Tadka Recipe (Tarka) – Base for any Dal/Lentils

Do you know what makes or breaks most classic Punjabi dishes? The tadka/tarka. Learning this simple tempering technique, will take your desi dishes from meh to ah-mazing. You can easily recreate restaurant style dal tadka, curry chicken, or even palak paneer at home with this recipe as a base.  This tadka recipe is also easy to batch up, and freeze as tadka cubes for later. 

On days when I’m going to be making a few different dishes, I usually make a big batch of tadka in the morning and add it to the dishes as they cook. Knowing how to make a proper tempering has really elevated my cooking and flavours, and I honestly don’t know why it isn’t the first thing my mother told me about when I started learning how to cook!

punjabi tadka cubes, punjabi tadka recipe

For the uninitiated – tadka is known as ‘tempering’ in English, and it’s a technique for extracting the maximum flavour from whole and ground spices, onions, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes. It is what makes Punjabi cooking so richly spicy and aromatic. Note: The tadka technique is used all over India, but the spices and ingredients used will vary from region to region. This tadka recipe is very much North Indian/Punjabi style, and likely what you are used to at restaurants. 

Tadka Recipe Video

The video above shares my entire tadka recipe in detail, but there are a few other notes I want to share. These are the things I wish I knew about making a proper tadka when I first started cooking. 

Making Punjabi Tadka – Tips and Tricks

  • Try to cut your onions and tomatoes as uniform as possible. The texture of the tadka is much better if they are all similar sizes.
  • Use a heavy bottomed pan when making this tadka recipe. You are cooking on high heat and the tadka can burn quite easily.
  • It really only takes 30-45 seconds for whole spices to “bloom”, keep stirring, and pull them off the heat if you think they might burn!
  • Take your time with the onions and tomatoes. It’s tempting to turn the heat up and try to cook them faster, but the real magic happens when you let them caramelize and brown slowly.
  • Don’t add your dry spices until yo add the tomatoes, otherwise they will burn.
  • The most important part of making a tadka is to manage the temperature of the flame or element you are cooking. Medium to high is the sweet spot for me.
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Punjabi Tadka Recipe

  • Author: Raj Thandhi
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x


Tadka (known as tempering in English) is the base for all your favourite Indian dishes. This Punjabi tadka is specific to North Indian food and is used in all dal, sabzi, and gravy based dishes like curry chicken. It’s pefect to batch up and freeze also. 



3 tbs ghee
1 tbs cumin seeds (jeera)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tbs finely chopped garlic
1 tbs finely chopped ginger
3/4 cup tomatoes
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tbs coriander powder (dhaniya)
1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)


  1. Heat ghee on medium high heat, add in cumin seeds and cook for 60 seconds. 
  2. Add onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until they are translucent and fragrant. 
  3. Add ginger, garlic, and fresh green chili (optional). Cook for 90 seconds. 
  4. Add tomatoes and all powdered spices. Cook on medium high heat for 5-7 minutes, until all the moisture has evaporated and the tomatoes are pulling away from the pan. 


  • Tadka can be used immediately in fresh dishes you are cooking, or stored in the fridge for 3-5 days. 
  • You can also freeze tadka in ice cubes, pop it out and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. 
  • I don’t use green chili or much red chili when I’m making it ahead for the freezer. Instead, once I heat it up and know what dish I will be adding it to, I season with chilies appropriately. You can add more heat if you prefer. 
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: punjabi tadka, tadka recipe, indian cooking base sauce


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