In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

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.

dhal

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!

Chris..

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57 Comments

  1. July 14, 2015 / 10:58 pm

    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
    Pat

  2. May 10, 2015 / 2:31 am

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

    • admin
      May 10, 2015 / 4:35 pm

      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
    April 20, 2015 / 3:51 pm

    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
    August 7, 2014 / 11:40 am

    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
    August 7, 2014 / 12:30 am

    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
    May 19, 2014 / 9:33 am

    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
    Paul.

  7. Joy
    February 11, 2014 / 6:34 pm

    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
    November 28, 2013 / 10:26 am

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

  9. trini
    November 26, 2013 / 12:12 pm

    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
    October 11, 2013 / 12:54 pm

    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
    August 13, 2013 / 3:21 pm

    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
    August 9, 2013 / 1:29 pm

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

    • Marsha
      October 10, 2018 / 10:25 am

      Yes! Adding Geera to the chunkay process is a must in my household! Thanks for sharing this recipe Chris!

  13. Melissa Wyllie
    February 20, 2013 / 9:56 am

    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!

  14. Debbie
    January 24, 2013 / 12:40 pm

    Just finished making dhal, the best I have ever made using your recipe Chris. I have a recipe that use coconut oil instead of the regular oil. Didn't fancy it too much. My mother never put geera while making dhal, I have used it. It wasn't too bad, put I prefer without. Thanks again Chris

  15. Virendra
    December 26, 2012 / 8:07 am

    I sometimes mix roasted ground geera about 1/2 minute b4 the dhal is finished cooking and do not chunkay as I try to stay away from too much oils. I throw in chopped onions,garlic and pimentos in the peas and let them all boil and melt in,taste good as well,try it!
    '

  16. Gary
    December 13, 2012 / 10:00 am

    Great dal recipe Chris. We, too, add jeera to the garlic when chunkaying the dal. But we also use red lentils (masoor dal) instead of yellow split peas most of the time. Great flavor and cooks much faster. We often add carrots when adding the lentils and maybe finish with some spinach and/or tomatoes at the end. Can’t find a more nutritious food.

  17. Liddy in Labrador
    November 26, 2012 / 12:12 pm

    Hi

    When I came to Labrador, I found that i didn’t miss dhal at all as they have their own version of it.

    My husband had his own unique way of cooking it that was different from the rest of the community.

    Here, they make peas soup and add carrots, turnip, onions and salt pork/beef. Since I can’t stand turnip, I add potatoes instead or just make a soup with the peas and no veggies.

    They also make peas pudding which is a firmer dish. My hubby used to cook the peas and squash them with a potato masher. He then added oil combination ( fried out salt port and added a little crisco) in which he had fried onions till slightly browned, and black pepper. Really delicious.

  18. Kavash
    October 26, 2012 / 5:52 am

    Excellent guide to making dhal,my girlfriend was asking me how and I was pretending I knew…so was glad to find this article and take a quick read and tell her with full confidence…hahahahahahaha…thanks again and will comment how it tastes if she puts me to make it

  19. Marj
    July 31, 2012 / 6:56 am

    Hi Chris,

    Love your recipes. for the person whose split peas comes up hard, always add hot or boiling water to
    your peas being cooked. Adding cold water would seize the peas, stopthe cooking, and make them
    hard.

  20. Judy Simon
    May 25, 2012 / 4:27 pm

    GREAT dhal recipe. I think tomorrow is dhal, rice and curry chicken for lunch. Meh mouth watering already.

  21. Rosalind
    May 10, 2012 / 12:40 pm

    Hello Chris, I'm originally from India and have been in Canada for over 30 years. I still love my Dhal and rice. I've made my dhal your way and also added the jeera and corriander leaves, which is the Indian way and have enjoyed both ways it every time. Thank you for all your recipes as a lot of them have Indian influence and I enjoy making them as my boyfriend is a black man from Trinidad so we both can enjoy. Also, some of your recipes are only available on U-Tube but not as a recipe where I could print it out. Just thought I'd let you know as I like to have my recipe in front of me when trying out a new dish rather that having to run to the computer every time to watch the video. Thanks again !!!

  22. radha
    February 17, 2012 / 8:32 pm

    Hi Chris,Very good recipe for dhal.Do you know you can add ochroes when its nearly finished cooking,just wash cut off both ends and throw them in,also dont know if you ever tried eddoes,small ones peeled and thrown in .not too many its very tasty. Try it you will like it!!!! True Trini style.

  23. indrani
    February 9, 2012 / 1:20 pm

    This dhal recipe is just perfect for my sister. Thanks for giving us the Trini flavour ! Just loving it!!!

  24. maguertia
    January 19, 2012 / 8:07 am

    Chris I love Dhal, being from Trinidad, I will make some today

  25. August 12, 2011 / 5:14 am

    Its really awesome recipe that you had prepared, thanks for sharing such a good recipe

  26. TEEKAH
    August 11, 2011 / 6:35 pm

    I love gheera!!! pero I was always left out of the meals w beef and pork, I do not consume either meat! any suggestions… I doh want to make everything chicken or turkey even fish as substitutes! I wld just leave it out… but Im tired of being plain.

  27. Amanda
    August 6, 2011 / 10:51 am

    I love the way Dhal is cooked in Trinidad, I do add geera to mine. Sometimes I also add a dash of curry powder, ground cumin and some chopped coriander. Still tastes great!!…Amanda

  28. Richard
    June 21, 2011 / 10:40 pm

    love dhal with rice and curry chicken.I have to try it.As i haven't had dhal for a long time.
    Thanks again Chris.Another great recipe

  29. Doonwati
    June 19, 2011 / 11:51 pm

    Chris,
    I make my dhal just like yours but instead of slicing the Garlic I usually crush it fine. I know you said that you don't like Geera but the flavour it gives the Dhal is so good. Chris, I knew a few people who never liked Geera. I suggested to them if they wanted to try using the Geera to Chunkay the Dhal then take a strainer and scoop it out afterwards because the flavour would still be there. They all started doing it after my suggestion and continued to this day. But, if you really don't like something, you don't!

