This Trinidad dhal recipe has East Indian roots and Caribbean flare.
It’s made with yellow split peas, water, turmeric, salt, garlic, cumin seeds, and oil.
Onion, pepper and Caribbean green seasoning are usually added in too.
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What is Trinidad Dhal?
This recipe is not the traditional, Indian-style dhal – there are no tomatoes in it.
Instead, this recipe is a simplistic version that is incredibly popular in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.
So, how to make dhal Trini style?
Cook yellow split peas, turmeric, salt and seasonings until the peas are tender, then add cumin seeds and garlic that have been roasted in hot oil.
The combo of yellow split peas, cumin and roasted garlic makes this recipe incredibly delicious.
It is served on the islands with rice, salad, chokas or any curried or stewed side dish. It can also be served as a standalone split pea soup but is more satisfying with simple flour dumplings. Here’s a quick Sunday lunch with dhal, rice and tomato choka.
Who’s hungry now?
Before getting into the recipe, I should mention that in India, dal or dhal refers to dried, split legumes like lentils, peas, and beans. But, in Trinidad and Tobago, yellow split peas are almost always used to make dhal.
What You Need to Make Dhal Trini Style
Split peas can take over an hour to soften. Who has that time to waste nowadays? Not you! That’s why I highly recommend using a pressure cooker to make this recipe.
The pressure cooker will reduce your cook time and you won’t need to pre-soak the peas. With my cooker, it takes me 15 minutes to make Trinidad dhal from start to finish.
Time it! You’ll see.
Now, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, fear not. All you have to do is boil the split peas as you would normally do until they are tender. But, more on that later.
Let’s get to the ingredients for this recipe.
- yellow split peas (get on Amazon)
- cumin seeds
- pepper (I use chili peppers from my garden)
- Caribbean green seasoning
Here’s what I used.
If you’re looking for more ingredients to flavor the dhal, check these out from Amazon:
How to Make Trinidad Dhal
1. Prep the peas
Check your yellow split peas, removing any oddly shaped ones. Wash thoroughly.
2. Set up the pressure cooker
Add water to your pressure cooker (or pot) and bring to a boil. If you want a thinner, runnier dhal, you should add more water. Hubby likes his thicker, so I usually add less water.
Add the washed split peas, turmeric and salt to the boiling water. At this point, throw in all your favorite flavorings like onions, pepper, and green seasoning.
3. Pressurize and Cook the Dhal
Cover the pressure cooker. Once steam starts escaping through the top, apply the weight to the lid. Turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.
I should mention here I use the second smallest burner on my stove. If I use the smallest one, it’ll take 20 minutes to cook.
Now, let me say, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, cook the yellow split peas in an uncovered pot. You may need to add more water as the level drops with time.
It’ll take anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. You are done when the peas are completely soft all the way through.
Before opening the cooker, depressurize it… You don’t want any accidents so this step is a must.
When you open up that lid, you’ll see the most beautiful, yellow split peas ‘soup’. Queue the angelic singing. The peas completely dissolve to form this creamy dhal.
By the way, if you are looking to get a pressure cooker, I highly recommend mine! It’s the Hawkins B30 one. My mom has the same one and been using hers for decades. Get an extra gasket sealing ring though! It tends to stretch out over time (and when I say over time I mean over decades!).
Back to the recipe.
If you are not using a pressure cooker, you’ll need to blend the dhal to achieve this same thick, creamy consistency. You can use an immersion blender or swizzle stick (or dhal ghotni) here.
Chunkaying is an East Indian term meaning heating garlic and spices in oil.
For this recipe, I use a ladle to heat my homemade coconut oil, sliced garlic and cumin seeds over low heat.
Stir carefully and allow the garlic to brown (or even turn black!). You’ll get this amazing roasted garlic smell. It’s so good!
Add the cooked garlic, cumin and oil to the dhal. Be careful! The hot oil will splash everywhere (that’s why I like using the ladle). The cumin seeds and garlic add this wonderful smoky flavor to the dhal. It’s so good.
So, that’s chunkaying! It’s also done for chokas too like tomato choka.
And you’re done! Was it 15 minutes with the pressure cooker?
Serve your dhal as soup or with rice and a side. It also goes well with dumplings or ground provisions. Dhal is truly a versatile and wonderful dish!
Here’s a video showing all the steps. Subscribe for more.
According to the USDA food database, 100 grams of cooked split peas will give you 8 grams of fiber (32% of your daily requirement) and 8 grams of protein (16%). So it is a great vegan source of protein.
Besides that, dhal has low levels of potassium (10%); magnesium (9%) and iron (7%).
Get yellow split peas or dhal on Amazon.
Trinidad Dhal Recipe
If you’ve tried this recipe, please leave a rating in the comments section below. I’ll really appreciate it.
How to Make Dhal Trini Style
- Pressure cooker
- 3/4 cup split peas
- 3 cups water
- 1.5 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 onion (diced)
- pepper to taste (like scotch bonnet, cayenne, chili, or pepper flakes)
- salt to taste
- 2 tbsp oil (like coconut oil)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 garlic cloves (sliced)
- green seasoning (optional)
- Wash split peas thoroughly.
- Add water to pressure cooker. Place on high heat.
- Add split peas, turmeric powder, onion, salt, pepper, and seasonings to the pressure cooker. Cover and leave to boil.
- When steam flows through the cover, add the weight to pressurize the cooker.
- Lower the heat and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
- Depressurize carefully. The dhal should be almost smooth. Mix.
- Heat oil on low heat in a small pot or ladle.
- Add cumin seeds and garlic slices to the oil.
- Gently mix to ensure even cooking of the garlic.
- Add the hot oil to the dhal CAREFULLY! It is likely to splash so use a cover to prevent burns.
- Mix and serve as is or with rice and a meat or vegetarian side and a salad.
- boil the split peas with turmeric, salt, onion, pepper and seasonings until the peas are completely soft.
- using a blender or immersion blender or swizzle stick, blend the dhal until it is smooth.
- chunkay the dhal, meaning add in the heated oil, cumin seeds and garlic.
Tomato choka is a wonderful side with trini dhal. It is made with roasted tomatoes and garlic, onion, pepper and seasonings.
Curry duck is a great side dish with dhal. It is made with Muscovy duck pieces cooked with fresh Caribbean green seasoning, curry powder, veggies and sometimes coconut milk.