Guyanese style dhal is a smooth blend of yellow split peas, curry powder, turmeric, and roasted spices. There are many variations in taste, texture, and look of dhal but all are equally tasty. This traditional Guyanese dhal recipe is made using a pressure cooker or stock pot.
Guyanese Style Dhal
My mom taught me how to make dhal when I was 11 or 12. Back then, we boiled the split peas on the stovetop until it was nice and soft, then we would blend everything together using a dhal gutney (a simple wooden utensil used when making dhal). Today, I cook my dhal in the pressure cooker and it’s ready in just 20 minutes.
Why You’ll Love This Guyanese Style Recipe
- Easy to Make: Once you learn about the methods and tools used to make traditional Guyanese dhal, it’s so easy to make.
- Absolutely Delicious: Although this recipe is simple, the taste is complex. Split peas are stewed with spices until tender and then toasted geera and garlic are added for an even greater depth of mouthwatering flavor.
- Super Versatile: Enjoy a big heaping bowl, sip on it from a mug, serve it with curry, and mix and match the ingredients to best suit your taste buds.
What is dhal?
Dhal is basically a Guyanese version of split pea soup. It’s also used as a sauce, or gravy. Dhal originated in India as “dal” and was introduced to Guyana by Indian settlers. Guyanese style dhal is distinguished by “chunkay,” (a process used to brown garlic and spices before adding them to the dhal).
- Guyanese Style Dhal
- Why You’ll Love This Guyanese Style Recipe
- What is dhal?
- Ingredients for Guyanese Style Dhal
- How to Make Guyanese Style Dhal
- Substitutions & Variations
- Tips for the Best Guyanese Style Dhal
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Guyanese Style Dhal
Ingredients for Guyanese Style Dhal
Make Guyanese dhal with washed yellow split peas, water, and your preferred spices.
- Yellow split peas: Thoroughly wash them to remove any debris.
- Water: This is the liquid base of the recipe.
- Curry powder: Used for flavor and that distinct yellow hue.
- Chopped onion: For flavor.
- Garam masala: This optional ingredient is an Indian spice blend. it has a stong, sharp flavor.
- Salt: This is added to taste.
- Fresh garlic cloves: finely chopped and whole cloves; alternatively, use 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic
- Oil: This is used for the chunkay process.
- Whole cumin: Alternatively, use 1 teaspoon of geera.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Guyanese Style Dhal
Add water, split peas, curry powder, onions, whole garlic and salt to pressure cooker. Mix everything together and pressure cook on high heat for 20 minutes or when split peas are completely soft and no longer grainy.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a pressure cooker you can put all the ingredients in a large stock pot and cook until the split peas are soft. This method takes about 40 minutes.
Chunkaying the Dhal
“Chunkay” is a Guyanese term that references the process of adding roasted spices and garlic cooked in hot oil to the finished dhal. This is the final step in traditional dhal making.
My mom chunkays her dhal by roasting whole cumin seeds in a stainless steel ladle over an open flame. After roasting, she adds oil to the ladel, then chopped garlic. She cooks over the flame until the garlic develops a rich roasted color.
When she is done roasting the cumin (geera) and garlic she adds that super hot oil, directly to the boiling pot of dhal. She gives it a good stir and then her dhal is ready!
If you are not at that expert level of Guyanese style dhal making like my mom is you can do like me and roast your ingredients for the chunkay in a small frying pan. Plus I have an electric stove, so no open flames for me.
Next add the cooked garlic, oil, and roasted cumin to the cooked split peas. Give it a good stir with a whisk, immersion blender, or dhal gutney. Finally, your dhal is ready!
Substitutions & Variations
- Instant Pot Dhal. Click here for the Instant Pot Dhal Recipe. It’s a simplified one pot version of Guyanese dhal.
- Type of Split Peas. I have only ever used yellow split peas for my dhal. However, yellow split peas is hardly ever available in regular supermarkets and we sometimes have to go to Caribbean, Mexican or Indian Markets to find it. Recently my mother-in-law used green split peas to make her dhal and to both our surprise it tasted almost exactly as it does with yellow split peas.
- More Seasonings. This Guyanese style dhal recipe is incredibly versatile and I have tried this recipe many ways. Feel free to use your preferred spices and seasonings. You can add turmeric, green seasoning, wiri wiri pepper (for spiciness), or spinach (added just before the dish is done).
Store leftover dhal in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat it in the microwave or over medium heat on the stove.
Tips for the Best Guyanese Style Dhal
- Prevent the dhal from boiling over by adding a bit of oil or placing a wooden spoon over the pot.
- If the dhal begins to dry out as it cooks, add small increments of water until you reach your desired consistency.
- If you are like my family and don’t like your dhal with whole roasted cumin seeds and chunks of “burnt” garlic floating in your dhal you can use a whisk, immersion blender, or dhal gutney to blend away all of that into a very smooth dhal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Enjoy dhal on its own as a vegetarian soup, serve it with your favorite roti, vegetables, or protein. One of my favorite ways to serve dhal is as gravy, with white rice and fried fish.
To make traditional Guyanese dhal, cook yellow split peas in water seasoned with garlic, onion, curry powder, and geera. Once the yellow split peas are tender, chunkay (fry up in oil) chopped garlic, add it to the dhal, and mix. That’s it!
Guyanese Style Dhal
- Pressure cooker or Stockpot
- Whisk/Immersion Blender/Dhal Gutney
- 1 cup Yellow Split Peas washed
- 6 cups Water
- 1 tbsp Curry Powder
- ½ Small Chopped Onion
- ½ tsp Garam Masala optional
- 1 tsp Salt
- 4 Garlic Cloves whole, or 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic
- 3 Garlic Cloves finely chopped
- ¼ cup Oil
- 1 tbsp Whole Cumin or 1 tsp Geera
- In a pressure cooker, add water, split peas, curry powder, onions, whole garlic and salt.
- Mix together and pressure cook on high heat for 20 minutes or when split peas are completely soft and no longer grainy.
- Alternatively, if you don't have a pressure cooker you can put all the ingredients in a large stock pot and cook until the split peas is soft. It will take about 40 minutes.
Chunkay the Dhal
- Add whole cumin to frying pan on medium heat and toast until dark brown in color, toss often to avoid burning.
- Then add the oil to the toasted cumin, followed by the cloves of finely chopped garlic and cook until the garlic is almost burnt.
- Next add the cooked garlic, oil and roasted cumin to the cooked split peas.
- Give a good stir and your dhal is ready!
- Use a hand blender the dhal until the garlic and roasted cumin seeds are completely mixed into the split peas.
- If you don't have a hand blender you can blend with a whisk, let the dhal sit for at least 30 mins and then strain with a tight sieve to remove the bits of burnt garlic and whole cumin seeds.
The information listed in the recipe card is an estimate provided by an online nutrition tool. The tool evaluates ingredient names and amounts then makes calculations based on the number of servings listed for the recipe. It is provided as a general guideline and not as a precise calculation. For precise nutrition information please feel free to add the ingredients to your preferred nutrition calculator or consult a doctor or licensed nutritionist.