Sour Dhal Recipe


Sour dhal has a tangy taste from the combination of tamarind and herbs with a characteristic sour  note. Three of the most commonly used were edible weeds sorrel, purslane and clover. My substitute for the three best contenders for making sour dhal is swiss chard. It has a similar tangy taste as beetroot leaves, which Amma was fond of using to cook herbs curry. Apart from the appeal of  its beautiful red stalks, chard is nutrient-dense with a generous doses of Vitamins A, C and K. It is known for its bitter taste, which diminishes with cooking. This makes it an ideal ingredient for making a sour dhal curry.

sour herbs dhal curry

How to Make Sour Dhal

Sour dhal is made by pre-boiling dhal then braising in a tamarind sauce. The herbs, in this case, Swiss chard is added just before the end of the cooking process to wilt the chard without overcooking them.

How to Boil Dhal

To boil dhal I often soak then rinse the dhal. Boil for 5-10 minutes then rinse until the water is clear. This removes excess foam often common in lentils.

I boil for another hour then allow to rest overnight. This results in soft dhal the next morning. No blender needed.

Sour Dhal Ingredients

Sour Dhal curry can be cooked with swiss chard, spinach, or purslane. Clover and Sorrel are less common market herbs.

Spices: To make this curry I used Durban masala, turmeric and a jeera dhania powder. If you prefer a more pungent curry, add dried or fresh chillies

Tamarind is a key ingredient to give this dish its tangy taste, much like its role in a Durban fish curry.

I prefer topping my dhal with red onion. Similar t braised dhal top with fried onions and jeera seeds or vadivo braising spice.

For this recipe I have used split pea dhal, similarly you can also use mung dhal, red lentils or black lentils (biryani dhal) to give the dish a thick texture. At best it can be described as being – like Dhal Ghost without the meat. Reason for this thick texture is that I intended serving  this dish as a soup rather than with rice or bread. I often use grated carrots as a substitute for rice- adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to grated carrots (my minimalist version of the traditional carrot salad). This dhal recipe is ideal for a light meal for lunch or supper.

Sour Dhal Curry Recipe

Sour Dhal  Curry Recipe with Swiss Chard

Sour Dhal Curry Recipe with Swiss Chard



Prep time

10 Min

Cook time

15 Min

inactive time

2 Min

Total time

27 Min

Sour Dhal Curry is dhal with tangy notes from the combination of tamarind and bitter herbs like purslane, sorrel and chard.


  • 1 cup dhal (preboiled)
  • Half cup split pea  dhal (or moong dhal)
  • 1 tablespoon  Durban masala
  • ½ teaspoon jeera and dhania powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 tomato grated
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2  cups  spinach, swiss chard, purslane or sorrel
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind combined with half a cup of warm water
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons  oil or ghee
  • 1 cup of water


  1. Pre-boil the dhal before cooking the sour dhal curry.
  2. Heat a pan on medium heat. Add the oil. Add the onions. Fry until  the onions until slightly brown.
  3. Add the ginger and garlic , fry for a minute or two then add the powdered spices i.e. Durban masala, jeera and dhania powder and turmeric. Fry the spices for minute or two on low heat.
  4. Add the grated tomato and tamarind mixture. Allow to boil.
  5. Add the herbs i.e. spinach,swiss chard, purslane or sorrel.
  6. Add the pre-boiled dhal. Add one cup of water and salt.
  7. Cover and allow to cook for 15 minutes.
  8.  If the texture is too thick – add more water to achieve the desired texture.
  9. Remove from the stove. Serve warm.
  10. Enjoy with rice, roti or puri.


Prepare the Dhal the night before you intend cooking.
The tomato should be soaked in hot water, peeled and grated.
Soak the tamarind in warm water for at least 30 minutes.



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