Urad dal is a common legume used in Indian cuisine to make recipes like dal, idli, dosa, and papadams. Whole urad dal have their skins intact which offer a powerful, earthy flavor. The split white variety has a much milder taste and a chewy texture that cooks quickly.
In some recipes, substituting urad dal can be a challenge. It plays a similar role to eggs, providing structure to food. Idlis get their fluffy, soft consistency from the addition of dal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t complete a dish without using urad dal. While the result may not be 100% authentic, you’ll still get tasty results with an urad dal substitute from the list below.
What are the best substitutes for urad dal?
To replace urad dal in your next recipe, try using urad dal flour, black beluga lentils, or adzuki beans. In some recipes like idli, you can use an alternative such as beaten rice, but the final rice cake won’t be as airy and light.
1. Urad dal flour
Traditional Indian recipes like Medu vada usually call for urad dal. They need to be cleaned and dried, roasted, cooled, and finally blended into a fine powder. All this work isn’t ideal if you lead a busy lifestyle. Instead, consider buying urad dal flour which will still make delicious vada that is crispy on the outside with a mouth-watering fluffy interior.
Finding urad dal flour isn’t always easy. Your best choices are to track down a local Indian grocer or search online.
2. Black beluga lentils
Black beluga lentils look similar to glossy beluga caviar and offer a deep, nutty, earthy taste. They are highly nutritious and closely resemble urad dal in taste, texture, and appearance. Beluga lentils are delicious in salads, soups, or for adding to burger patties. As a side dish, pair them with chicken or fish.
Black beluga lentils don’t require pre-soaking and cook faster than urad dal so reduce the cooking time.
3. Adzuki beans
Adzuki beans are mild and nutty with a subtle sweetness. Once cooked, they have a soft texture that is a little mealy. Being a relative of the urad bean, they have similar characteristics and can be used in much the same way, especially in slow-cooked dishes.
The adzuki bean is fairly easy to locate in supermarkets. If you can’t find them, try health stores, Asian markets, or online retailers.
4. Beaten rice
If you need to replace urad dal in your next batch of idlis then keep in mind that it is a key ingredient. The dal helps to trap air in the batter, resulting in delicious airy rice cakes. As an alternative, try making Mallige Idli or Thatte Idli using beaten rice instead. These recipes are popular in the South of India, but they need to be eaten fresh for the best results.
If you’re cooking dosa then any traditional recipe will call for urad dal. If you can’t get your hands on any then your best choice is to make Rava dosa using semolina and rice flour as the main ingredients.
Peanuts or cashews are excellent for replacing urad dal in tempering. The dal is often fried with spices and sprinkled over food to add crunchy texture to a dish. It can be added during cooking or as a garnish at the end.
It is important to chop the nuts to a practical size. If they’re too big, they’ll dominate the dish; too small and any liquid will result in a mushy consistency instead of a crispy one.
7. Red lentils
Red lentils are small orange legumes that have an earthy, slightly sweet flavor. They make for a super-healthy meal and are readily available in grocery stores around the world. Red lentils are much milder than urad dal – while you won’t get the same authentic flavor, they’re likely to appeal more to those who don’t enjoy strong flavors.
Red lentils will turn mushy once cooked, unlike urad dal that holds its form. We recommend using red lentils for casseroles, soups, stews, and purées.
8. Yellow split peas
Yellow split peas are a type of field pea that has been dried; they are part of the legume family. These split peas have a delicious earthy flavor, useful for many recipes. You’ll find that they don’t closely match the flavor profile of urad dal, so avoid them if you’re trying to cook an authentic dish.
The yellow split pea is also known as the soup pea, field pea, or matar dal.
9. Dupuy Lentils
Dupuy lentils are dark, speckled and are better known in French cuisine. If you want something different from urad dal then these make a sound option. Their flavor is bolder and more peppery, but they’ll work well in any savory dish like curry, casserole, or soup. Dupuy lentils need ample time to soften in cooking, but they’ll hold their shape well.
10. Dry mung beans
Dried mung beans are a versatile ingredient that are slightly sweet. This makes them “at home” in savory food like curries and salads, but they can also be ground into a paste, perfect for Asian desserts.
11. Pigeon peas
Pigeon peas are a beige-colored lentil that can usually be found easily at supermarkets dried or in cans. Also known as toor dal, these pulses make a good replacement for urad dal, but they’ll cook faster so make allowances for this with whatever you cook.
Dried pigeon peas are great cooked with spices, garlic, onions, and tomatoes. They also make a tasty accompaniment for rice. If you have fresh pigeon peas in the kitchen, they can be used for adding to pies and curries. Their crispy texture and nutty flavor are exceptional.
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What is urad dal used for?
Urad dal is commonly used in Indian cuisine to make a range of savory and sweet dishes. Popular recipes that call for urad dal include idly, dosa, papadum, chutney, naan, medu vada, and dal makhani.
Where to buy urad dal?
Urad dal is often found in well-stocked grocery stores next to the other lentil products. If you can’t find any, try visiting an Indian grocer or buying online.
What is the difference between black and white urad dal?
Black urad dal has its outer skin still intact while the white variety has had it removed. Black urad dal has more fiber and a stronger flavor; it also provides a mucilaginous texture to food, similar to okra, when slow-cooked. Although black and white dal can be used interchangeably in some recipes, they offer different flavors and the white variety will require less cooking, or it will break up.
|Type of urad dal||Flavor||Texture|
|Black||Strong and earthy||Maintains a firm consistency when slow-cooked|
|Split||Mild and creamy flavor||Can tolerate slow cooking but don’t overdo it or they will turn mushy|
|Spit and skinned||Mild and creamy flavor||Can only tolerate short cook times before falling apart|
Health benefits of urad dal
- Urad dal is a healthy food, offering a rich source of vitamin B, fiber, and protein.
- It also provides calcium, magnesium, iron, folic acid, and potassium.
- A 3 ½ ounce serving has 350 calories, 1.5g fat, 24g protein, 29g dietary fiber, and 3g sugar.
Do I have to soak urad dal?
Whole urad dal is best soaked in lightly salted water for 4-5 hours before using. The split variety should be soaked for 1-2 hours for the best results.
- Alternative names for urad dal include black gram, kali dal, and black lentils.
- White urad dal is much quicker to cook than the black variety, which hasn’t had its skin removed.
- Urad dal is a popular ingredient in Punjabi cuisine, served as a side dish, added to recipes, and even used as a seasoning.
If you enjoy cooking authentic Indian food then your best option is to find a supplier of urad dal in your area. It has unique characteristics which other pulses, lentils, and grains struggle to replicate. If you have no choice, then urad dal flour, black beluga lentils, or adzuki beans will do a good job of replacing urad dal.