cooking dal bhat, national dish of Nepal

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Dal Bhat is the most common lunch and dinner dish in Nepal. Variations on it are also very popular throughout India and South Asia, but the Nepalese dish is notable for being incredibly good, cheap, and easy to make; give it a couple tries, and in 30 minutes you’ll be able to prepare a dinner  that costs about $3 per person and doesn’t skimp on veg, protein, or taste.

Like a lot of curries and other dishes from the region, each word in dal bhat is a potentially separate dish. In this case dal is lentil and baht is rice. The lentils are cooked into a soup, the rice is steamed, and then you just slop them on adjacently and mix it as you see fit. The lentils can be cooked as spicy as you’d like, as the rice is a good way to dilute any extreme flavors.

cooking your first dal bhat


Red lentils—1/2 cup per BIG serving

Green or orange chili peppers—in increasingly spicy order: poblanos, jalapenos, serranos, habaneros, or dalle khursanis.

* Dalle Khursani chilis are local to the South Asian region and are as spicy, but less citrusy than typical habaneros *

1 Tomato per serving

1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds or powder per serving


  1. Cut and cube your chilis and tomatoes
  2. Rinse the lentils
  3. Heat a few tbsp of whatever oil you like, add the cumin to the hot oil pan
  4. Add the vegetables, followed by the lentils, followed by two or three times the amount of lentils you used.
  5. Stir and cover
  6. Cook covered on low/medium heat for twenty minutes. Don’t let it get sludgy.
  7. Cook your rice while you wait.
  8. Chili powder, salt and pepper can be added to taste.

three ways to serve it

Put the dal in a small bowl, with the rice on a plate below. Drip the lentils on the rice or dip the rice in the soup.

Like a breakfast platter or japanese curry, with each taking up half of a plate. Mix as you’d like.

Use the rice as a base and slop the lentils on top.

make it your own

If you look at other recipes on the internet you might think this one is too simple. If you want to add flavors, the next thing to add is onions. If you want more, chili powder, garlic, garam masala, and cardamom are also recommended. Nepalese will often serve dal bhat as a platter, with sauteed vegetables or other curries on the sides.