Padma Lakshmi Just Shared One of Her "All-Time Favorite Comfort Food" Recipes Just in Time for Fall

If you're ready for a cozy bowl of dal, get ready to cuddle up to this recipe.

Padma Lakshmi
Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images

The sun is setting earlier and the breezes are getting cooler, which means comfort-food season is nearly upon us. Everyone has a favorite meal that tastes like home, whether it's an old-fashioned goulash or a cup of Mom's chili, and Padma Lakshmi just shared one of her own.

The Taste the Nation host (and former EatingWell guest editor) took to Instagram to show off her favorite recipe for tadka dal (also called daal tarka), and it looks pretty delicious.

Lakshmi's recipe starts with cooking up some lentils. She opts for 2 cups of red lentils cooked with 2 inches of water and a teaspoon of salt in a sturdy pot, letting the lentils boil for 25 minutes. While the lentils cook, she heats oil in a skillet—a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil will do—and fries a teaspoon of cumin seeds. When the cumin is nice and aromatic, she adds a diced small onion and sautés until the onion is tender and translucent.

Then she adds a tablespoon each of minced ginger and garlic, some white turmeric and a couple of green chiles. (Lakshmi says she added those peppers because she wanted some extra heat in her dish, but you could leave them out, or remove them before serving, to dial back the spice.) After sautéing everything in the skillet together, she adds in some mild chili powder and chopped tomatoes—we'd say it's about what you'd get from two fresh tomatoes, but you could always swap in the canned variety.

Once the tomatoes have cooked down, Lakshmi adds some torn curry leaves and a little dried mango powder. If you find delicious tomatoes or opt for canned tomatoes, you can skip the mango powder, since Lakshmi just uses it to make up for her lackluster tomato flavor. Once everything is combined, stir the tarka—that's the flavorful mixture in your skillet—into the dal—that's your pot of lentils. "Don't worry about it being so watery, because sitting on the stove for half an hour will make it thicker," Lakshmi advises.

She adds in a bunch of spinach and cilantro ("because, well, vegetables are good") and the juice of a lime for a little brightness. Once everything is all stirred together and the flavors have had time to meld, you can serve it up with some rice on the side and dig in. Lakshmi serves hers with white rice cooked with a cardamom pod, but you could easily swap in brown rice for a carb that has a little more fiber.

"There you have the perfect dal: comforting, delicious and something that will keep in the fridge for a bit," Lakshmi adds. If you want to get in on the fun but prefer a more prescriptive recipe, you could try our Daal Tarka (Spiced Lentils) recipe, which appeared in the October 2021 issue of EatingWell that Lakshmi guest-edited.

Outside of dal being a cozy meal perfect for a cool night, ingredients like lentils, spices and spinach bring lots of healthful benefits to each bite. In additional to being an affordable base for a filling meal, lentils are also rich with fiber, folate and iron, while spinach and spices both add an anti-inflammatory kick.

Whether you lean on reliable favorites or try your hand at some new recipes in the cold weather, you'll want to keep some comfort-food building blocks on hand as things cool down. For more inspiration, check out some of our favorite healthy comforting dinners.

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