Categorized |Bits and Bites, Vegetarian

Cooking dhal, I bet you didn’t know it was this easy!

how to cook dhalGrowing up in Trinidad, dhal meant salted meats like pig tails or beef and either curry chicken or tomato choka on the side with rice. My mom would put pieces of salted pig tails or beef into the dhal as it slow cooked that gave it a very unique taste. However, traditional split peas dhal is vegetarian and does not have sort of meat in it. These days when I do make dhal it’s more of a soup, as it’s very filling… with pieces of bread soaked into it. TIP: I usually make a big pot when I cook this and put a couple portions in the freezer for those nights when I feel like eating something hearty. All you do is pop it out of the freezer container and heat it in a  pot on very low heat (covered). In less than 10 minutes you’ll have dhal that’s good as if it was fresh made.

Note: It seems that the recipe for dhal varies by person, region and country, as everyone has their own take on this.

You’ll Need…

2 cups Split Peas (yellow)
4 cloves garlic
salt to taste (about 3/4 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon Turmeric
7 cups of water
2-3 tablespoon oil
1/2 small onion sliced thin
1/4 hot pepper (optional) Habanero, scotch bonnet or whatever hot pepper you like
dash fresh ground black pepper

*TIP: Soak the dhal in water overnight or for a few hours before cooking to reduce the cooking time.

I not much of a prep person as I don’t usually plan my menu in advance, so it means my method take s a bit longer since I don’t pre-soak the split peas. I start by washing the split peas by pouring water into a bowl along with the split peas and massaging it a bt, between my fingers. I usually drain and rinse again. If you look at the pic below you’ll see all the grit like stuff that makes the water cloudy.


In the meantine bring the 7 cups of water to boil and prep the washed dhal for cooking. Drain the water you’ve rinsed the dhal with and put the hot pepper, slices of onions and  2 cloves of garlic (smash or pound it). As the water comes to a boil, pour in everything from the bowl and bring back to a boil. Then add the salt, black pepper and turmeric  to the pot. Reduce to a very gentle simmer and place a lid on the pot (a bit ajar).  Allow this to cook on very low for about 1.5 hrs or until the peas are tender and are melting away.

trini dhal

trinidad dhal recipe

how to cook trini dhal

guyana dhal recipe

You may notice a bit of foamy stuff start to develop at the top of the pot (see image below) using your spoon, skim off and discard. Continue cooking on low.

trini dhal cook

split peas dhal recipe

After the peas are soft and start to melt or lose it’s shape, you now need to break them down to a thick soup like consistency. Using one of the following, whisk away.

dhal trini

After you’ve whisked the now cooked dhal, it’s time to “chunkay” (the process of adding heated oil infused with cooked garlic). In a small frying pan, put the oil and allow to heat, then add thin slices of the 2 remaining cloves of garlic. To get the true “chunkay” flavour, allow the garlic to go golden to dark brown. Then with caution, pour the infused oil on the cooked dhal (forgot to mention that you should have now turned off the heat under the cooked dhal) and stir to blend into the entire mixture.

cooking dhal

trini dhal recipe

how to cook trinida ddhal

trinidad dhal cooking tips

Some tips…

1. When adding the heated oil to the pot with the dhal, stand a bit back to avoid any burns from splasing hot oil.

2. To cut back on cooking time, feel free to boil the dhal in a pressure cooker. It may take about 15 minutes or until the peas are tender and falling apart. Then chunkay as mentioned above.

3. If you started cooking on a large burner, feel free to move to a small burner where you can really get the heat low to allow the split peas to simmer and get tender without drying up all the liquid.

4. If you do like me and make a large batch to freeze. When you reheat, put a few tablespoons of water in the pot first to prevent it from going overly thick when it’s heat through.

Tonight we enjoyed the dhal with rice and curry stew chicken.

dhal rice and curry chicken

I encourage you to leave your comments and questions and do share you own way of making dhal with the community.

Happy Cooking!


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56 Responses to “Cooking dhal, I bet you didn’t know it was this easy!”

  1. Pat says:

    My favourite Dahl is moong dhal. In addition to your ingredients, I add a little garam masala to it.
    In the end I heat some olive/coconut oil with some whole genera chopped garlic, sautéed.
    Do not allow the garlic to burn. I then chownkay the cooked Dahl

  2. Pam says:

    What type/ brand of dhal do you use? I only see Goya in stores. Will that work?

    • admin says:

      the brand really does not matter much (from my experience). Goya is an excellent brand (and they don’t pay me to say so – smile)

  3. Lois D'Arc says:

    I need to know what is the name of the litte “balls” that are sometimes put in the Dhal. Commonly seen at Hindu weddings.

  4. Nyala Nancoo says:

    You are the best!!! Thank you! I now know the proper way to make all of my favorite Trini dishes….I never used to pay attention when I was small and my mother and grandmother were cooking, but thanks you this wonderful website I am cooking up a storm! And most importantly your recipes are on point with the way they cook it back home.

  5. Zora Gaymon says:

    Chris, do you have a recipe for mango anchar? I would love to make it but do not know how. I would love a recipe.

  6. Paul says:

    Hi Chris.
    I just made ur dal with salted pigtails, wow I have been a chef for 25 years and I still get amazed at finding great food.
    Your dish was exceptional and I will make it again and again it was so satisfying.
    I take my hat of to you Chris.
    I was wondering as in the uk here we eat a lot of gammon bacon joints would it work with that as well.
    My deepest respect and friendship towards you

  7. Joy says:

    Please… DO NOT COOK DHALL IN PRESSURE POT. It is the one peas that should not be cooked in the pressure pot. Chris, youndid ndot pit any geera (cumin) in this. It adds a great flavor.

  8. peggy says:

    Looks good! I add a little coconut milk to mine.

  9. trini says:

    hey…they ole fashion indian people burn geera and matee with garlic in a calchul fill with hot oil till it catches a fire and throw it into the pot… dat is how meh mama taught me to cook dhall… I also use a pressure cooker and pressure it for 12mins… the peas will liquidity then i hit it with the hot oil flavour

  10. Belmont Girl says:

    Oh Boy , I need to get myself some curry chicken and roti, then cook my dahl and sit down and enjoy, thanks Chris .

  11. Lucerne says:

    Similar to how my mum does it but we use red lentils, they cook much quicker and you dont need to mash them!
    Yours looks nice though!

  12. Dharmendra says:

    I usually chunkay geera seeds (cumin) with the garlic to add to the dhal.

  13. Melissa Wyllie says:

    Hi Chris, Rice, Dhal and Anchar Mango is one of my favorite dishes.

    I normally fry the split peas in hot oil, garlic, pepper and curry before adding the water and seasonings. By doing this, the peas don’t boil over or clog the pressure cooker.

    Happy Cooking! Have a great day!


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