Our easy Indian chana dal recipe is a flavorful and wholesome meal where split chickpeas are simmered with garlic, ginger, onion, fragrant spices, and tomatoes to make a creamy and fulfilling soup.
Our recipe is easy to make, with simple pantry staples and a few straightforward steps.
You’ll love the comforting and warm flavors, creamy texture, and satiating properties of chana dal. It’s the perfect vegetarian meal for weeknights and meal prep.
Table of Contents
Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet. It’s low in cholesterol and saturated fats.
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What is Chana Dal?
Dal, daal, or dhal are hulled and split legumes such as lentils, peas, chickpeas, and beans.
In India, dal is used often to make soups. Chana is the Hindi word for chickpea, and Chana Dal is an Indian soup recipe made with hulled and split chickpeas.
We simplified the traditional Chana Dal recipe so you can make and enjoy this dish at home with little effort and a few straightforward steps.
They are all wholesome, flavor-packed, and high-protein vegetarian recipes excellent for weeknight meals and meal prep as they keep wonderfully for days.
Instead, we rely on the creamy texture of the split chickpeas and their cooking liquid to make chana dal’s flavorful gravy.
You’ll love it with a dollop of Greek or non-dairy yogurt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, chopped cilantro, and something pickled on top.
Ingredients & Substitutions for Chana Dal
Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Split chickpeas (Chana Dal)
Split chickpeas, also known as Bengal gram and chana dal, are the main ingredient in this chana dal recipe.
They are sold dry and look almost exactly like yellow split peas.
You might find it difficult to them in regular supermarkets.
However, you’ll often find split chickpeas or chana dal in Asian grocery stores or online.
Spit chickpeas must be pre-cooked before you use them for chana dal. Instructions are below.
Substitute split red lentils, mung dal or moong dal, yellow split peas, and regular chickpeas for split chickpeas. Cook them before using them for this recipe.
- Olive oil: we recommend using olive oil or avocado oil to make chana dal. Although not traditional, these oils are healthier than ghee and refined oils often used in Indian cooking.
- Onion: you can use white or yellow onion.
- Garlic: minced, pressed, or grated.
- Ginger: peeled and grated.
- Red pepper flakes: substitute with a finely chopped green or red chili.
Add more or less spices based on your preferences. For example, you can reduce our quantities in half if you are not huge on cumin.
- Ground cumin.
- Ground coriander.
- Turmeric powder.
- Garam masala (optional but recommended)
- Dried fenugreek leaves or kasoori methi (optional)
- Asafoetida or hing (optional)
You can use fresh vine tomatoes chopped into small dice for a lighter and more authentic flavor.
Substitute canned diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes for fresh tomatoes for a richer flavor or if you don’t have time to chop fresh tomatoes.
While fresh tomatoes are more traditional in authentic Indian cuisine, outside of India, canned tomatoes are regularly used by Indian chefs, so we find them a suitable substitute for fresh tomatoes.
Salt and Black Pepper
We recommend sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serves well with
- Fresh lemon juice
- Fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)
- Basmati rice or brown basmati rice
- Roti, chapati, or naan.
How to Make Chana Dal
US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
1. Cook the Split Chickpeas
Rinse 1 cup or 200 grams of split chickpeas and soak them in water for 1 hour.
Drain and rinse well, then add them to a pot with 5 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil on high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until tender.
Note: for each cup of dry split chickpeas, you’ll need 5 cups of water when cooking them on the stovetop.
Instant pot or stovetop pressure cooker method
Drain and rinse them, then add them to your instant pot or pressure cooker with 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes, then quick release the steam. If they are not fully cooked, add 1/2 cup of water and cook on high pressure in increments of 5 minutes.
Note: for each cup of dry split chickpeas, you’ll need 3 cups of water when cooking them in an instant pot or pressure cooker.
2. Make the flavor base
Start by chopping the vine tomatoes into small dice. If you are using canned tomatoes, skip this step.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add a chopped onion and sauté for 4 minutes.
Add grated garlic, grated ginger, red pepper flakes, ground cumin, ground coriander, and turmeric powder, and sauté 1 more minute until you can smell the fragrant aroma of the spices.
Add chopped tomatoes, salt, and black pepper and cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes become puree.
Stir often and add 4 tablespoons of water if the pan gets dry.
Note: Optionally, add a pinch of asafoetida and a teaspoon of dried fenugreek leaves.
3. Add the split chickpeas
Add the cooked split chickpeas and their cooking liquid and simmer for 10 minutes.
Note: it’s essential to add the cooking liquid of the split chickpeas, as this makes the dal creamy.
Add vegetable broth or water to make a thinner, more soupy chana dal. Omit the vegetable broth if you would like a thicker Chana Dal.
Stir in the garam masala (optional) and the juice of 1/2 lemon, then taste and adjust for salt before serving.
