My go to recipe for making creamy chana dal or Bengal Gram lentils- with Stove top, pressure cooker and instant pot ways.
CUISINE: Indian Comfort Food
EASE: Very Easy
APPEARANCE: Steaming hot like a porridge
Serve with : Indian chutneys, Papad, Pickle or Raita
Pros : Vegan, Gluten Free
Growing up, we ate a lot of Chana dal. It's one of those indian everyday dishes. Every mom, every state has a version of this dal.
Here is what we will do
- Wash the Dal
- Temper Spices, Onions & Tomatoes
- Pressure Cook with Dal to creamy perfection!
Why make Chana Dal in Pressure Cooker?
Chana Dal needs to be pressure cooked.And here is why!
- Cooking Chana dal in a pot will take forever. Upwards of 2-3 hours. So pressure cooking it makes so much sense!
- The Chana Dal is pretty big as compared to the smaller dals like moong and masoor dals. It needs to be cooked for longer.
If you have an instant pot, you can boil the dal in that.Here is why i love making my chana dal in the instant pot.
- Instant Pot is safer than traditional pressure cooker
- It's easier to clean.
- Walk Away- Yes. This is important. I walk away after setting the Instant Pot. I can go out of the house or wherever. You can never have this comfort on stove top or traditional pressure cookers!
- Most important for me - It keeps the dal hot in the "Keep Warm" setting. So i can cook in the morning, leave the dal in the keep warm setting and lunch can be served any time!
Infact, for me, Keep warm setting is the most important and used instant pot setting. My husband comes home late,often.And i cant stay up every night. So this is a simple solution. I add the rice along with the dal in the instant pot.Leave it in "Keep WArm" setting and he can eat HOT food.Anytime of the day.
Those reasons are enough for me but if you are still unconvined, you should read my post on Why Cook Indian Food in Instant Pot.
Ingredients for Dal
Here are the ingredients to make Chana Dal
- Chana Dal or Bengal Gram
- Ginger & Garlic-
- Green Chili
- Oil or Ghee
- Fresh Cilantro/Coriander
- Lime Juice
Channa Dal is Brown Chickpeas that have been skinned, split and polished. It's also called Bengal Gram or Cholar Dal
It's usually bigger and smoother than other lentils available in the indian grocery store.
Do not confuse it with puffed Channa Dal which is used to give body to Chutneys and sometimes make snacks.
As it is a thicker lentil, It's nice to soak the dal for a bit. Do this if you like your dal to be mashed a bit or if you are using a regular stove top cooker. We will discuss the timelines below.
Here is a close up picture of it.
Onion & Tomatoes
You can make this dal without onion, garlic and ginger too.Simply omit it and follow with all the other ingredients.
Onions - White, yellow or red will work. It should roughly measure up to about ½ cup. I love using shallots too. They add a much more intense onion flavor.
Tomatoes- Ripe. Riper the better.It should add up to ½ cup of chopped tomatoes. Tomato puree or 1 tablespoon of tomato paste will also work. Again the measurement is not absolute and you can increase or decrease this.
Herbs & Aromatics
Ginger & Garlic- You can either pound or grate fresh ginger garlic or use storebought paste. I am not a big fan of store-bought ginger and garlic but it definitely reduces a lot of your prep time.
If you wish, you can omit it too.
Green Chili- I love the flavor of green chilies in the dal though i am not a big fan of the heat.
TRICK - To get just the flavor and not the heat from the chili, poke a few holes in it and add it to the oil. The reason we poke holes is so that it doesn't burst.
Lime Juice & Coriander- If you ever wondered what makes a good dal, then its the finishing touches- the Tadka, lime juice and a garnish of coriander. They are not obsoletely needed but they add so so much flavor to the dal.
Most of the spices are basic Indian pantry ingredients.
This dal would be incomplete without Cumin, turmeric and chili powder.
If you have a curry powder than you like, you could use that too.
Another spice that goes very well with Cholar dal is Anise or Saunf. It adds a gorgeous flavor to the dal.
Ground Cumin, