Cholar Dal Recipe

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Cholar Dal is one of the most popular dishes in the Bengali food fare. Made with chana dal also known as split Bengal gram or split and hulled black chickpeas, this is a very significant dal preparation that is an essential part of Durga Puja and other festive food in West Bengal. In addition to this, Cholar Dal recipe is one of those vegetarian Bengali dishes that is also traditionally made on other occasions like weddings and other special ceremonies. It can be rightly said, Cholar Dal is to Bengal what Dal Makhani is to Punjab.

cholar dal in a bowl topped with fried coconut

What is Cholar Dal

Cholar Dal is a dal preparation, the main ingredient in which is Chana Dal or split Bengal gram or split chickpeas. Conventionally, it is slightly sweet in taste and is fragrant with a nutty flavor. This is due to the addition of whole spices or khada garam masala like bay leaf, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. However, this dal does not use the Bengali 5-spice mix, commonly known as Panch Phoron.

To elevate the flavors and texture, coconut bits can also be added, but can be skipped according to personal preferences. This Bengali festive dal does not have onion or garlic in it. Unlike other Indian dal recipes like Dal Tadka or Dal Fry, Cholar Dal recipe is usually thick in consistency, but can vary from medium to slightly thin consistencies based on personal choices.

Cholar Dal recipe is best accompanied with Luchi, Koraishutir kachori or the famous Radhaballavi. I tried it with all, and it was just as delicious! I recommend trying this lovely dal with plain steamed basmati rice or jeera rice. To add a little twist to the combinations, you can also try it with the crispy Sindhi Pakwan.

cholar dal with fried coconut bits on top in a red rimmed bowl

This Cholar Dal recipe has been adapted from the book “The Calcutta Cookbook” by Jaya Chaliha and Minakshie Dasgupta.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Cholar Dal

Cook Lentils

1. Rinse 1 cup of chana dal (split Bengal gram or split chickpeas) well. Then soak the dal in enough water for one hour. 

If you want to reduce the soaking time, then heat water and soak the dal in it for 30 minutes. Then drain the water.

soaking chana dal in a bowl

2. Meanwhile, take 1 inch cinnamon, 2 green cardamoms and 3 cloves in a mortar.

2 green cardamoms, 3 cloves and 1 inch cinnamon in a mortar

3. Crush the whole spices with a pestle till they are powdered. Place the spice powder aside.

crushed whole spices in a mortar

4. After one hour, drain all the water from the chana dal.

drained chana dal in a bowl

5. In a 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker, add the drained chana dal and ½ teaspoon turmeric powder.

soaked chana dal in pressure cooker with ½ teaspoon turmeric powder

6. Next add 2.5 cups water to the pressure cooker. For cooking in a pot or pan, you can add 4 to 5 cups water or as required.

add 2.5 cups water in the pressure cooker

7. Then pressure cook the chana dal for 4 to 5 whistles on medium to high heat.

pressure cooking chana dal for 4 to 5 whistles

8. Once the pressure settles down naturally in the cooker, then remove the lid.

pressure cooked chana dal

9. The chana dal should be separate, but cooked thoroughly.

cooked chana dal in a black spoon

10. Add salt as required to the cooked chana dal.

add salt to cooked chana dal

11. Add 2 teaspoons sugar or according to your taste. Mix well. Feel free to add 1 to 2 teaspoons of jaggery instead of sugar.

add sugar to cooked chana dal

12. Next add cashewnuts and raisins (these can be skipped too), mix again. Simmer the dal on a low heat till the water reduces a bit.

Keep in mind the consistency of dal before you serve as the dal thicken as it cools. If in case the consistency becomes too thick, add some hot water to loosen the consistency.

Feel free to adjust the consistency according to your preferences, by adding some more water if needed.

add cashewnuts and raisins to cooked chana dal

Tempering for Cholar Dal

13. Prepare the tempering while the dal is simmering and is beginning to thicken. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee or oil in a pan. Add 1 bay leaf and ½ teaspoon cumin seeds. Let the cumin seeds crackle.

frying tej patta leaf and cumin seeds in ghee for tempering

14. Next add 1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped ginger.

add grated ginger

15. Also add 2 to 3 dried red chilies (broken and seeds removed) and 1 pinch of asafoetida (hing) along with the powdered whole spices (cinnamon + cloves + green cardamoms).