  30. kaydene
    March 7, 2011 / 3:59 pm

    “enter my name” in the competition

  31. quickie
    January 31, 2011 / 12:11 pm

    i usually pressure cook my dhal it takes about 15 to 20 mins

  32. Rose
    January 4, 2011 / 9:28 pm

    Thank you for the easy to follow recipe. The photographs and comments are very helpful. I'm from the USA but lived in Guyana 4 yrs. and never learned to cook dhal and roti. Now I am trying. I'll let you know how the dhal turns out.

  33. Molly
    November 1, 2010 / 7:52 am

    Hi Chris, love this with rice ,curried chicken and coconut chutney.

  34. ron
    September 19, 2010 / 12:07 pm

    have u ever made dhal using the pre-ground peas?

    • jumbieg
      September 27, 2010 / 9:44 pm

      sorry never.. I guess it would cut back on cooking time drastically?

  35. yanique
    August 9, 2010 / 2:24 pm

    what on earth is this meal
    never heard of it before but it looks interesting

    • jumbieg
      September 27, 2010 / 9:44 pm

      if you're based in North America.. it's similar to split peas soup.

  36. petr thomas
    April 23, 2010 / 7:11 am

    hiya chris, I love dhal and you make it look so easy, will be cooking some up definatly. thx chris, your a star :)))))))

    • jumbieg
      September 27, 2010 / 9:43 pm

      thx. let me know how it turns out.

  37. Joyce
    February 17, 2010 / 12:23 am

    Hello Chris:

    You’re a really good cook I see. The dahl looked really good especially on this cold night; however, I must comment that in Guyana, we usually chop the garlic really fine and fry it up with gheera (aka cumin seed) then pour the hot mix into the dahl.

    You’re doing a good job here fella, and thanks for the supermarket tour.

    • admin
      February 21, 2010 / 3:20 pm

      Joyce, thanks for your kind comments. I do recall my grandmother doing it as you mentioned. I don’t like the taste of cumin so I’ve never used it in my dhal. BTW.. that’s one of the reasons why Mexican food is not on the top of my list of favourite foods.

      happy cooking

      chris…

  38. Raymond
    February 6, 2010 / 5:22 am

    Chris, you're right, cooking dhal is really easy. Just finished trying it for the first time and really impressed my wife. Didn't have hot peppers so I used pimentos and still ended up with a great flavor.

    I really like the simple step by step approach used in conjunction with the great photography in all the recipes.

    • admin
      February 9, 2010 / 10:57 pm

      Raymond, I happy to know that you were successful and thanks for the kind comments. Stick around and continue to comment.

      happy cooking

      chris..

      • nicki
        August 2, 2012 / 6:58 pm

        use this as a base for sancoche..mmmmmmmmmmm

  39. Chris De La Rosa
    January 2, 2010 / 1:22 pm

    Praim, thanks for commenting. You'd be surprised at the many homes I've been too that did not put geera in their dhal. It comes down to personal preference and I personally don't like geera. Maybe that's why there isn't a geera pork recipe posted here yet 🙂

    happy cooking

    chris..

    • Marilyn
      September 23, 2011 / 12:30 pm

      I (smiling) checked the recipe again and wondered why the geera was left out. I usually roast the garlic adding the geera during this process, then chunkay the dhal with them. Best flavour and taste…..yummy! Besides, I get the heath benefits from eating geera.

    • November 26, 2012 / 12:17 pm

      Chis
      I agree with you. I can't stand Geera so liked the Labrador style way of cooking peas.

  40. praim sankar
    December 30, 2009 / 10:20 am

    There is no cumin (geera) in this recipe.

    In T'dad dhall will not be made without geera.

    (at least I don't think so)

    • Marian
      May 13, 2013 / 12:15 pm

      YES most definitely has to have cumin (gerra) when I am frying the slivered garlic in the oil I add a teaspoon of cumin seeds to the oil with the garlic.

      • Joan Yussuff
        July 2, 2013 / 9:34 am

        Yes, chunkay with geera and garlic

  41. November 22, 2009 / 10:26 pm

    Peanuts, thx for your continued support. That was my problem when I first started as well. 2 Options.. use a pressure cooker and/or patience. Allow it to cook longer. You’ll soon be able to know the perfect time to cook it. Try this trick. After boiling for 1 1/2 hrs, take a few peas out and place it onto a side dish. Then squeeze with your fingers. If you feel and sort of “grainy” texture, you’ll then know it needs some more cooking.

    Wizzythestick , using freezer type containers it usually last a couple months. The key is not to have space between the cooked dhal and the lid. This is where it can get freezer burn.

    Happy Cooking

    Chris
    .-= Chris De La Rosa´s last blog ..Here comes Santa Claus Hamilton. =-.

  42. November 21, 2009 / 5:16 pm

    I always mess up when cooking split peas, i love them but some how they end up under cooked and slightly hard 🙂
    .-= peanutts´s last blog ..Kottu roshi =-.

    • November 26, 2012 / 12:15 pm

      Soak them over night..I find that cooking I cook them slow and long. Have you tried putting them in a slow cooker while you go to work or do your other stuff?
      In Newfoundland, they put them in a cotton bag and toss them in with the vegetables to cook.

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