Urad Dal - A South Indian Favourite

This article is authored by Bonny Shah. Bonny is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator.

Split black gram or urad dal is one among the most popularly produced pulses in India. A common ingredient in most South Indian dishes, this protein-packed pulse has earned its title as the king of pulses, particularly in South Indian kitchens. The health benefits of urad dal are numerous and are best availed through healthy food preparations.

Urad Dal Health Benefits in South Indian Cuisine


Dishes like idlis and dosas have represented the South Indian cuisine on the world stage for decades. Traditional preparations include a mix of two main ingredients, rice and urad dal. The rice and urad dal are soaked independently for about six hours after which they are ground separately then mixed together and finally left to ferment. A number of incredible changes occur during the fermentation process that increases the nutritional value of the batter. These changes include an increase in vitamin B and C, free-sugars, folic acid and methionine which is a limiting amino acid found in legumes that greatly improves the protein value. (1) Fermentation has also shown to decrease the antinutritional factors in millet-mixed flours. (2)

Food made with urad dal is known to have a high fibre content which further helps maintain digestion and overall bowel health. If you are suffering from any digestive issues such as diarrhoea, constipation, cramps, or bloating, urad dal can be a good addition to your diet. Since it contains fibre, it helps in maintaining the blood sugar levels too. It can be beneficial to diabetics as it regulates the glucose levels in the blood. Urad dal is a rich source of protein, calcium, iron and vitamin A. (3) With the right preparation process, it is possible to maximise the health benefits of urad dal.

There are many dishes where urad dal is used as the main ingredient. Some preparations of idlis, dosas and uttapams substitute rice with other enriching ingredients such as ragi or finger millet which is another rich source of calcium and iron. Here are a couple of interesting south Indian dishes made using urad dal.

Ragi Dosa

This dish is an alimentary powerhouse as it combines the health benefits of urad dal and ragi which both host essential nutrients. The urad dal is soaked in a bowl along with some methi seeds. In another bowl, equal portions of ragi and rice are soaked together. They are then drained, ground and mixed together and left to ferment. If you like crispy dosas then you can add more water to the batter to make it thinner. These delicious and healthy treats are best enjoyed for breakfast.

Dahi Vada

While this dish does involve a little bit of deep-frying, it still retains immense nutritional benefits as it is made using urad dal and curd. The urad dal is soaked overnight, drained and ground into a thick batter. You then add salt and baking powder to the thick batter. Make a lemon sized ball with the batter and slowly drop it into your pan of oil. After it turns golden brown. take it out and immerse it in a bowl of water for 15- 20 minutes. Gently squeeze the vada after removing it from the water then add it to your curd that is flavoured with tamarind chutney and chaat masala. Yummy!

Urad dal is widely available in almost every grocery store. Wherever you choose to source it from, make sure you choose a variety that is free of contaminants. Try Tata Sampann Urad Dal which are unpolished, contain low moisture levels and are specially sorted to maintain purity and quality. Happy Eating!


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