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Plan five Dals/Lentils for weeknights to help plan meals better – Included all Dal recipes, traditional and healthy temperings, a free PDF with a plan, Instant Pot cook times, and recipe videos. 

After taking care of work, kids, home, or all of them, by dinner time, do you run out of energy to cook? Do you find yourself left with the only choice of eating out? If so, you aren’t alone – we’ve all been there at some point.

Please don’t get me wrong; eating out is okay as long as it is out of choice. If you want to eat at home but “have to” eat out, that is the precise problem that I’ll try to address in a few articles which will follow. In these posts of the “meal-planning” series, I’ll discuss how you can plan for and cook simple, healthy, and vegetarian meals.

I believe that if we are a little strategic about planning our meals, we can address the weekday dinner problem. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Why does Meal Planning Help?

1. Avoids Decision Fatigue: Deciding what to eat can be tiring! Planning our meals Ahead of time can take this strain out. 

2. Pocket-Friendly: Regularly eating out when we have no choice at home, can be expensive. Meal planning addresses this issue head-on. 

3. Eat fresh and healthy: Planning for meals can help planning healthy grocery shopping, which results in eating healthy!

How to Meal-Plan for Weeknights?

    While growing up, most of the Indian households had Dal (Lentils), Sabzi (Vegetable-based curries), and Roti(Indian Flatbread)/Rice.

    After researching a lot on health benefits and the nutrients that we require, I converged to the same wholesome meal! It turns out to be a great dinner – one rich in proteins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and iron!

    However, I found it challenging to make this humble dinner every night. What has helped tremendously is planning! I plan our meals ahead of time, prepare a few meal-prep ingredients over the weekend, keep the recipes, and cook times handy.

    I split my meal-planning into three modules, inspired by how my mom prepared dinners. In this three-part posts, I’ll share each module below, and by the end of it, we should have our meal plan to get a wholesome dinner ready! 

    Module 1

    How to plan and cook Dals/Lentils and combine them with various temperings.

    Module 2

    How to cook vegetables or plant-based curries to go with Dals by using different I’ve included ten meal-prep ingredients in this post. Or, keep handy a list of quick 15-minute curries.

    Module 3

    How to plan healthy sides.

    In this post I’ll dive into module 1 – Dals and share with you five simple yet delicious recipes. 


    Why eat Dals/Lentils?

      1. They are easy, delicious, and quick to make, especially if we soak them.

      2. Tempering on the lentils can help add additional health benefits. 

      3. Dals/Lentils provide nutrients, specifically being rich in Protein. They are also rich in Fiber, Iron, Folate, and Potassium. [Mahan et al., Food Science and Nutrition, UF, IFAS]  Lentils are also rich in anti-oxidants

      4. A diverse range of lentils are available, and combining them with different temperings leads to varied dishes. 

      5. Dals/Lentils are gluten-free! So, it’ll be healthy for the gut to emphasize more on lentils compared to bread. 


      Download the PDF with a weekly planner, cook times, recipes and temperings that work well.

      Download this PDF with a weekly Dal/Lentil planner, recipes, cook times and temperings that work well with these Dals. 

        3 Tips to save time for making Dals/Lentils

        1. Soak: Reduce the cooking time by soaking Dals overnight or in the morning, especially if your day will be busy. 

        2. Choose Split Dals: During weekdays, you may cook split Daals instead of whole daals to reduce the cooking time further.

        3. Planning: Identify 4-5 lentils for the entire week. You may choose to repeat the lentils but change the tempering to add a variation. 

        4. Store the tempering as Meal-Prep: Use onion-tomato-ginger-garlic paste, which can be an excellent tempering with a full suite that comes handy.

        I’ve put together a table with cook times corresponding to soaked times for each of the Dal below. Please download the PDF with “lentils for weeknights” for free if you need an easy reference. 

        Download Lentils Soak vs. Cook Times

          How to make Dals/Lentils healthier?

          Dals/Lentils are already healthy as is. They are rich in Protein, and you can boil then to have them on a salad. However, to pack a humble bowl of daal with more nutrition, the following tips might help you. 

          (a) Have a diverse range of Dals – each lentil has its nutrition profile. More colors and more variety improve our gut and health. 

          (b) Use tempering made with Ghee and spices to enhance the flavor and add healing benefits of spices.  Turmeric, for example, releases curcumin in the presence of fat/oil/ghee.

          (c) Season with a generous amount of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves.

          (d) Squeeze lemon juice on the top for added Vitamin C, which helps in iron absorption.

          (e) Soak them before cooking – it reduces the cooking time and increases the nutrition of lentils [Huma et al., Nutrition & Food Science].


          5 Dals/Lentils for Weeknights: Recipes in Instant Pot/Stove Top

          Here are five dals/lentils for weeknights which we cook the most. The recipes are nutritious, appetizing, and effortless to make.

          Note to keep in mind:

          1. The Instant pot timings that I’ve listed with the recipes are all tried, tested, and ensure that the Dal is cooked. However, if you like your Dals to be less or more mushy, please adjust the timings to +/-2 minutes. 

          2. After the Dal is cooked, I make sure that it simmers on “Saute” for 2-5 minutes before serving for it to get a soupy, curry-like texture. 

          3. NPR in all the recipes implies Natural Pressure Release, and QPR stands for Quick Pressure Release or setting the pot to vent mode. 


          1. Chana Dal (Bengal Gram Lentil Curry)

          The first one is this healthy and finger-licking delicious Chana Dal, Bengal Gram, or Split Black Chickpea Curry. In the post, I’ve shared my favorite Dal recipe from my mom and flavored with Indian spices. Ready in less than 30 minutes, it is quick to make and goes well with Roti (Indian Flatbread) or Rice.  

          2. Masoor Dal (Red Lentils Curry)

          This tangy, nutritious, and delicious Masoor Dal or Red Lentil Curry goes well with Rice or Indian Flatbread. It is a perfect curry for a quick meal on a busy weeknight. The tempering I like the best in this Masoor Dal recipe is of tomatoes, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and tamarind paste. 

          3. Moong Dal Tadka (Green Moong Beans Curry)

          This whole Moong Dal Tadka made in Instant Pot is a mouthwatering lentil curry to make during busy weeknights. Using the stored onion, tomato, ginger, and garlic paste makes the dish very easy to put together.  

          4. Dry Urad Dal Fry (Split White Lentils Fry)

          Urad Dal Fry recipe – provides a great texture and flavor to Urad Dal. A must-try delicious recipe which can be prepared in 15 minutes. I like this Urad Dal recipe because it doesn’t get gluey, unlike gravy-like Urad Dal recipe preparation. Please give it a try. 

          5. Arhar Dal Tadka (Pigeon Peas Lentil Curry) 

          Arhar Dal is a staple in many Indian Households. The most straightforward recipe to prepare out of this lot is this Arhar Dal with the garlic-chili tempering. It goes well with Rice, but often, I increase the water this recipe, and we love it as a stand-alone hearty, warm, nutritious bowl of lentil soup. Arhar Dal goes well with all the tempering suggested with above Dals, but I stuck to this simple one because Garlic and Arhar are a match that is too good to skip. Again, a must-try!

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