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Chana Dal

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You can serve this chana dal as a side or main dish.

Walk into any Indian restaurant and chana dal is almost certain to be on the menu. Many people think of chana dal as a side dish for a good curry with a few naans and chapattis and/or rice. Don’t forget the poppadoms and samosas!

The thing is, chana dal is also amazing as a main meal. You can serve it on its own or over rice and never be disappointed. 

Chana dal

What is Chana Dal?

Chana dal, also known as split chickpeas, is a type of lentil made from dried, split, and skinned chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Not only is the lentil used to make Indian style chana dal but it is also a popular ingredient in other South Asian cuisines.

Chana dal is yellow in colour and has a mild, nutty flavor. It is rich in protein, fibre, and various essential nutrients, making it a nutritious and versatile ingredient in various dishes.

Where is this recipe from?

I have seen chana dal cooked at restaurants more times than I can count. This is a recipe inspired by a visit to Prashad in Bradford. It features in my cookbook ‘The Curry Guy Bible’

Is it difficult to make this dal?

Not at all! All you need to do is soak the lentils for about 30 minutes and then cook them until soft. This takes about 45 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, you can prepare the tarka which only takes minutes to make. Then you stir the tarka into the soft lentils and you’ve got yourself one of the best dals on the planet!

What is the difference between tarka dal and chana dal?

You do make a tarka for this chana dal recipe so why isn’t it a tarka dal? In theory, it actually is but there are differences.

With this chana dal, the tarka you prepare with ghee or oil, onion, garlic and spices is stirred right into the chana dal. It becomes part of the soupy lentil dish.

With tarka dal, there are usually fewer ingredients in the tarka and it is poured over the cooked lentils to serve. The tarka actually floats on top. 

Can you prepare this dish ahead of time?

Yes! In fact much easier than you can tarka dal because the tarka is stirred in.

You can prepare this dal up to a few days ahead of serving. The flavour actually gets better and bolder as it rests in the fridge. Then all you have to do is heat it up in a pan or in your microwave and serve.

Are any of the ingredients difficult to find?

No! The most difficult to find would be asafoetida but I purchased mine from my local supermarket so you will find it.

The lentils are quite common and easy to find too. If you do have trouble finding any of the ingredients, you will surely find them online.

How long can you keep chana dal in the fridge?

You should be able to store this in your fridge for up to 5 days. Then just heat it up in a pan or microwave and serve.

Can you freeze chana dal?

Yep. I have some in my freezer right now as I write this. It freezes well for up to 6 months.

It’s great to have on hand for that last minute curry feast. You don’t have to just settle for a curry and rice. Take it out and serve your chana dal with the curry and rice. 

To blend or not to blend? That’s the question.

You might like a really smooth chana dal. This is done by first blending the cooked lentils before adding the tarka.

Personally, I prefer a bit of texture so I rarely blend the lentils. Both options are right. It’s down to you and your personal preference.

How do you serve chana dal?

You can serve it as a side for one or more curries or serve it like you would a curry, over rice.

One way I like to serve chana dal is as a soup. To do this, just add a little more water or stock to thin the finished dal a bit. There are so many tasty ingredients in chana dal that adding a little water or stock will not take away from the flavour.

If you find that it does, simply stir in more spices or salt to taste.

Step by step photographs.

Ingredients for chana dal.

Soak your lentils for at least 30 minutes and gather all your ingredients together.

Cooking the lentils.

Heat 750ml (3 cups) water in a saucepan and add the soaked lentils. Skim off any foam that rises to the top and cook until soft. The whole process takes about 45 minutes

The dal is ready when it’s ready!

You should find that this chana dal takes about 45 minutes to cook. You might taste it after 45 minutes and find the lentils are still a bit hard. Let it keep cooking and add more water if needed.

It will only take a few more minutes and it may as well be cooked to perfection! 

Infusing the flavour of cumin seeds into hot oil.

