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

8 Answers 8


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 :)

  • I would seriously doubt "everyone in India" makes dal the same way...
    – nico
    Mar 15, 2013 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, 2013 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, 2013 at 0:24
  • @DanDye: happy that it worked out
    – Divi
    Mar 16, 2013 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, 2013 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.


@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.


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.


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.


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.


There are so many recipes for making a dal and the type of onions do not matter. You can use any kind of onions and in fact you can prepare dal without onions too.

  • 1
    Hello! we are not a recipe swapping site, so I removed the recipe link.
    – rumtscho
    May 3, 2015 at 17:40

The Sri Lankan way favours the use of shallots (just a couple of small ones, finely minced).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.