Chana Dal Recipe

5 from 7 votes
Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 294
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Chana Dal is one of my favorite dals to enjoy with rice. Made with fresh ingredients and a handful of spices, this dal is packed with flavors!

It is also vegan and gluten-free.

chana dal in a yellow color pot

Chana dal had a special place in my heart growing up. Mainly because it wasn’t made everyday in my house unlike toor/arhar dal. 

Mom made chana dal once in every few months when we got super bored of eating the same toor dal everyday. And so it always felt special.

I would come back from school and if I saw chana dal on the table, I would be delighted. Because it was a change from the regular dal.

This dal isn’t as light on the stomach as toor or moong dal and probably that’s the reason that it wasn’t made everyday in my house.

We used to love it with rice also with warm rotis. Most of the time it had a tadka (tempering) of onion, tomatoes, cumin seeds etc. 

Now, I make a version in my kitchen quite often and I am sharing that with you guys. 

I already have an instant pot chana dal recipe on the blog, that’s much easier and one pot so if you are looking for a super simple recipe, check that out.

For this recipe, I use few extra spices and steps and also boil the dal first and then make the masala in a separate pan and then mix the two. This is hands down my favorite Chana Dal Recipe and I am excited to share it with you guys!

Why This Chana Dal Recipe Works

This recipe is so flavorful and what makes it work is the use of fresh ingredients. This is a north Indian style Chana Dal since I am from north India, this is how I make it.

There’s freshly chopped onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chili and cilantro. The fresh ingredients impart so much flavor to this recipe and so do not substitute them with store bought and canned stuff.

Like do not use store bought ginger-garlic paste here, it just won’t have the same flavor.

The recipe also works because all the wonderful spices and the fresh ingredients come together beautifully. The dal also has a smoky flavor which is imparted to it through the dhungar method (infusing smoky flavor through hot charcoal).

This is optional but the smokiness does elevate the flavors. 

Ingredients

This recipe uses onion, tomatoes which forms the base of the masala and a handful of spices to flavor the dal.

lentil, spices, onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes placed on a board

Chana Dal: this recipe uses 100% chana dal and no other lentils. If you think only chana dal can be too heavy for your stomach, you can definitely replace 25% of it with a lighter alternative like toor or moong dal.

Onion & tomato: of course the key ingredient for the masala of this dal so do not skip on either of these.

Garlic-Ginger-Chili: I love using fresh ginger and garlic here which I crush using a mortar and pestle and then use in the recipe. The freshly pounded ginger and garlic give so much flavor to this dal.

Spices: I have used a bunch of spices in this recipe though not in large amount. The quantity of the spices is less since this is a dal and not a curry and we don’t want it to be totally overpowered with spices.

The spices that I used here are coriander, garam masala, kashmiri red chili powder (mainly for color) and kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves).

Please keep in mind that kashmiri red chili powder used here is not hot, if you want the dal to be spicier, you can replace half of it with regular chili powder.

Cilantro: of course a good amount of cilantro is must for me in dal and this recipe is no exception.

Tips To Make A Good Dal

Making a good dal is really easy, here’s what you should keep in mind.

Use fresh ingredients– this is important since that’s how dal is traditionally made in India. I never ever saw canned tomatoes or chilies being used in my house and we ate dal everyday.

So use fresh tomatoes, fresh ginger-garlic, chilies. Crushing the fresh ginger-garlic adds a lot of flavor.

Use good quality spices– even though we don’t add a ton of spices to this dal, still it’s important to use good quality spices here. They add to the flavor.

The kashmiri red chili powder gives the dal that beautiful color without adding much heat to it.

Definitely use kasuri methi– dried fenugreek leaves give a wonderful aroma to the dal, so do not skip on them especially if you are making a dal with lots of masala in it.

Use ghee for extra flavor- again not essential but adds to flavor. For this recipe, I have not used ghee and it was still fantastic. But adding ghee is an option that you can use for more flavor.

Smoke the dal- I love smoking my dals with dhungar method. For this method, you heat up a piece of charcoal and then place that hot charcoal  in a bowl which is placed over the dish.

Drizzle some ghee or oil over the hot charcoal and as soon as you see fumes coming out, close the pot with the lid and let it remain like that for few minutes.

This traps the smoke and gives the dish that smoky flavor. Be careful though, if you leave it for a very long time, the dish becomes very smoky. For my dals usually, I do it for no more than 2-3 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this recipe vegan?

