cook in a curry

Kannada Huli – Southern indian spiced lentil stew with coconut & curry leaves

Kannada Huli lentil curry (2)

There’s a frosty chill in the air, days are getting shorter & I’m home in time to cook dinner as I look out through my kitchen window all I see is a black sheet across the sky. My favourite part of colder months undoubtedly has to be cooking spicy meals with substance. Rich curries, stews and breads all make winter that much more bearable. Sipping a bowl of warm stew huddled up in front of the telly to me spells comfort.

There is such diversity in lentil based Indian dishes from each region. From a regular Tadka dal, to Bengali cholar dal, to a simple Maharashtrian varan or a typical south Indian sambar.

Each region has their own unique take on dishes and south India is no different. Huli is a Karnataka stew made with vegetables, split pigeon peas and a spiced coconut paste. The consistency is much thicker than your regular lentil curry and the combinations of tamarind & jaggery lend to that delicious flavour making it ever so moreish.

I guarantee you nothing beats a warm bowl of Huli with steaming rice & a dollop of ghee. My mother would most certainly approve!

For my recipe here you need to made a pudi/ spice powder also I’m using toor dal/ split yellow lentils which cook well still holding their shape & are perfect to get that thick curry consistency. You can find grated coconut in a lot of Asian grocers and is also available frozen. Feel free to swap it for desiccated coconut although makes sure to soak dried coconut in some warm water before using.

I have used shallots for this recipe as they are slightly sweeter yet with a pungent flavour. Also they are perfect to add whole in the curry too.

Kannada Huli lentil curry


150gms split yellow lentils (toor dal) soaked in water for 15-20 mins and drained

600mls water

½ tsp turmeric powder

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Pinch of asafoetida

1 tsp mustard seeds

5-6 curry leaves

6-8 shallots peeled & thinly sliced (leave 3 whole to add to the curry later)

1 medium potato chopped into cubes

1 ½  tbsp jaggery grated

2 tsp tamarind paste (add a little more if want a tangy taste)

3 tbsp grated fresh coconut

Fresh coriander for garnish


For the pudi/ spice powder;

1 tsp vegetable oil

5 dried red chillies stalks removed & deseeded

¼ tsp asafoetida

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1” cinnamon stick broken

2 tsp urad dal (split black lentils)

1 tbsp roasted chana dal (bengal gram)

Kannada Huli lentil curry (3)

Add the lentils, water, turmeric and salt in a heavy bottom sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer & cook for 15-20 mins until the lentils are tender.

To make the spice powder; heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the chillies, asafoetida, fenugreek seeds along with the cumin, coriander seeds and cinnamon stick. Fry for 2 minutes on medium heat. Now add the urad dal and chana dal. Fry for a further couple of minutes on a low flame. As they start to change colour turn the heat off. Cool the mix and grind in a coffee grinder until fine. Add the grated coconut to a blender along with the spice powder & a splash of water. Blend to a fine paste & set aside.

In separate sauce pan heat oil add the asafoetida and mustard seeds. As they start to crackle add the curry leaves frying for a few seconds. Now add the sliced shallots and fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cubed potato and whole peeled shallots and fry for 5 mins. At this stage add the cooked dal along with the coconut spice paste. Stir well and bring to a simmer making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add a little more water if it’s too thick. Add the jaggery and tamarind paste. Season to taste. Garnish with fresh coriander & serve with hot rice and a dollop of ghee.

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  1. Posted October 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    This looks divine. I am a huge fan of dals/dahls and would quite happily eat them each day. This is different from the ones I cook so will definitely try this one out and add it to my repertoire ;o)

  2. Markus
    Posted April 23, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Great Dish!
    Missed the cinnamon in the recipe, guess it got mixed up at some point with the alfo?! Where do you use it?
    Somehow it is also hard to really get the chana dal powdered

    • maunika
      Posted April 23, 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      The cinnamon goes in with the spice powder. The dal used here is Bengal gram which you can find at Asian stores or online at spice shops.

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