While the lentils are simmering, start making the tarka. Heat oil or ghee over a medium heat and stir in the cumin seeds to infuse for about 30 seconds.

Adding onions to the pan to fry until soft and translucent.

Stir in the chopped onions and add a little salt. The salt will help the onions cook faster. Fry for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.

Adding chopped garlic and chilies to the pan to fry for 30 seconds.

Stir in the garlic and chilies and fry for a further 30 seconds.

Stirring ground spices and chopped tomatoes into the other ingredients.

Now add the chopped tomatoes and ground spices and stir well to combine.

Continuing to fry the tarka to soften and mix the flavours.

Fry for a further few minutes to soften.

Adding the tarka to the cooked lentils.

When your dal is cooked to your liking, pour the tarka over the top and stir it in.

Chana dal

Serve as a side dish or as a main. You are going to love this.

Chana dal

Dig in!

If you like this chana dal recipe, you might like to try some of the Indian Vegetarian favourites.

Dum Aloo
Pakistani Chickpea Biryani
Punjabi Saag Curry
Punjabi Rajma
Butternut Squash Curry
Sri Lankan Green Beans Curry
Aloo Gobi
Saag Paneer
Onion Pakora Curry
Chana Saag Curry
Potato Curry
Mushroom Curry
Masala Corn
Gobi Manchurian
Bombay Potatoes
Masala Dosa
Saag Aloo
Tandoori Hummus
Tarka Dal
Masoor Dal
Dal Makhani
Homemade Poppadoms From Scratch
Green Bean Thoran
Cabbage Thoran

Have you tried this chana dal recipe?

If yes, please give it a star rating in the recipe card below and leave a comment. I love receiving your feedback and I’m sure other readers of my blog do too. Thank you.

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Yield: 4

Chana Dhal - Yellow Split Lentils - A Popular Curry House Side Dish

Chana dal
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 300g dry chana dhal – soaked in water for two hours
  • 3 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch asafetida
  • 1 - 5 green or red finger chillies – finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic – finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 1/2 onion - finely chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


  1. Rinse the lentils in several changes of water and then place in a saucepan with 750ml (3 cups) water.
  2. Bring the water to the boil and be sure to skim off any of the foam that rises to the top.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft - about 45 - 60 minutes. Do not strain. Allow the water to reduce down.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, melt the ghee over medium high heat. Toss in the cumin seeds and fry for about 30 seconds and then add the chopped onions and sprinkle with a little salt to assist cooking. Fry the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Now stir in the garlic and chillies and fry for a further 30 seconds.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes, turmeric, coriander powder, asafoetida and cumin powder and stir well to combine.
  7. Your lentils are ready when they are nice and soft. You can serve it like this or do as many chefs and blend the lentils until creamy.
  8. Whisk the onion and ghee mixture into the lentils and sprinkle in the garam masala.
  9. To serve, top with a little chopped coriander and a little more garam masala if you like.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 211Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 238mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 6g

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Chana dhal

The perfect side dish.


Sunday 5th of September 2021

Why is there no Fresh coriander in this?

Dan Toombs

Monday 6th of September 2021

Feel free to add some if you like. Dan


Tuesday 15th of March 2016

many thanks cooked this dish for tonights tea and it was really smashing, very fragrant, shall use again!

Dan Toombs

Friday 8th of July 2016

Thank you very much Kate. Really glad you liked it. :-)


Claire Jones

Sunday 15th of July 2012

Should the chillies be added whole or chopped?


Saturday 25th of February 2012

Hi, I tried this recipe and it was delicious! Perfect for a novice like me. Will be trying some of the others too. Thank you!

Dan Toombs

Sunday 26th of February 2012

Thank you very much for that Adila. I'm really glad you liked it!

Fred Toombs

Thursday 23rd of February 2012

Hi Dan, is it possible to add "Print the recipe" it would help since I collect all of the Indian, Thai recipes on hard copy


Fred Toombs

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