How to Cook Indian Food without Oil & Oil-free Dal Tadka Recipe
How to cook Indian food without oil Recipe from Dal Tadka. Restaurant style lentil soup. Masoor Dal Tadka is one of the most well-known dals as it is usually available in Indian restaurants. Indian cuisine without oil.
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I generally use low amounts of oil in my cooking. Just a quarter or half teaspoon is enough for tempering (especially with whole spices) or baking spray or other necessities. I am often asked about how to cook Indian food without oil and have intended to write this post for a while, probably months. I cooked some oil-free dishes to find out what works best in terms of tempering whole spices, ground spices, how some traditional Indian recipes would need some adjustment, etc.
Here’s how to adjust Indian recipes so that they don’t contain oil. These settings also apply to cooking without cooking oil in general.
Whole spices: Whole
spices are often tempered in hot oil in many Indian dishes such as Dals, one-pot meals, main dishes, etc. When the oil is hot, spices are added to it. They cook until they become fragrant or change color or begin to explode. At this point, the spices infuse the oil very well and the oil acts as a carrier to infuse the rest of the dish.
To temper whole spices without oil, the tempering process can be divided into more than 1 step or the order of the recipe is changed
1. You can dry roast the spices until they change color and continue with the rest of the steps of the recipe. Use water or broth to sauté onions/vegetables once the spices are roasted.
Arabic numeral. You can dry roast the spices, remove them from the pan and add them back to the pan with the ground spices. This reduces the risk of burning the spices whole.
3. You can change the recipe and use ground versions of all the spices listed. Ground spices will be added later in the recipe with other ingredients such as turmeric.
For option 1, heat the pan over the fire mentioned in the recipe without oil. When the pan is hot, add the whole spices in the order mentioned in the recipe and cook until they become fragrant, change color, or begin to burst. Yes, they will start to explode, it may take a little longer than when cooked in hot oil. Once the spices are warm, add a splash of water or broth to lower the temperature of the pan so that the spices do not burn and also to infuse the broth/water. Add onions or curry leaves or whatever the next step is. Keep adding more water or broth to cook the onions or vegetables and continue with the recipe.
1. Burnt spices: Dry roasting spices to the expected result (popping) can easily go from roasted spices to burnt spices. Burnt spices will add a strong smoky bitter taste that may or may not work with the dish. If you are not sure, roast the spices until they start to get fragrant or at the slightest change in color.
roasted whole spices are always bitter, use ground spices instead and add them later in the recipe when adding other ground spices. Or if you’re not so particular about traditional flavors, add whole spices directly later in the recipe with liquids. The spices, whole or ground, dry-roasted, oil-roasted, cooked or unroasted broth, add different flavors to the final dish. Find the flavors and method that best suit you.
Arabic numeral. Roasting order: Some spices are roasted and burned faster than other spices. Often, recipes will already have this information even when cooked in oil. If the information is not there, and there are many whole spices used in the recipe, you can dry roast each spice separately. Or if you know the general roasting times of whole spices, add them to the pan in order of highest to shortest roasting time. For example, mustard seeds will take longer to roast compared to cumin seeds. Larger spices will also take longer to roast.
3. Quantity: Sometimes the taste can still seem like it’s not infused well enough. Use more whole and ground spices. When doubling spices, double everything except heat (cayenne, black pepper, red chili peppers) so that the overall balance of the dish’s flavor stays the same. One
of the following Dal Tadka has tempered made without oil and the other tempered in oil. They look more or less the same. As for the taste, there will be a difference. Oil-free dal tastes better after a few hours, as spices take longer to infuse.
You can cook ground spices in broth or lightly dried toast and then add broth or water. It depends on the recipe. If ground spices are added later in the recipe, the contents of the pan may already be moist. If not, mix the spices in broth/water and add them to the pan.
If you often cook without oil, make your own ground roasted spices. Roast whole spices such as cumin seeds, coriander seeds until fragrant, cool, grind and store. Make small amounts to use within a month or 2. This eliminates the need to roast the spices during the recipe. Prepackaged spices cannot necessarily be roasted.
Cook onion, garlic or other vegetables:
Use water or broth to sauté onions or vegetables until translucent or golden as needed in
Depending on the pan used, onions, vegetables or tomatoes will have a tendency to stick or burn. Add extra water or broth to help reduce adhesion.
I use Ecolution Terra pans, and they work wonderfully for cooking without oil. Nothing sticks to them if they are cooked to the right heat and the pans are taken care of. Cast iron would also be a great option.
Asafetida (hinge) is often tempered in oil with whole spices or right after all the spices are shivered. Asafetida has a really fetid aroma and taste. However, once tempered, it becomes a type of garlic onion flavor that supports the other flavor profiles on the plate. Without oil, you want to roast the asafoetida in a dry skillet. Adjust the time when you add asafetida in the recipe so that, 1. Roast in a dry skillet 2. It is roasted only for a few seconds, as it will burn quickly.
Fresh curry leaves have a beautiful flavor profile that is a blend of lime, cilantro and other flavors. The strong flavor infuses the oil during tempering and moves to the dish. Often, the leaves are discarded while eating (not before), as it depends on personal preferences. Many people eat curry leaves, while most discard the leaves.
Add curry leaves later in the recipe, as adding them in the step mentioned in the recipe with oil will only dry them out. Add them with onions, or add them directly to lentils/liquid.
For my cookbook, I worked on all the usually fried recipes (fritters/pakoras, Manchuians, koftas, Gulab Jamuns, etc.) to turn them into baked versions. The recipes were developed and optimized to make baked results of Crisp texture and flavor and the like. Those recipes use a small amount of oil in the dough or for brushing during cooking. They can be easily made oil-free by omitting the oil. Be sure to use parchment paper to prevent things from sticking to the baking sheet. Aquafaba or brushed non-dairy milk will help make things like kofta balls moister.
In general, for baking Indian recipes that are fried, adjust the dough to be thicker than the one used for frying.
To make oil-free flatbreads, use non-dairy yogurt in the dough to help keep the breads moist and flexible. Use a good pan to cook flatbreads.
What are your tips for cooking Indian cuisine or other oil-free kitchens?
Get the recipe for Dal Tadka without oil below. The original recipe for Dal tadka with oil is in my cookbook Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen. Tips for getting started with Indian cuisine here.
Let me know in the comments if you have tips and tricks that you usually use to convert recipes to oil-free.