Panchmel Dal is a mix of five lentils cooked together to create a creamy, thick, delicious lentil curry that tastes great when scooped up with warm chapatis or eaten with basmati rice. This recipe is inspired by Rajasthani cuisine which favors mixing of dals. Rajasthan’s Dal-Baati is very well known. The dal or lentils made for Dal-Baati are spicy and a combination of several different kinds. Similarly, Panchmel is also a mix. In arid regions like Rajasthan, lentils and legumes are a large part of the diet since fresh vegetables aren’t always available.
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Elevating everyday meals with Panchmel Dal
In this step-by-step recipe and video, I’ll share how I like to make my mixed lentil, panchmel dal using an Instant Pot. You can also use a pressure cooker to make this dal. In fact that is how I’d always cooked it until the Instant Pot came along. This five lentil dish is a simple, quick, delicious and nutritious way to elevate any home cooked meal. I love serving it when we have guests over for dinner. It is always a hit!
Choices – which lentils to use?
There are a lot of options as far as the lentils go. And, with the number of pulses and lentils used in Indian cooking it is no surprise! Having said that, I have a few favorites which I will share here. My trusted go to are: dali moong, dali masoor, moong chhilka, urad chhilka and toor. If you are new to Indian food you’re probably wondering what these names are. Worry not, you can listen to our podcast and read all about them here. Essentially, chhilka and dali indicate the level of “husked-ness” and stages of processing of a lentil. For a mixed dal recipe like panchmel it is always a good rule of thumb to choose lentils that will cook in approximately the same time.
Let’s cook Panchmel Dal
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Time to cook: 30 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
- 1 cup of lentils – mix of Husked Split Moong, Husked Split Masoor, Split Unhusked Urad, Split Unhusked Moong and Arhar or Toor
- Water 2-3 cups to pressure cook
- 4-5 garlic pods, chopped
- 1/2 inch pieces of Ginger (optional)
- Green chillies 1 or 2 chopped or whole (optional)
- Red onion 1 medium sized (or half), diced
- Tomato 1 medium (or half), diced
- 1 to 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Spices: whole and ground
- Heeng/Asafoetida 1/4 tsp or a pinch
- Zeera/Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
- Rai/Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
- Whole peppercorns 1/2 tsp, coarsely ground
- Cloves 5-6
- Dhania/Coriander Powder 1 tsp (or more to taste)
- Kashmiri Red Chili Powder 1/2 tsp (any mild chili powder, adjust to taste)
- Haldi/Turmeric 1/2 tsp
- Salt to taste.
Final Tadka before serving:
- Ghee 2 tsp
- Whole Red Chillies 2-3
- Cumin 1/2 tsp
- Red Chili Powder 1/2 tsp (I used Kashmiri mirch for its mildness)
- Ground peppers, few cracks (optional)
Cooking Panchmel Dal
Wash and soak the lentils
Start by measuring lentils and washing them in plenty of water. I used a little less that 1 cup of mixed lentils which was about 2 tbsp for each kind. This is enough to serve 4 to 6 people based on how hungry they are! Wash the lentils thrice until water runs clear and then soak while you prep ingredients for the tadka. I filled up the bowl all the way with water.
Cut and chop ingredients for tadka
Next, clean and chop garlic, onion and tomato. I usually smash the garlic, watch in the video, which makes the peel come off easily. Then proceed to chop the garlic. I used half each of onion and tomato because of their size. You can increase the amount of each based on your preference. For the first time try the proportions you see in this recipe video. Dice the onion and tomato. If using green chillies or ginger, chop finely too.
Make tadka in the Instant Pot
First, turn on the Instant Pot to the Sauté mode on high for 10 minutes. Once the pot feels warm (check by hovering hand over it, do not touch), add oil. Next, add spices in this sequence – pinch of heeng, cumin seeds, rai or mustard seeds, cloves and roughly crushed peppercorns. Sauté for a couple minutes until fragrant. Then, add garlic and sauté until just starting to brown followed by onion. Cook until onion starts looking translucent. At this point add tomato. I sometimes find my instant pot flashing the “Hot” warning. In my experience adding a wet ingredient or a splash of water usually cools it down enough for the warning to end. Continue to cook until tomato softens. This is a good time to add all the ground spices – turmeric, coriander powder, chili powder and salt. Mix well and continue to cook until the tadka is mushy and the pot’s Sauté mode ends.
Add lentils and pressure cook
It’s time to add all the soaking dals when the oil starts separating from the tadka. Add all the lentils and soaking water. Then, add another 1 and 1/2 or 2 cups of water. Close the instant pot lid with the vent “sealed” and select “Pressure Cook” on high for 12 minutes.
