Recipe: Dhal Baht | Vegan Spiced Yellow Split Peas

If you wake up in Nepal, chances are you’ll be eating Dhal Baht. In fact, you’ll probably also eat Dhal Bhat as the sun bobs below the horizon. Nothing wrong with eating the same dish twice in one day. There’s a beautiful simplicity in waking up and knowing that, as certain as the sun will circle the sky, there will be Dhal Bhat.

Ah, yes. There’s something to be said for consistency.

And for not having to make quite so many decisions during the day.

I’m not sure what in my life is that certain. Perhaps my daily cups of tea. All day long I drink glass after glass of the stuff.

This fancy name simply means lentils, split peas, or other pulses (dhal) with rice (baht), but each bite reveals so much more.

This might as well be the national dish of Nepal. While rice doesn’t grow well in the mountains, this is a dish from the valleys. The seasonings in Dhal vary widely, but most commonly this soup-of-sorts contains tomato, turmeric, ginger, onion, and garlic. A sprinkle of earthy cumin seeds rounds out each spoonful.

Home amid the rice. Photo by Julesair. Winnowing Rice in Nepal. Photo by KenWalker.

P.S. This is fabulous toddler food. Nourishing and grand.

Serve with rice.

Serves 4-6


2 cups split yellow peas
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 tomatoes, diced
salt & pepper

6-8 cups water, as needed

Basmati rice, for serving


Let’s make our Dhal Baht in a valley. A glorious, golden valley.

Swayambhunath in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Photo by Dhilung Kirat.

Now wash sunshiny split peas 3 times in a bowl of cold water, drain, and set aside.

Next, peel, chop, grate, and dice your way through the rest of the ingredients.

Next, time to get cooking. Fry the cumin seeds and turmeric in oil until the house smells like delight (about one minute). This is when you add the onion, garlic and ginger – which will only make the aroma more perfect. Cook until the onion is softened and beginning to brown. Then add on a heap of chopped red tomatoes, yellow split peas, 6 cups of water, and season with salt and pepper.

Simmer gently for at least an hour, adding remaining 2 cups of water to taste (if a thinner mixture is desired). Meanwhile, take a stroll by a stream in a golden-green valley. Let your thoughts lift away from you, like a heavy fog, and feel the smiles return.

Ripuk within the Barun Valley. Photo by Dhilung.

A note on the cooking time:

I had my dhal baht on a slow bubble all afternoon and it was divine, especially around the two hour mark when the split peas really softened. I’m thinking this would be a great recipe for the slow-cooker (let us know how it goes if you give it a try).

Right before serving, check the seasonings and adjust as needed. Give it all a stir to combine any liquid (it tends to separate if it sits too long).

You can serve the dhal in one bowl and the rice in another. Combine at will!

Be sure to take a bite of rice and split peas together. Yummers.

Just look at this smile! This is Ava’s friend Bea and she ate an entire bowl.

Photo of Hilary Bridge, Khumbu Valley, Nepal by Simons Images


 Here’s wishing you a happy wander through the valley.

May it always be filled with sunshine or a friendly hand to hold.


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  1. Sorry to be picky, but a couple of questions. The recipe looks really good and I’d like to try it. When do you add the lentils? And those look like yellow split peas, not lentils?

    • Not to add to the “picky” (so of course I will) but I can’t seem to find water amounts on the ingredient list. The picture makes this look pretty soupy, so can I assume there’s more water than simply regular cooking amount? Or am I just completely goofy and it’s right there in front of me? ;-)

      • Sasha Martin says:

        Oh gosh! …. the dish can be made with split peas or lentils. I’m so used to saying lentils.. I don’t know where my head was. Thanks! Also, water varies but about 6 cups worked for me.

        • Sasha Martin says:

          P.S. I made this recipe again last night *just to be sure* since I had bunked up the recipe so badly (I’m pretty sure I lost a revision during an auto computer update without realizing it). Anyway, it now works great as written!

  2. Charissa says:

    The ginger – I suppose that has to be freshly grated, right? (Only one who likes ginger in my family so usually only have powdered… hmmm)

    Would powder work for this recipe?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’d suggest the real ginger – they won’t even realize it’s in there… then use the leftovers to make the ginger and milk iced tea for yourself (look under the drink dropdown menu) Good luck and, if you have time, let me know how it goes :)

  3. LadyGarlic says:

    Hello Sasha!

    Love your blog! I have taking this journey in real life (3 around the world trips) and I look forward to reading this blog. The concept of dhal (lentil) baht (rice) is that it is a humble food and why it is eaten almost daily in Nepal. It is wonderful when you are a tourist. It is usually served thali style, alongside with a vegetable curry (cauliflower or carrots), pickled vegs or chilies, and a chutney. Delicious!

    Therefore, you are not just eating rice and lentils which can get boring fast as the local taste is very heavy on ghee (they fry the lentils in it) and depending on what kind off lentil was use the taste changes.

    A wonderful all purpose lentil for soups and Asian dishes is Red Lentils (Masoor Bonnor) which turns yellow when cooked.

    Feel free to visit my blogs for inspiration and if you need photos.

    (Sorry, they were made on the road and I don’t remember the passwords I used when I created them to clean them up a bit).

    I’m gonna go look what you picked for my country!!!!!!!

    P.s. I highly recommend Nepal! Beautiful and photogenic country with good food! Don’t forget the momos!
    I usually recommend Nepal first as a wonderful introduction to its neighbor India. Similar cultures and also to Yunnan in China.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I. am. so. jealous. How wonderful to have gone on three around the world trips!! Between that and with a name like LadyGarlic, I just know we are going to get along splendidly :) Welcome to the Adventure!

  4. Freelancer says:

    Dear Sasha,
    Daal-Bhat (or Dhal-Baht as you call it), a staple Nepali food eaten twice everyday, is always the same and yet it is always different. Same in the sense that it is always Daal-Bhat; different in the sense that there are so many varieties of Daal (Mung aka green daal, Masooro aka red daal, Maas aka black daal, Rahar aka yelllow daal, Masyang, Gahat, Bodi etc.) that can be cooked separately or in combination with each other and the cooking method can be varied slightly as well. And then there are two more things, “Tarkari” and “Achar” or “Chutney”. Nepalese don’t eat just plain Daal-Bhat everyday (they would be fed up with it if they did, I know I would), they have to have at least Tarkari if not Achar or Chutney along with it. Tarkari literally means vegetable in raw or cooked form. Tarkari with Daal-Bhat is always cooked vegetables (and it could be any type of vegetable from asparagus to broad beans to cauliflower to… zucchini) or it could also mean cooked meat. Achar could be anything from pickled veggies to fresh potato salad with sesame seed (another staple Nepali food: aloo ko achar). Chutney is usually made of either tomato or eggplant (could be roasted, boiled or cooked), green chili, salt and lime juice.
    So the thing is, the staple Nepali food Daal-Bhat is always the same (cause its always Daal-Bhat for brunch as well as for dinner everyday) and yet different (as there are so many combinations you can make of it along with different Tarkaris and Achar). I remember after each meal my mom would start thinking about what to cook for the next meal, there were so many varieties to choose from.

  5. Missing this paired with chicken masala! Will go back to nepal just to have this glorious meal!

  6. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it,
    you might be a great author. I will always bookmark your blog and will eventually come back someday.
    I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great work, have
    a nice weekend!


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