add red chilies and asafoetida

16. Fry till they become fragrant. This will take a few seconds.

frying spices in ghee for tempering

17. Pour the whole tempering mixture in the simmering cholar dal.

add tempering mixture to cholar dal

18. Stir and mix well. Then add ¼ teaspoon red chili powder.

add red chili powder to cholar dal

19. Next add ½ teaspoon cumin powder.

add cumin powder to cholar dal

20. Stir and mix well.

mix well

21. Simmer the dal for 1 to 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat. Cover with a lid and set aside.

simmer dal

22. Meanwhile, in the same tempering pan, add 1 tablespoon ghee or oil, add 2 tablespoons chopped or grated coconut.

frying chopped coconut in ghee for tempering

23. Fry till the coconut becomes light brown stirring often. Add the fried coconut along with the ghee or oil in the Cholar Dal. Mix well.

light golden fried coconut added to cholar dal

24. Serve Cholar Dal with Luchi, Kachori, Radhaballavi or even steamed rice if you prefer.

cholar dal served in a bowl garnished with fried coconut

Expert Tips

  1. If the Cholar Dal becomes thick after its pressure cooked, then add some water to thin it. The consistency of the dal can always be adjusted by adding less or more water after its cooked.
  2. When you add the tempering to the dal, it should have the right consistency, that is, it should be slightly thick. Remember that on cooling, the dal will become thicker.
  3. Use lentils that are within their shelf life and fresh. Do not use aged lentils as they take a lot of time to cook and do not taste good as well.
  4. Avoid asafoetida (hing) to make a gluten free version of this dal.
  5. If you are not fond of ginger, then choose to omit it.

FAQS

What is Cholar Dal made of?

Cholar Dal is a slightly sweet tasting dal made of chana dal, also called as split Bengal gram or split and hulled black chickpeas. A tempering of whole spices like bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom is added. Coconut can also be added in it.

Is Bengal gram and chana dal same?

Yes, they are the same lentils. Bengal gram is the English word and chana dal is the Hindi name.

Can I skip adding the sugar in Cholar Dal?

Yes, of course.

Can I use desiccated coconut instead of fresh coconut?

Yes, you can. Use the same quantity as mentioned in the recipe for fresh coconut.

Can I skip adding the cashewnuts and raisins in the dal?

Sure! The choice is completely yours.

More Indian Lentil Recipes To Try!

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cholar dal in a bowl topped with fried coconut

Cholar Dal Recipe

Cholar Dal is a traditional Bengali recipe of chana dal or split Bengal gram cooked with coconut and spices. It is made without onion and garlic and best served with luchi or poori.
4.5 from 12 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Cuisine Bengali
Course Main Course
Diet Vegetarian
Difficulty Level Moderate
Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

Main ingredients

  • 1 cup chana dal (split and husked bengal gram)
  • 2.5 cups water for pressure cooking or 4 to 5 cups water for cooking in a pot
  • 1 tablespoons golden raisins – optional
  • 1 to 1.5 tablespoon cashews – optional
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or add as required
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili powder or add as required

For tempering cholar dal

  • 1 medium tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 to 3 dried red chilies – broken and seeds removed
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger or finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coconut or 2 tablespoons fresh grated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter) or oil – for a richer taste, use ghee

For spice powder

  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 green cardamoms

Instructions
 

Preparation

  • Pick and rinse the dal well.
  • Soak the dal for an hour in water.
  • Meanwhile take 1 inch cinnamon, 2 green cardamoms and 2 to 3 cloves.
  • Crush the whole spices in a mortar-pestle, till they are powdered. place the spice powder aside.
  • If you want to reduce the soaking time of dal, then heat water and soak the dal in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain the water.

Making cholar dal

  • Once the dal is soaked, then drain all the water. Add the soaked chana dal and turmeric powder in the pressure cooker.
  • Next add water.
  • On a medium to high heat pressure cook the dal for 4 to 5 whistles.
  • The grains should be separate, but cooked thoroughly.
  • Once the pressure settles down naturally, then remove the lid
  • Add sugar and salt to the dal. if using cashewnuts and raisins then add them now.
  • Stir and keep the cooker on a low heat to simmer the dal, till the water reduces a bit.
  • When you add the tempering to the dal, it should have the right consistency – meaning it should be slightly thick. 
  • Remember that on cooling the dal will become more thick.
  • While the dal is simmering and beginning to thicken, prepare the tempering.