Releasing pressure from the Instant Pot
At the end of the pressure cook cycle, turn off the instant pot. You can either let the pressure release naturally which might take about 15 minutes or quick release by turning the vent to “venting”. While doing this place a kitchen towel over the vent and make sure you keep your hand and arm away from the steam that escapes. Watch how I do it in the video.
Simmer and thicken Panchmel Dal
Open the lid and stir the dal. It might seem a little stew like and runny at this stage. Turn the pot to sauté mode again for 10 minutes and simmer the lentils. Simmering on an open flame is what usually thickens all lentil preparations. So this step is vital. Use a glass lid that will fit on the pot to cover it during this time. After 10 minutes of simmering the lentils should have thickened. You can always cook longer if there is more water. Pour into a serving bowl and then just before serving add a final flourish, a ghee tadka.
Add the final flourish – a ghee tadka
As soon as the dal is ready make the final tadka. I use ghee, cumin seeds, whole red chillies and a pinch of chili powder for coloring this final flourish. You could also add ground pepper for extra spiciness. Warm the ghee in a small pan. Then add cumin seeds. As soon as they start spluttering, add chillies. Fry until they start changing color followed by a pinch of chili powder. Turn off the heat and immediately pour over the Panchmel Dal. This is an audio-visual treat! (5:32 in the video)
Panchmel dal is ready to serve!
This dal is equally good served with freshly made flatbreads – chapatis or paranthas – or over rice. I love it with a side of yogurt and some achar. Try the recipe and tell us about your experience in the comments. This is a simple but sure shot winner when it comes to serving a nutritious meal to guests. Be sure to like the video and subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already!
Panchmel Dal in Instant Pot – Five Lentil Soup
- Instant pot
Dals or lentils
- 1 cup Mixed lentils – split and husked moong and masoor, split moong, split urad and toor
- 2-3 cups Water for pressure cooking
For the first Tadka
- 4-5 pods Garlic, chopped
- 1/2 inch piece Ginger, chopped
- 1-2 Green chillies, chopped
- 1 or 1/2 Red onion, diced
- 1 or 1/2 Tomato, diced
- 1 to 2 Tbsp Olive oil or any cooking oil
Ground and whole spices
- 1/4 tsp Heeng or Asafoetida
- 1/2 tsp Zeera or Cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp Rai or Mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp Whole Peppercorns coarsely ground
- 5 to 6 Cloves
- 1 tsp Dhani or Coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch
- 1/2 tsp Haldi or Turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp Ghee
- 1/2 tsp Zeera or Cumin seeds
- 2 to 3 Whole Red Chillies
- Few cracks of black pepper options
Wash and soak lentils
- Measuring and wash lentils thrice in plenty of water until water runs clear. Soak by filling bowl all the way while you prep other ingredients.
- Next, clean and chop garlic, onion and tomato.
- Turn on the instant pot to the Sauté mode on high for 10 minutes.
- Once the pot feels warm (check by hovering hand over it, do not touch), add oil and then spices in this sequence – pinch of heeng, cumin seeds, rai or mustard seeds, cloves and roughly crushed peppercorns. Sauté for a couple minutes until fragrant.
- Next, add garlic and sauté until it starts browning followed by onion. Cook until onion is translucent. At this point add all tomato and cook until tomato starts softening.
- Add all the ground spices – turmeric, coriander powder, chili powder and salt. Mix well and continue to cook until the tadka is mushy or the pot’s Sauté mode ends.
Pressure Cook the lentils
- Add the soaking lentils along with soaking water to the pot. Then, add another 1 and 1/2 or 2 cups of water.
- Close the instant pot lid with the vent “sealed” and select “Pressure Cook” on high for 12 minutes.
- After pressure cook ends, turn off the pot and quick release pressure.
- Turn it back on to Saute mode at high for 10 minutes. Mix the lentils and simmer with a lose fitting lid. They will thicken by the end of this cooking time. If there is extra water cook a little longer.
Final tadka and serving
- Pour lentils in a serving dish.
- Warm ghee in a small pan. Then add cumin seeds, whole red cillies and a pinch of chili powder.
- When eveyrthing is spluttering, turn off heat and pour it over the lentils. Garnish with fresh coriander/cilantor and serve with warm flatbreads or rice.
- I sometimes find my instant pot flashing the “Hot” warning. In my experience adding a wet ingredient or a splash of water usually cools it down enough for the warning to end.
- Quick release pressure by turning the vent to “venting”. While doing this place a kitchen towel over the vent and make sure you keep your hand and arm away from the steam that escapes. Watch how I do it in the video.