Make chana dal a meal by serving it with a grain such as basmati rice or brown basmati rice or with a piece of bread such as roti, chapati, and naan.
Garnish the dal with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, fresh cilantro, a dollop of Greek yogurt or plain non-dairy yogurt, and some pickles like quick pickled red onions or quick pickled red cabbage.
Chana Dal with Spinach
You can add spinach to boost the veggie content of Chana Dal.
Add 5 to 6 ounces or about 150 grams of spinach to the dal 5 minutes before it’s done cooking. Let the spinach wilt, and enjoy!
Chana Dal with Tadka
Tadka, or tempering, is an Indian cooking technique where spices are sautéed in hot oil or ghee and then stirred into a dish for more flavor.
Since tadka adds many calories and fat to the meal, we usually omit it. Also, we develop all our recipes to be flavorful and delicious without tadka, so there’s no need to add it.
However, if you want to make tadka, it’s very easy.
Heat 1/4 cup of oil or ghee in a saucepan, then add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of red chili powder, Kashmiri powder, or chopped green chilies, 1 teaspoon of coriander powder, 1 pinch of asafoetida, fry for a short minute or until the spices are fragrant.
Pour the tadka onto the cooked chana dal, stir, and enjoy.
Use olive or avocado oil instead of ghee or refined oil. We recommend doing this, especially if you are trying to eat healthier.
Add the cooking water from the split chickpeas. It’ll make the dal extra creamy.
Add more or less spices based on your preference. You don’t have to follow our recipes to the T. Make it yours by adding more or less of the spices you do or don’t like.
Storage & Make Ahead
Make ahead: Chana dal is an excellent recipe for meal prep as it keeps both in the fridge and freezer.
Refrigerator: Let the dal cool down, transfer it to a freezer-friendly container, and keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezer: Let it cool down completely, transfer it to a freezer-friendly container, and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Thaw & Reheat: Defrost chana dal in the fridge overnight or microwave with a thawing function. Warm in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water or the microwave. Add fresh lemon and cilantro before serving.
More Chickpea Recipes
- Chana masala
- Chana saag
- Creamy chickpea curry
- Chana saag
- Cauliflower curry
- Eggplant curry
- Sweet potato curry
More Indian-inspired Recipes
- Eggplant curry
- Vegan butter chicken
- Vegetable curry
- Vegan curry
- Curry lentil soup
- Lentil curry
- Potato curry
- Pumpkin curry
- Tofu tikka masala
- Navratan korma
- 1 cup dry split chickpeas or chana dal + ½ teaspoon salt + 5 cups water if cooking on stovetop OR 3 cups water if cooking in instant pot.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic grated
- 1 inch ginger grated
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 pound vine tomatoes about 3 medium, chopped into small dice. Substitute 1 small 15 ounce/400 grams can diced tomatoes.
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste + 2 twists black pepper optional.
- ½ lemon the juice
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves + 1 pinch asafoetida
- 1 -2 cups vegetable broth or water if you like a thinner dal
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 handful fresh cilantro chopped
- 4 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt or unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
- 3 cups basmati rice cooked, or 1 cup dry
1. COOK THE SPLIT CHICKPEAS
- Rinse 1 cup dry split chickpeas, add them to a bowl, and soak them in water for 1 hour.
- STOVETOP METHOD: Drain and rinse them well, then add them to a pot with 5 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil on high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until tender.INSTANT POT METHOD: Drain and rinse them well, then add them to your instant pot or pressure cooker with 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes, then quick release the steam. If they are not fully cooked, add 1/2 cup of water and cook on high pressure in increments of 5 minutes.
2. MAKE THE FLAVOR BASE
- Chop 1 pound vine tomatoes into small dice. If you are using canned tomatoes, skip this step.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, then add 1 large onion (chopped) and sauté for 4 minutes.Add 3 cloves garlic (grated), 1 inch ginger (grated), ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1½ teaspoon ground coriander, ¾ teaspoon ground cumin, and ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, and sauté 1 more minute until fragrant.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 twists of black pepper. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes become puree. Stir often and add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water if the pan gets dry. Optionally, add a pinch of asafoetida and a 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves.
3. ADD THE SPLIT CHICKPEAS
- Add the cooked split chickpeas and their cooking liquid and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add 1 -2 cups vegetable broth or water to make a thinner, more soupy chana dal. Omit the vegetable broth if you would like a thicker Chana Dal.
- Stir in 1 teaspoon garam masala (optional) and the juice of ½ lemon, then taste and adjust for salt before serving.
4. MAKE IT A MEAL
- Make chana dal a meal by serving it with basmati rice, roti, chapati, or naan. Garnish with 1 handful fresh cilantro, a dollop of Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt, a quick pickled red onions or cabbage.