Recipe courtesy of Surbhi Sahni

Dahi Bhalla

Getting reviews...
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 11 hr
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 12 to 14 dumplings (serves 6 as a starter)
Dahi bhalla is a chaat (street food) popular in Delhi with versions all over South Asia. It’s creamy and filling with a kick of spice and a hint of crunch. The fried lentil dumplings are soaked in a tangy yogurt sauce, brightened by two chutneys that perform a balancing act of sweet and savory. It’s vegetarian and gluten-free and can be made dairy-free with vegan yogurt and nondairy milk. Home cooks can adjust spice levels to their tastes. Some advance planning is required to prepare the dal (lentils) for the batter, but no special kitchen equipment other than a deep-fry thermometer is needed to make the recipe. This version is inspired by my aunt who used to make dahi bhalla for nearly every special occasion, and we couldn’t get enough of it.


Bhalla Batter:


Dahi Bhalla:

Tamarind Chutney:

Cilantro Chutney:


Special equipment:
a deep-fry thermometer
  1. Make the bhalla batter: In a large bowl, rinse the dal in cold water, rubbing the dal really well. The water will turn milky white. Drain the dal and repeat 3 times, or until the water is clear. Add 6 cups of cold water to the bowl, add the dal and set aside to soak for 6 hours. 
  2. Reserve 1 cup of the soaking water, then strain the soaked dal. Transfer the dal to a blender and add 1/4 cup of the soaking water. Blend until completely smooth. Add a little more water if the mixture is still chunky. The batter should have a thick consistency like a dense pancake batter. Leave the batter covered at room temperature for at least 2 hours or refrigerate overnight and bring to room temperature before using.
  3. Make the raita: Stir the yogurt, milk, sugar, mint, black pepper, and ginger together in a bowl. Stir in the cumin and rock salt if using. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Make the dahi bhalla: When ready to fry, add oil to a depth of 5 to 6 inches to a deep pot. Place over medium-high heat until the oil registers 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer.
  5. Stir about 1 1/2 teaspoons salt into the batter. Fill a medium bowl with water. Wet your hands in the water, then gently roll about 1/4 cup batter into a ball. Hold the ball in the center of your palm and make a hole in the center with a finger.  (If you are unable to make a clean hole in the dough, just make smaller discs of about 2 tablespoons and no thicker than 1/2 inch.)
  6. Working in batches, carefully place the formed dumplings into the hot oil; the dough will sink and immediately bounce back to the surface. Fry the dumplings until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon and drain on a wire rack or paper towels. (We love eating dahi bhalla freshly made, but they can be finished later by cooling them completely, then freezing them in airtight containers.)
  7. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add a generous pinch of salt and switch off the flame. After 5 minutes, place all of the fried dumplings in the water, cover and let sit 5 minutes. Remove the cover; the dumplings should be swollen. Take the dumplings out one at a time and use your hands to gently squeeze the water out of them.
  8. To serve, pour a third of the prepared raita over one large serving platter or individual serving dishes (shallow dishes are preferable as you want the dumplings in a single layer). Place the dumplings on top and then cover the dumpling with the remaining raita. Drizzle with tamarind chutney and cilantro chutney. Sprinkle with chaat masala and cumin powder, and garnish with aloo bhujia or sev and cilantro. If you prefer the dish to be spicier, add fresh green chile to taste. Serve immediately.

Tamarind Chutney:

  1. Place the tamarind, sugar, ginger, chile powder, black pepper and rock salt in a saucepan and add 4 cups water. Bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours over medium heat until the tamarind is dark in color and the mixture has thickened. The chutney should be thick but pourable; add more water if necessary.
  2. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and puree. Taste and add kosher salt to taste, and more sugar if the sauce tastes very sour. Return the mixture to the pot and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Cilantro Chutney:

  1. Blend the cilantro, chiles, ginger, lemon juice, chaat masala, ice cubes and salt together in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Cook’s Note

To make toasted cumin powder, put cumin seeds in a dry pan and cook over medium heat, shaking the pan, until they are fragrant. Cool the seeds and crush into a powder.