Indian Essentials: What are Urad Lentils? What is Black Gram?

Urad whole beans are small, black skinned and oval beans that are pale yellow inside. Their cooked texture is somewhat glutinous.

You can purchase Urad in several forms:

  • Whole, black beans – they retain their skin
  • Split unhulled beans – black outer shell as they retain their skin
  • Whole, hulled beans – white or pale beans without the outer skin
  • Split, hulled beans – white or pale half beans without skin

Each form cooks just a little differently and has a different taste. The skinless form is smaller and pale yellow or white. Black urad adds a darker colour and flavour to dishes. You will find that different recipes will call for whole or split, skinned or not skinned. All ltypes can be bought at a lot of health shops, and at Indian groceries.

What are Urad Lentils | Black Gram | Heat in The Kitchen

Cooking Urad Lentils

Split urad dal does not need so much soaking, while whole white urad benefits from a couple of hours or more pre soaking if you can manage it, and whole black urad should be soaked overnight. Even so, Urad will take 1.5 – 2 hours to cook well on the stove top.

Urad is best cooked long and slow, and in India is often cooked overnight on a low slow fire. The results are creamy, unctuous lentils, a rich dish even without the addition of butter or cream. Urad also takes well to tomatoes, butter, cream and yoghurt, and many dishes will include one or more of these. Because of this, Urad is usually cooked to a wet curry, rather than used in dry Indian dishes.

The most famous Urad dish is Dal Makhani, followed by its sister dish, Mah ki Dal.

Urad Dal is used in South India in all manner of dosa.

South Indian cuisines also use Urad Dal as a seasoning rather than a main ingredient, to add texture, flavour and some thickening to a dish. As a seasoning, a teaspoonful or so is thrown into hot ghee where they turn red and nutty, imparting the nutty flavour and aroma to the oil. The dal and ghee is then added to rice and vegetable dishes.

Recipes using Urad Lentils

Are you looking for Urad recipes? Try our most popular dish, Dal Makhani from the Chefs at the Oberoi. You might also like to try Urad Dal with Tomatoes, Urad Garlic Rice, and Urad made into Crunchy Vada.

There are several different Dal Makhani recipes – try them all. You will also like Mah ki Dal.  There is also a Unhulled Urad and Rajma recipe, a sister to Dal Makhani.

Read about Indian Lentils here.  And see how Dal Makhani and Mah ki Dal differ.

Browse all of our Urad Lentil dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here. You might like to explore all of our Indian Essentials series, or check out our Spice information.  Feel free to browse vegetarian recipes from our first blog from 1995 – 2006 in our Retro Recipes series.


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