Yellow lentils are small pulses that are yellow in color and often sold “split.” This makes them particularly suitable ingredients for soups and sauces, because they are prone to turning into a puree when cooked. Many different colors of lentils exist, including green, brown, and red, and each color has different flavors and qualities. Yellow lentils are slightly nutty and are usually combined with other ingredients to increase their flavor. Lentils are referred to as dal in Indian cuisine and are included in many different dishes.
Also referred to as toor dal and tuvar dal, yellow lentils can be recognized by their color. The inside of the lentils are bright yellow, but the outer skin is browner in color. Their flavor is mild, but with a distinct nutty note. People remove the skins of the lentils before selling them, and often “split” them as well. They are a good source of protein and are often eaten for that reason by vegetarians or vegans.
Split lentils have been split in two, as the name suggests. This makes the lentils more suitable for use in soups, stews, and sauces, and makes them easier to grind into flour. Most yellow lentils will be sold split, but they can also be bought whole in some stores. Cooking split lentils breaks them down and turns the hard pulses into a slurry, adding texture to soups and stews.
Many different Indian dishes use lentils, and are often referred to as dals. Dal dishes are based on lentils and include a variety of spices to increase the flavor. Most dals are simmered over a long period of time and served with rice or chapatti bread. Tarka dal and yellow lentil dal are two examples of dishes which use yellow lentils.
Chefs boil lentils in twice their volume of water to cook them. This means that one cup of yellow lentils should be cooked in two cups of water until they achieve the desired consistency. Some chefs prefer to cook lentils in a stock or a sauce than water, in order to add more flavors. Split lentils don’t need to be cooked for as long as whole lentils. Most chefs will cook split lentils for around 20 minutes, or until they have turned into a puree.