Tempering for cholar dal

  • Heat 1 tablespoon ghee or oil in a pan. First add the following spices – 1 bay leaf (tej patta) and ½ teaspoon cumin seeds.
  • Next add 1 teaspoon grated ginger. Also add 2 to 3 dried red chilies, 1 pinch of asafoetida (hing) along the powdered whole spices.
  • Fry till they become fragrant. This takes a few seconds. Then pour this tempering in the dal. Mix well.
  • Stir and then add cumin powder and red chili powder. Mix well.
  • Simmer the dal for 1 to 2 minutes more. Switch off the heat. Cover with a lid and set aside.
  • In the same pan take 1 tablespoon ghee or oil. Add 2 tablespoons chopped or grated coconut. fry till the coconut becomes light brown.
  • Add the fried coconut along with the ghee or oil to the dal. Mix well.
  • Serve Cholar Dal with luchi, koraishutir kachori and even steamed rice if you prefer.

Notes

  • If the Cholar Dal becomes thick after its pressure cooked, then add some hot water to thin it. The consistency of the dal can always be adjusted by adding less or more water after its cooked.
  • When you add the tempering to the dal, it should have the right consistency, that is, it should be slightly thick. Remember that on cooling, the dal will become thicker.
  • Avoid asafoetida (hing) to make a gluten free version of this dal.
  • You can skip ginger if you do not prefer it.
  • The recipe can be scaled easily to make a smaller portion or a larger batch. 
  • You can cook the lentils in an Instant Pot adding water as needed. 
  • If you soak the lentils for more time, the cooking time will also reduce. 

Nutrition Info (Approximate values)

Nutrition Facts
Cholar Dal Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 266 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 19mg6%
Sodium 13mg1%
Potassium 93mg3%
Carbohydrates 36g12%
Fiber 12g50%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 8g16%
Vitamin A 112IU2%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 2µg2%
Calcium 102mg10%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 2µg1%
Iron 3mg17%
Magnesium 17mg4%
Phosphorus 28mg3%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This cholar dal recipe post from the blog archives first published in October 2013 has been republished and updated on 14 February 2022.

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Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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32 Comments

  1. Worked out well. Today going to make Radhavallabhi and repeat the cholar dal.

  2. Hi,
    I can’t get hold of fresh coconut 🙁 Can I use desiccated coconut instead? And if yes how much? Thanx.

    1. you can use desiccated coconut. use the same amount as mentioned as in the recipe for fresh coconut.

  3. “Turmeric powder/jeera powder”… Please correct it. They aren’t the same.5 stars

  4. looking for luchi, radha bhallavi, kumbhra sabji. mughlai parantha………authentic professional style recepie………….live in kolkotta for 100 years and cannot forget their taste….kolkotta is the the food capital of south asia. bengali, north, south, chinese,,,,,u will get the best food in kolkotta,,,,even if u r vegetarian,,,u will not b able to resist the taste and become non vegetarian occasionally to taste the food…

  5. Being a Bengali make this recipe on every sunday with luchi!!nd it is loved by all…thanks for sharing!!

  6. Hello Dassana,

    I do not see the amount of cumin and red chili powder to add in the recipe ingredients. Can you please share that information with me.? I look forward to this DAL…..LOVE Indian food and especially dals.

    Thank you for your website and recipes!

    Sincerely,
    Linda Morse, Durango, CO, USA

    1. linda, you have very sharp eyes. thanks for pointing it out. i have mentioned the ingredients quantity. thanks a lot.

  7. Thanks ! I made it today (without kismis and cashew), it tastes very good.

  8. Hey tried it today for lunch.yum yum.very easy recipe.im adding this recipe in my weekly menu.
    Thnx dassana .

  9. The authentic chholar dal recipe calls for sada jeera ( cumin seed) replacing cumin powder. You may put fried diced coconut, but the addition of cashews and raisins may be an overkill. Bengalis are fairly frugal people. The more basic the recipe is without the royal paraphernalia, the better is the dish. Chholar dal need not have cardamom either. You may try it with cinnamon and bay leaf only. To give it a regal taste, the only luxury … Use clarified butter or ghee or a combo of ghee and safflower or sunflower oil. A gentle hint of garam masala sprinkled on top after cooking may enhance the flavour. A wonderfully succulent begun bhaja with shaktibhog rice is a perfect combination. However, if you are having luchi, you need to put raisins in the dal. Enjoy.

    1. This is delicious. It tastes like it could be a dessert. I added 1 tsp of raw sugar instead of 2 tsps, but I think I would have enjoyed it more without any sugar. I’ve never had Bengali-style channa dal. Is it generally sweet?4 stars

      1. virginia, i think because its taste good and gives a richness to the meal.

  10. I am a punjabi but I think I will definitely try this dal. The recepie sounds good.4 stars

  11. Made this Bengali style cholar dal the other day with some modifications and I have to say it turned out amazing! My husband, parents and parents-in-law all loved it. Thanks a ton for the recipe.5 stars

  12. Really tempting…Love the clicks and the simpliest easy way of making.I liked it