I'm planning on making a simple dish using split pigeon peas (or, toor dal) which I plan to soak for an hour.

Since I don't have a pressure cooker, I will need to cook these on the stove top. What is the appropriate lentil-to-water ratio I should use? Is it (as I suspect) 3 cups water to 1 cup lentils? Or, like pasta, does it not matter and I should just keep stirring?

4 Answers 4


In surveying the web, I have found a variety of ratios from 1:2 to 1:4 by volume, and some which measure the toor dal by weight.

I suspect some of the variation comes from the desired outcome (more or less soupy or poridgy), and whether or not the peas were pre-soaked.

You can google "toor dal recipe without pressure cooker".

This recipe for stove top toor dal suggests pre-soaking, and then using a 1:2 ratio of water. The author provides lots of pictures and explanation.

  • That second link, while not precisely what I had asked for (I know you all have a strict no-recipes policy) is excellent and amazingly helpful. Thanks for finding it!
    – user18788
    Commented Jun 18, 2013 at 3:21

As long as you're cooking on the stove, and probably stirring now and then, it doesn't exactly matter. You can add more water as needed until they're done, and measure what you add if you want to know for later. Since the ratio depends on your preference anyway - you can make anything from intact lentils to thick mashed lentils to lentil soup - this may be a good idea, so you can make sure you get what you want.


I agree with @Jefromi. The water:lentil ratio doesn't really matter that much. I generally pressure cook lentils by first soaking them in water for a few hours (4 to 5 is more than adequate), covering them with water and pressure cooking for about 10 minutes. Soaking the lentils will give you a good idea of the final volume because lentils absorb a lot of water. On the stove top, of course, you can keep adding water until you reach the consistency desired.


I cook my lentils (all kinds of them) in my MEC Clay pot. In my experience the lentils turn out far more delicious and nutritious when cooked this way. I use 3 cups of water to 1 cup of lentils. Another quicker method to determine the ratio is put the lentils in the pot and start adding water till you can put your fingers till your second knuckle line. this usually works perfect.

I found these instructions to cooking lentils in clay very useful, and I am sharing it here: How to cook lentils in a clay pot. Cooking lentils and beans in a clay pot

  • How are they more nutritious?
    – user61524
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 21:56

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