A Guide to Lentils, Legumes, Beans and Pulses

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A wooden scoop taking red lentils from a cloth bag

Pulses are a staple in Vegetarian and Indian cuisine due to the fact that they are extremely inexpensive and have offer lots of nutritional benefits, especially protein.

Did you know how many pulses there are? (Hint – over 20!) Not only that, but how versatile they are? With a good stock of pulses in your pantry you can make a plethora of starters, main courses and even desserts – including the dish Dal (an Indian ‘soup’ made of any pulse), Pakoras (Crispy fritters), Dosa, (Crisp savoury pancakes), and sweets such as Moong Dal HalwaBelieve me when I tell you that they are a must-have in any kitchen! They can also be used to make Stews, Soups, Burgers, and even Vegan Omelettes.

The English word ‘pulse’ incorporates Lentils, Beans and Peas. Although the Hindi word ‘Dal’ is often mistranslated to mean Lentils, actually it refers to pulses – both lentils, beans and peas. As well as the ingredient, Dal can also refer to a meal made from lentils.

This information can be beneficial not just for Indian cooking, but many different cuisines.

Furthermore, if you’re interested in learning more about Ingredients, Cookware and other tips, why not check out these articles?

Navigation Menu:

  1. List of Pulses with Pictures and Descriptions
  2. Frequently asked Questions about Pulses
  3. Downloadable & Printable Infographic
  4. Glossary of all Pulse names in English, Hindi & Marathi

Frequently Asked Questions about Pulses:​

  1. Are Yellow Split Peas the same as Chana Dal or Toor Dal? 

    No, yellow split peas are a different lentil altogether called Matar Dal in Hindi. I haven’t included them on the list as they aren’t commonly used in India. There is a lot of misconception that these three lentils are the same, and I even see recipes online stating this – probably because the English name is very similar to the appearance of both Chana Dal and Toor Dal, which are both yellow and split!  Yellow Split Peas are often suggested as an alternative to Chana Dal in areas where the later is not accessible. However, I would not recommend this if possible. The reason being that they have a different taste and different cooking times as well. 
  2. How long do pulses last? Do they go bad?

    Pulses last for years! Because they are dried, if stored properly they are very unlikely to go bad. Keep them in an airtight container so no moisture contaminates them and you should be fine. But the only cravat is that the older lentils get, the longer they take to cook. You can offset this by soaking them before cooking and allowing more time to cook. 
  3. How can I stop stomach troubles and gas after eating pulses?

    This is a common issue for people who aren’t used to eating large quantities of pulses. Soaking both lentils and beans makes them easier for the body to digest. Not all pulses require soaking but even those which don’t can be soaked for 30 minutes prior to cooking. Additionally, adding a pinch of hing (Asafoetida) to your lentils while they cook or in the tadka (tempering) will also help.
  4. Is it Dal, Dahl, Dhal or Daal? 

    Nik and I prefer the spelling ‘Dal’ because that’s the most commonly accepted spelling and best reflects the actual pronunciation of the word. With most Indian dishes you’ll find a lot of spelling variations when they’re transliterated to English, which can make it determine if each variation is referring to the same thing or different dishes. In this case, all these spellings are referring to the same thing.

    So why is it that there are so many spellings? Firstly, India has 23 official languages and almost 2000 unofficial languages. Of course, all of these languages have different words for the same thing! In addition to this, the Indian languages don’t use the Roman Alphabet like we do. Most of the North Indian languages use the Devanagari script/alphabet, which has around 50 major letters compared to our 23. It’s impossible to use our Roman Alphabet to spell Indian words because we simply don’t have the right phonetics. That’s why you have so many different, inconsistent variations. 

Glossary of Names in English, Hindi and Marathi​

Bengal Split LentilsChana DalHarbaryachi Dal, Chanyachi dal
Black ChickpeasKala ChanaHarbhara
Black Eyed BeansLobia, ChavliChavali
Black Split LentilsUrad DalUdid
Black Skinned LentilsUrad DhuliUdid
Black Whole LentilsUrad SabutUdid
Green Split LentilsMoong ChilkaMugachi Dal
Green Whole LentilsMoong, MungMug
Pigeon Pea Lentils, SplitToor Dal, Tuvar Dal, Arhar DalTurichi Dal
Red Kidney BeansRajmaRajma
Red Split LentilsMasoor DalMasurachi Dal
White Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)Chana, Kabuli Chana, CholeHarbhara
Whole Moth BeansMoth Dal, MatkiMatki
Yellow Split LentilsMoong DalMug


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