Chana Dal is a healthy and saucy Lentil Dish that’s perfect to serve with rice or roti. This chana dal fry recipe includes lots of bold spices, and is low fat, vegetarian, vegan, and easy to make gluten-free. Follow my simple step-by-step instructions with photos and video to make the best split chickpeas from scratch!
What is Chana Dal
Chana Dal is the Hindi term for both bengal gram lentils (or black chickpea lentils) and the saucy dish made with it.
This classic Chana dal recipe features sweet, nutty split chickpeas (also known as bengal gram) pressure cooked and then lightly fried on the stovetop with a variety of spices and aromatics. Chana dal is not quite a curry nor soup, but has a wonderfully saucy consistency that pairs perfectly when served with fluffy basmati rice and/or roti.
Not only is chana dal delicious, it’s good for you, too! The black or brown chickpeas (known as kala chana in Hindi) are high in fiber and are a great source of healthy, low fat, and vegan protein. So this dish is an excellent option for those on a low carb or diabetic-friendly diet, or people who prefer vegetarian recipes.
Chana dal can even be prepared gluten free by skipping asafoetida!
Below I share with you my steps for making split chickpeas in a pressure cooker, but it is also possible to prepare this dish entirely on the stovetop.
Either method you choose, I recommend that you first soak the lentils in water for an hour for the fastest prep and best taste. When soaked and properly cooked the chana dal will be wonderfully soft and much easier to digest.
The chana dal is delicious to serve with steamed basmati rice or jeera rice, and a side raita, kachumber (salad) or any number of vegetable side dishes.
How to make Chana Dal
It is easy to make this healthy, tasty chana dal in a pressure cooker with my step-by-step guide.
(See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for details on how to make Chana dal entirely on the stovetop.)
1. First, rinse 1 cup of chana dal (split chickpeas) in running water for a couple of times. Drain thoroughly.
2. Place the lentils in a bowl. Then cover with water and soak the chana dal for one hour. For a quicker method, soak the lentils in hot water (not boiling!) for about 30 minutes.
3. When done soaking, drain the water.
4. Add the chana dal to your pressure cooker or Instant Pot, along with ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder.
5. Now add about 2.5 to 3 cups water in a 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker. Stir well.
For instant pot, add about 2 to 2.5 cups water and stir to combine.
6. Pressure cook the chana dal for about 10 to 11 minutes, or 7 to 8 whistles, on a high heat in a stove-top pressure cooker.
In the instant pot, pressure cook on high mode for 10 to 12 minutes. Later, let the pressure release naturally – so wait for 15 to 20 minutes after the pressure cooking is complete and then open the lid.
7. Allow the cooker or Instant Pot to do a complete natural pressure release before unsealing the lid – this means to let the pressure fall naturally in the stovetop cooker or Instant pot.
Check the lentils for doneness – they should be very soft and easy to mush with the back of a spoon. Cover the pot and set aside.
If the lentils are undercooked, pressure cook again for some more minutes until they are softened.
Make Chana Dal
8. Next, heat 3 tablespoons of oil or ghee in a large pan on the stovetop on medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds, until they crackle and sizzle.
9. Now add 4 or 5 finely chopped garlic cloves, about 2 teaspoons.
10. Fry until the garlic is light golden.
11. Now add ½ a cup of chopped onions.
12. Stir and sauté.
13. Continue to sauté the onions until golden.
14. Add 1 cup of chopped tomatoes (2 or 3 medium tomatoes) to the pan.
15. Add ½ to 1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger and ½ a teaspoon of finely chopped green chilies.
16. Mix well.
17. Then add all the dried spices:
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- ½ teaspoon dry mango powder (omit if you do not have and add a bit of lemon juice once the cooking is complete.)
- a pinch of asafoetida (hing, optional)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
18. Mix and continue to sauté.
19. Cook until the tomatoes are softened and the oil starts to leave the side of the masala mixture.
20. Now add 1 teaspoon of crushed dry fenugreek leaves(kasoori or kasuri methi). Skip adding dry fenugreek leaves if you do not have it.
21. Stir to combine.
22. Next, add the cooked chana dal along with its stock to the pan. Or, add the sautéed masala mixture to the cooked dal if you have used Instant pot for cooking the lentils.
Cook Chana Dal Further
23. Stir very well. Mash some lentils with the spoon as you go on stirring. Mashing some lentils helps the dal to thicken.
If the dal looks a bit too thick, add about ½ a cup of water or more, and stir. Continue to add water and stir until the consistency is somewhere like a curry – saucy and with medium to medium-thick consistency but loose and pourable.
24. Season with salt to taste.
25. Either on the stovetop or using the sauté Instant Pot function, cook the dal for another 6 to 8 minutes or more. This should help the chana dal thicken up a bit and really combine the flavors well.
26. If serving chana dal with rice, I recommend making this dish with a medium consistency.
If serving chana dal with roti or naan, then you can might want to prepare it with a slightly thicker consistency for scooping.
27. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, or garnish with coriander leaves while serving chana dal.
