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I'm making dal for the first time and have all of the ingredients below, but I can't decide whether to use white, yellow (vidalia), or red onions. I have all three in stock.

Here are the other ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup ghee
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cups orange lentils
  • 2 tablespoons ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons Garam Masala powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 8 cups chicken stock
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7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

My mum and I've always used red onions all our lives and everyone or a huge population in North India uses red onions. I have friends here in Australia from South India who I've seen using red onions as well when making dal. Having said that, I've also tried brown onions a few times and it doesn't make too much of a difference. And good luck with your first time making it :)

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I would seriously doubt "everyone in India" makes dal the same way... –  nico Mar 15 '13 at 18:11
Thanks, Divi. I was hoping for some insight into what is traditionally used and I think you've answered that. –  Dan Dye Mar 15 '13 at 18:24
@nico: I didn't say that everyone makes dal the same way, I said everyone uses red onions or a very large percentage of the population –  Divi Mar 16 '13 at 0:24
@DanDye: happy that it worked out –  Divi Mar 16 '13 at 0:24
@Divi: India is such a big country with such a variety of cultures that I would be amazed if noone used yellow onions to make dal, especially as the type of onion is something that would vary by availability. –  nico Mar 16 '13 at 0:51

It really doesn't matter, I have tried with all of them, and each one tastes differently. Even in India at different places people use different kind of onions, it is mostly driven by availability. The best way to check what you may like is by using different kinds of onions for the first 3 times you make it :). I personally like yellow ones, you can start with that one for the first time.

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Welcome to the site and thanks for the answer. –  BaffledCook Mar 15 '13 at 14:21

I would use either the white or the yellow; red onions have a milder flavour that might not stand up to the rest of the ingredients. But it's personal preference really.

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Dan, are you kidding me ? This is going to be a very spicy dal. I don't know your nationality, but if you are American this is going to blow the dial off the spicyness.
Any onions will do, just not spring onions :)
1 tbspn ghee
1 1/2 cups diced onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic (Of course make it 2 if you want a very garlicy dal)
2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 cups orange lentils
1 tablespoons ginger powder
1/2 to 1 tablespoons Garam Masala powder (depending on the spiciness of it)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar (No ! Unless you want a Gujarati dal)
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar (Nope, no vinegar in Dals)
8 cups chicken stock ( I have never ever heard of chicken being cooked with dal).

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Do you say that because of the jalapenos? I like it spicy but I may try halving what the recipe calls for. –  Dan Dye Mar 15 '13 at 18:22
Jalapenos, garam masala and ground black pepper. It really depends on what kind of jalapenos you are using and when you introduce them into the making of the daal. Ghee can rarely get that hot, before it evaporates, during tempering for the jalapenos to lose their sting. It also depends on whether you are preparing the garam masala yourself or if it is from a store –  happybuddha Mar 15 '13 at 18:26

@nico I grew up in India and can vouch for the fact that red onions are used for everything that requires onions. The other kind are spring onions/scallions. We don't get yellow, white, cipollini, etc. etc. And, the basic method for making dal is the same for all types of split lentils.

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You should go for Red Onions. White onions are not used that much in India. Red Onions are used throughout India in every type of dish. I would suggest you can also add some Capsicum.

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Red will be my choice ! red onions has a bit of sweet taste which will go with the recipe.

If it was spicy chicken curry (without dry fruits or nuts or cream), I would go for white.

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