It is, since I used oil in the tadka. If you use ghee, then it won’t be vegan.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

Yes, it is gluten-free.

I don’t have a pressure cooker, how do I make this dal?

I would suggest soaking the dal overnight and then adding it to a pot, add water, turmeric, salt and cook on stove-top medium heat until it softens. 

It will probably takes 30 minutes or so if you have soaked it. If you haven’t soaked it, the time will be more.

What do we serve the chana dal with?

Serve it with plain rice or jeera rice or with roti and any sabzi as a part of a simple Indian meal. You can also eat it with quinoa or any other grain of choice.

Which charcoal is used for the dhungar method?

So, I get this question in every recipe where I use dhungar method. I get charcoal from grocery store, it’s available where you have all the BBQ stuff, just make sure it is NOT the self-ignite variety. 

Method

1- Rinse the chana dal and then add it to a pressure cooker along with 2.5 cups water (20 oz), 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 3/4 teaspoon salt. 

2- Pressure cook the dal until it’s cooked and soft. On normal stove-top pressure cooker, it would take 8-10 whistles on high flame. If using an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, cook on high pressure for 13 minutes. In both the cases, let the pressure release naturally.

Set this aside and work on the masala. Meanwhile crush 4 large garlic cloves, 1.5-inch ginger and 1 green chili in a mortar pestle and set it aside.

3- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot,  add the whole spices- cumin seeds, cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon stick. Sauté for few seconds until the spices are fragrant. 

4- Then add the chopped onion and cook for around 3 to 4 minutes until they are soft and start to change color.

step by step picture collage of making chana dal

5- Now, add the freshly pounded garlic-ginger-green chili and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the raw smell goes away.

6- Then add the chopped tomatoes, stir and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until they are very soft and completely cooked. Also add 1/2 teaspoon salt along with the tomatoes.

7- Then add the spices- coriander powder, garam masala, kashmiri red chili powder and kasuri methi. Also add the cilantro. If you want to make the dal spicier, you can replace half of the kashmiri red chili powder with regular chili powder which is hotter. Stir and cook the spices for 30 seconds.

8- Now, add the boiled chana dal to the pan along with 1/2 to 3/4 cup ( 4 to 6 oz) of more water (depending on the consistency you prefer). 

step by step picture collage of making chana dal

9- Stir and let the dal simmer for 5 to 6 minutes on medium-low heat.

10- For the tadka, heat 2 teaspoons oil (or you can use ghee) in a small pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped garlic (from remaining 2 cloves of garlic) and dried red chili and cook for one minute until the garlic starts changing color.

11-Transfer tadka to the simmering chana dal and stir.

12- This step is optional. For the dhungar method,  place a steel bowl on top of  the dal. Then using tongs heat a piece of charcoal over direct heat until its red hot. Place the hot charcoal in that steel bowl on top of the dal using the tongs .

Pour oil or ghee on top of charcoal. You will immediately see fumes coming out of charcoal. Immediately close the pan with a lid. Let it remain like this for 2 to 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, remove lid and remove the bowl from dal. The longer you keep the lid closed, the smokier dal will get, I don’t like doing it for more than 3 minutes.

step by step picture collage of making chana dal

Serve chana dal with rice, roti!

chana dal served in a copper kadai and garnished with cilantro

More Dal Recipes

Dal Tadka

Moong Dal Tadka

Dal Makhani

If you’ve tried this Chana Dal Recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!

Chana Dal Recipe

chana dal in a yellow color pot
Manali
My favorite Chana Dal Recipe where chana dal is cooked with onion, tomatoes and a bunch of spices to make is super flavorful. It is also vegan and gluten-free.
5 from 7 votes
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 294 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chana dal 205 grams
  • 3 cups water 24 oz, divided, more or less as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1.25 teaspoons salt divided
  • 6 large garlic cloves divided, 4 whole and 2 chopped
  • 1.5 inch ginger
  • 1 green chili
  • 2 tablespoons +2 teaspoons oil divided, 30 ml + 10 ml (I used avocado oil)
  • 1 medium red onion 160 grams, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1.5 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 medium tomatoes 285 grams, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder this is for color and is not hot
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi crushed, dried fenugreek leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 whole dried red chili
  • piece of charcoal for dhungar method, optional

