Pumpkin Dal

Pumpkin dal in a large Dutch oven sitting on a concrete background

This dish came about from a what’s-on-hand-I-need-to-make-dinner-now moment. I always have red lentils in the pantry for dal, I had some fresh tomatoes on the counter and I had about a cup of homemade pumpkin purée left over from making pumpkin pie. The previous week, I had attended a Hindu funeral and devoured a most delicious curried pumpkin dish. That inspired me to cook this.

When I make dal, I always include (among other things) two ingredients—something hot, preferably a serrano or jalapeño pepper if in season, and lime or lemon juice. I had already started cooking this and panicked a bit when I realized I had no fresh hot peppers, no lemons and no limes. In the old days, I may have made a trip to the store for just a lemon and a pepper. Not today. I make do. I often make discoveries. And I eliminate our food waste.

I remembered that in the refrigerator, I had a stash of fermented jalapeños and a jar of lemon juice left over from preserved lemons. Dinner was saved!

This oversight—cooking dal without realizing I didn’t have two staple ingredients—led to an improved dish. Fermented jalapeño has a nice tang (and lots of heat) and leftover preserved lemon juice adds a rich, intense, complex flavor to bean or legume dishes. If you make preserved lemons, hold on to the pulp and juice after you eat the skins. And hold on to any juice left from the fermented peppers too. That alone adds flavor and heat to food.

Pumpkin dal
Pumpkin dal

I made this dal at Thanksgiving for my vegetarian guests (and everyone else) and served it with fermented pear-cranberry chutney. Yum!

fruit chutney
Fermented pear-cranberry chutney

Pumpkin Dal


Pumpkin dal ingredients
Pumpkin dal ingredients
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons oil for sautéing
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 serrano or small jalapeño pepper or 1 tablespoon fermented hot peppers, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 pound medium-size tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups chopped into large chunks)
  • I cup pumpkin purée (make the purée in the oven or in a pressure cooker)
  • Juice of 1 lime or lemon or 1/4 cup preserved lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • A few tablespoons of chopped cilantro
fresh pumpkin purée
For pumpkin pie filling, I run cooked pumpkin through my food mill. For dal, you can just use a fork to mash up the pumpkin.


1. Rinse lentils and add to a medium-size saucepan along with the water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until tender. They will look soupy once cooked.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, about one minute.

3. Add onions, garlic and fresh jalapeño. (Wait to add fermented jalapeño later.) Sauté over medium heat for five to ten minutes until the onions are translucent.

4. Add spices and cook for a minute.

5. Add tomatoes and cook for about five more minutes.

6. Stir in pumpkin purée, cooked lentils and their liquid, fermented jalapeños if using, lemon or lime or preserved lemon juice and salt. If the consistency remains thick, add a bit of water. Heat through. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

7. Serve with rice, naan or roti.

pumpkin dal
Pumpkin dal

I know I keep saying this, but I love cooking this way. It makes cooking more fun, more frugal and often, more delicious.

11 Replies to “Pumpkin Dal”

  1. What’s the food mill that you are using?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      This is the one I have: http://www.rsvp-intl.com/product/endurance-food-mill/ But actually, not that you’ve asked about it, I realize you don’t need a food mill to make this. You can just mash the pumpkin up with a fork. For pie, I run it through my food mill so it’s very smooth. For dal, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to update the post… Thanks for asking about this!

  2. You make cooking more fun than it is haha.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      My work is done then 😉

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Anuja. It was very tasty!

  3. […] it without waste. It requires a bit of planning but not that much. I’ll use a simple recipe like pumpkin dal , which I posted recently on my blog, The Zero-Waste […]

  4. […] They also make a nutritious snack after sprouting. Check out these recipes for  dal, pumpkin dal, chana masala, not-too-spicy black beans, refried beans, and hummus with […]

  5. If I want to substitute canned pumpkin, how many cans should I use?

    1. Hi Connie,
      A 15-ounce can has a little less than 2 cups and you need 1 cup for this so you’ll only need one can and will have some leftover.

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