Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Chana Dal (Split Chickpeas)
Chana Dal is a rich 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 chickpeas (kala chana) 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 medium-high to 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. 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.
Making 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 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
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- ½ teaspoon dry mango powder
- a pinch of asafoetida (hing, optional)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
18. Mix and continue to sauté.
19. Cook until the tomatoes are softened and the fat 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.
Cook Chana Dal Further
23. Stir very well. 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 medium to medium-thick 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. 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.
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:
This chana dal post from the archives, first published on March 2013 has been republished and updated on 25 November 2021.