Instructions
 

  • Rinse the chana dal and then add it to a pressure cooker along with 2.5 cups water (20 oz), 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 3/4 teaspoon salt. 
    Pressure cook the dal until it's cooked and soft. On normal stove-top pressure cooker, it would take 8-10 whistles on high flame. If using an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, cook on high pressure for 13 minutes. In both the cases, let the pressure release naturally.
    Set this aside and work on the masala. Meanwhile crush 4 large garlic cloves, 1.5-inch ginger and 1 green chili in a mortar pestle and set it aside.
    cooked chana dal in a pot
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot,  add the whole spices- cumin seeds, cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon stick. Sauté for few seconds until the spices are fragrant. 
    cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, cloves added to oil in a pot
  • Then add the chopped onion and cook for around 3 to 4 minutes until they are soft and start to change color.
    onions being cooked with spices in a pot
  • Now, add the freshly pounded garlic-ginger-green chili and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the raw smell goes away.
    onions with fresh ginger-garlic and spices in a pot
  • Then add the chopped tomatoes, stir and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until they are very soft and completely cooked. Also add 1/2 teaspoon salt along with the tomatoes.
    chopped tomatoes added to a pot with spices, onions
  • Then add the spices- coriander powder, garam masala, kashmiri red chili powder and kasuri methi. Also add the cilantro. If you want to make the dal spicier, you can replace half of the kashmiri red chili powder with regular chili powder which is hotter. Stir and cook the spices for 30 seconds.
    bunch of spices added to a pot
  • Now, add the boiled chana dal to the pan along with 1/2 to 3/4 cup ( 4 to 6 oz) of more water (depending on the consistency you prefer). Stir and let the dal simmer for 5 to 6 minutes on medium-low heat.
    boiled chana dal being added to a pot
  • For the tadka, heat 2 teaspoons oil (or you can use ghee) in a small pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped garlic (from remaining 2 cloves of garlic) and dried red chili and cook for one minute until the garlic starts changing color.
    Transfer tadka to the simmering chana dal and stir.
    a small pan pouring over the tadka into a large pot
  • This step is optional. For the dhungar method,  place a steel bowl on top of  the dal. Then using tongs heat a piece of charcoal over direct heat until its red hot. Place the hot charcoal in that steel bowl on top of the dal using the tongs .
    Pour oil or ghee on top of charcoal. You will immediately see fumes coming out of charcoal. Immediately close the pan with a lid. Let it remain like this for 2 to 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, remove lid and remove the bowl from dal. The longer you keep the lid closed, the smokier dal will get, I don't like doing it for more than 3 minutes. Serve chana dal hot with rice, roti!
    pieces or charcoal in a bowl placed over a large pot of dal

Notes

  1. This recipe uses oil so it's vegan. But you can use ghee here, will add flavor.
  2. I do not soak the chana dal and cook is straight away. If you want to soak for 3-4 hours, reduce the cooking time.

Nutrition

Calories: 294kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 14gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 790mgPotassium: 691mgFiber: 17gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 694IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 4mg
Keyword chana dal
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10 thoughts on “Chana Dal Recipe

  1. 5 stars
    Lucky to be alive today! We had this yesterday and it was so good we almost died!
    Followed the recipe step by step, but added two good handful of diced carrots as I realized the amount would not be enough for the three of us – 2 rather small ladies and one average man. And I had generously portioned all ingredients already. We had sides as well and a good amount of basmati rice, yet, we finished it all. Hence, I believe, the recipe is for two servings rather than four.
    I tried the dhungar method but probably was too anxious not to overdo it, so the effect was only minimal. More next time, and many next times there will be!

  2. Does the recipe require a cinnamon stick & green cardamom? It looks like it from one of the pictures but it’s not listed in the recipe.
    Thanks! I love all of your recipes!

    1. it does and it is listed under ingredients- I can see , please have a look again

      “1 teaspoon cumin seeds
      3 whole cloves
      2 green cardamom
      1.5 inch cinnamon stick”

  3. Manali in the Chana dal receipe, you haven’t mentioned the amount of garam masala spices to be put. Please include dis detail too. Thanks. Lv your receipes. M from india

  4. 5 stars
    Though I used to make Chanadal differently, without onion and garlic, but seems it might be tasty with onion and garlic. Ill try now this way. Thanks.

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