28. Stir again and serve hot or warm.
29. Enjoy homemade chana dal with roti, steamed basmati rice, cumin rice or Saffron Rice. It’s also great with a side of raita, a fresh green salad or nearly any vegetable dish.
- Chana Dal: Ensure that your chana dal is within its shelf period. Avoid using aged lentils as they will take a lot of time to cook and do not give a good taste as well. If possible use unpolished chana dal.
- Soaking Lentils: It always helps to soak the lentils as they cook faster and taste better too. If you are short of time then cook them straightaway. But keep in mind that the lentils will take a longer time to cook.
- Aromatics and Seasonings: This recipe as-is is perfect but you can always increase the quantity of spices like green chillies and red chilli powder to make the dal taste spicy. If you want you can omit both onions and garlic in the recipe, but the taste will be different. Omit dry fenugreek leaves if you do not have it. Swap a bit of lemon juice with dry mango powder or omit the mango powder completely.
- Consistency: Change the consistency of the chana dal by adding less or more water while simmering it later.
Comforting and satisfying Chana dal is one of my favorite meals to make at home. Here are more yummy lentil recipes you might like to try:
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Please be sure to rate this recipe in the recipe card below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Chana Dal (Authentic North Indian Recipe)
For cooking lentils
- 1 cup chana dal (bengal gram or split chickpeas) – 200 grams
- 2.5 to 3 cups water for stovetop pressure cooking and 2 to 2.5 cups water for Instant Pot cooking
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3 tablespoons oil or ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic or 4 to 5 medium-sized garlic
- ½ cup finely chopped onions
- 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes or 2 medium-sized tomatoes
- ½ to 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger or 1 inch ginger
- ½ teaspoon chopped green chilies or serrano pepper or 1 green chilli
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
- ½ teaspoon dry mango powder (amchur powder) or add as required * check point 4 in notes below
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) – optional
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder (ground coriander)
- 1 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) – crushed, optional
- salt as required
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- Pick and rinse the chana dal well in running water.
- Soak the dal in enough water for an hour. Or soak in hot water (not boiling hot water) for 30 minutes.
- Drain the lentils and add them to a 3 litre pressure cooker along with turmeric powder. Add 2.5 to 3 cups water in the cooker and stir well. For Instant pot add 2 to 2.5 cups water.
- On a high heat pressure cook the lentils for 10 to 11 minutes or for 7 to 8 whistles or more, till the dal is softened and well cooked.
- In the instant pot, pressure cook on high mode for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Allow the cooker or Instant Pot to do a complete natural pressure release before unsealing the lid. That means to let the pressure falls on its own in the cooker or instant pot.
- Cover and set aside the cooked chana dal.
Making Chana Dal
- In another pan, heat oil or ghee.
- Add the cumin seeds first and fry for a few seconds till they splutter.
- Then add the garlic and fry till they become light brown.
- Now add the onions and fry till they get golden stirring often.
- Now add the chopped tomatoes, ginger and green chili.
- Stir and add all the dry spice powders – turmeric powder, red chili powder, garam masala powder, asafoetida, dry mango powder and coriander powder.
- Sauté stirring often till the tomatoes soften and the oil starts to leave the sides of the mixture.
- Add the crushed dry fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) and stir.
- Pour the cooked chana dal together with its stock to the sautéed masala mixture or vice versa. Season with salt according to taste.
- Stir and simmer the dal for 6 to 8 minutes or more till you get medium consistency of the dal. The consistency is neither thick nor thin.
- Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
- Serve the chana dal hot with some basmati rice or roti or bread.
- Chana Dal: Make sure that the lentils are fresh and within their shelf period. Aged lentil take a lot of time to cook. Try to use unpolished chana dal if you can.
- Soaking Lentils: Lentils cook faster when they are soaked. If having less time then cook them straightaway. But know that the lentils will take a longer time to cook.
- Aromatics and Seasonings: This recipe as-is is perfect but you can always increase the quantity of spices like green chillies and red chilli powder for a spicy chana dal. If you prefer you can omit both onions and garlic in the recipe, but the taste will be different. Omit dry fenugreek leaves if you do not have it.
- Dry Mango Powder: Also known as amchur, dry mango powder add some tangy taste to the dish. Swap a bit of lemon juice with dry mango powder when cooking the dal is complete or omit the mango powder completely.
- Gluten-free version: To make the recipe gluten-free, omit adding the asafetida (hing) or use asafetida packaged as gluten-free asafetida.
- Adjusting Consistency:
- For cooking lentils in a pot or pan:
- First soak the lentils for an hour.
- Take 4 cups water and the drained lentils in a pot or pan.
- Add turmeric powder. Cover and cook the lentils for 45 minutes to 1 hour, till they are softened well. Add more water if required.
- If the mixture froths, then cook uncovered initially and then later cover and cook. Adding a few drops of oil reduces the frothing.
- Once the lentils are softened, then make the sautéed onion-tomato masala mixture and add it to the cooked lentils. Simmer further until the consistency thickens.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This chana dal post from the archives, first published on March 2013 has been republished and updated on 25 November 2021.