger, and a bit of nourishing fat from the ghee (clarified butter) that ties everything together.
I discovered this recipe about two decades ago, before I knew very much about Indian cuisine, and long before I had an Indian husband, or an Indian family to teach me.
It features whole mung dal, also known as mung beans. Mung is cited in ancient Vedic texts (over 5,000 years old) as the “king of dal” for its high digestibility and balancing properties.
Fortunately, whole mung beans are available at most grocery stores, so you will have no problem sourcing ingredients and enjoying this ingredient to your heart’s content.
The word “dal” has a double meaning. It is what Indians call a soup or stew made from lentils or beans. But it is also a term for dried lentils, beans, or peas before they are cooked.
I love the size, shape, and moss-green color of whole mung dal. When cooked, the dal breaks down partially, but retains enough of its shape for a satisfying chew.
Whole mung dal is high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Like all lentils and beans, the tiny bean is low in fat, and offers a filling alternative to meat.
This dal may not look pretty, but it really is the best. I hope you enjoy this basic whole mung dal recipe as much as I do!
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Whole Mung Bean Dal With Cumin, Ghee, And Turmeric
- 1 cup whole mung beans
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 green chile, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- pinch of asafoetida, optional
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- This recipe requires a 3-quart saucepan or pressure cooker for cooking the beans, and a tiny skillet to prepare the ghee and spices that flavor this dish.
STEP 1: Soak the mung beans
- Rinse mung beans 2–3 times with cold water, and finally cover with cold water and soak for four hours or overnight. A quick soak can also be done in 20 minutes. Simply place the mung beans in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.
- When you are ready to cook the beans, drain off the soaking water and rinse well until the water runs clear.
STEP 2: Cook the mung beans
- There are two methods below for cooking the mung beans. The Saucepan Method and the Pressure Cooker Method.
- Pressure cookers are amazing for cooking lentils and beans quickly and efficiently. If you are not familiar with cooking under pressure, please refer to my post on “How to Use a Pressure Cooker Safely” for all the details, including the best kind of pressure cooker to buy.
- Saucepan Method 1: Add mung beans to a medium saucepan with 3 cups of cold water. Add turmeric powder and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil with the lid off. Turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes, or until the mung beans are just cooked through; soft but not falling apart.
- Pressure Cooker Method 2: Add mung beans to a 4-quart pressure cooker with 3 cups of cold water. Add turmeric powder and a pinch of salt. Cover, and turn the heat to high. Once the cooker has reached high pressure, turn the heat to low and cook on high pressure for 7 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally for 15 minutes. Manually release any remaining steam and open the lid. The mung beans should be just cooked through; soft but not falling apart.
STEP 3: Make the Whole Mung Dal
- Mince your green chile and grate your ginger. Take out all the required spices and have them ready by the stove.
- In a small skillet, heat ghee on medium-low and brown the cumin seeds, green chile, and ginger for a minute. Add the coriander powder and optional asafoetida, and sauté to release their aroma and awaken their flavors. Turn off the heat.
- Transfer the spiced ghee from the skillet into the cooked dal and stir well. Turn the heat under the dal to low and thin with water to desired consistency. Simmer for 30 minutes on very low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Finish with fresh lemon juice and adjust for salt.
- To serve
- Enjoy whole mung dal with steaming hot basmati rice, drizzled with ghee and a tiny bit of salt. If you would like extra flavor, cover the dal in chopped coriander leaves.
- If you would like to add a vegetable side to your meal, try How to Prepare Any Vegetable, South Indian Style. I would think that greens would be a lovely alongside this dal.
- Add Whole Wheat Roti Flatbread, or another flatbread for dipping. In a pinch, I keep pitas in my freezer as a flatbread. When I need it, I quickly defrost the pita and bring it back to life by warming it on a skillet with a bit of oil (or not) before serving.
Ingredient SubstitutionsAsafoetida is a powder made from the sap of a plant relative of fennel. It is commonly used in Indian cooking, but is virtually unknown in the West. Asafoetida is sometimes associated with a sulphur smell, and is thus very unique, and nearly impossible to substitute. It is a wonderful spice once you get familiar with it. I highly recommend investing in it when you are ready. For now, if you do not have asafoetida, leave it out. Under some circumstances, it could make sense to substitute onions, shallots, or garlic, but only use a small amount if you choose to do this. Mung dal is known as mung beans in they west. Since they are also widely used in Chinese, Japanese, and other Southeast Asian cuisines, mung beans are available at most conventional supermarkets. Turmeric is essential and easy to find in any grocery store. If you don’t have it, do get some. It is used in almost every recipe. Ghee is a form of clarified butter with a pleasant nutty flavor. Ghee not have any milk solids, so it has a high smoke point, and it is generally safe for people with lactose intolerance. If you do not have ghee, use butter—or equal amounts of butter and olive oil—and lower the heat you use to prevent burning.
Learn about the 10 Healing Benefits Of GheeGreen chiles are small and slender in size, and medium to medium hot in intensity. If you do not have green chiles, use an equal amount of fresh jalapeño, Thai chiles, or serrano pepper. The spice levels are very similar. Cumin seed is used in cuisines all over the world. It has a distinctive earthy and warming flavor and aroma. The ingredient is essential to this recipe, and easy to find in any grocery store. Coriander powder is commonly used in Indian cuisine. Its taste is sweet and a little earthy. Coriander powder is commonly available in grocery stores, so I encourage you to invest in this spice as there is really no substitute.
Check out my complete guide to Indian Ingredient Substitutions.