Recipes - Vegetarian

Gujarati Masala Dal (no onion/garlic)

On a recent trip back to Yorkshire for my sister’s wedding I was lucky enough to spend a day in the kitchen with one of the best Gujarati chefs in England. Or at least that’s what me and my husband think. Who was it? Not a celebrity chef nor even a professional chef, but my mother-in-law, Sudha Patel.

I recently introduced Sudha alongside her recipe for Aloo Matar (potato and pea curry) – in that post I shared how Jamie Oliver’s show on Italian nonnas had inspire me to get some quality time in the kitchen with her. Sudha, like many of the Italian nonnas, has 50 years plus experience in the kitchen and tons of personal recipes up her sleeve.

It had taken me 15 years to spend a day in the kitchen with Sudha so the experience was long overdue. What makes her Gujarati cooking so different from much of the food that Brits would call ‘Indian’ is that it’s not only vegetarian but it’s also made with no onion and no garlic.

Like many Indians my husband’s parents don’t eat onion or garlic for religious reasons. According to Ayurvedic traditions garlic and onions are avoided because they belong to a family of plants that can have undesirable physical, mental, spiritual and emotional consequences. Consequences like body odour, bad breadth, aggression, agitation and more. Now I’m not about to give up garlic and onion any time soon, but, after my cooking lesson with Sudha, I appreciate that Indian food can be just as delicious without these two ingredients.

Gujarati Masala Dal 

Dal or dahl is a term used broadly for various soups made from dried pulses – peas, beans, lentils etc. Because I default to curries, I’ve never really got into making dals. So the first recipe I requested on my cooking lesson was for a ‘simple, classic dal’. Here it is Gujarati Masala Dal with no onion and no garlic – it’s vegan, versatile and very delicious.


  • Legumes: 1.5 cups split yellow peas (or yellow split lentils)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp ghee/coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsp chopped fresh green chillies
  • Fresh coriander
  • 1 lemon or lime


  • Cinnamon scroll 3-4 cm
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 1.5 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander


  1. Rinse the legumes twice and drain well (you can also then soak them to reduce the cooking time).
  2. Add the legumes, water and 1/2 tsp of salt to a pan or pressure cooker and cook until the legumes are soft and the water has reduced. Note: the cooking time will depend on your choice of legume and pressure cooking will speed things up. Note: split peas absorb lots of water as they cook, so add more water as needed during cooking.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan. Once it’s hot add the mustard seeds, cloves, fenugreek seeds and cinnamon.
  4. Wait until the seeds start to pop and then add the ginger, fresh chillies and chilli powder. Stir well.
  5. Then add the chopped tomato, followed by the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala and remaining 2 tsp of salt.
  6. Add the tomato puree and stir the sauce well.
  7. Add 500ml of warm water to the cooked legumes and stir well.
  8. Then transfer the legumes into the sauce. Add more water if needed (if you do add more salt too).
  9. Add a small handful of chopped fresh coriander stalks and the juice of one lemon or lime.
  10. Cook uncovered on a low heat for 30-45 minutes then finish with chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Enjoy with heaps of rice, bread and perhaps even Sudha’s Aloo Matar (potato and pea curry).




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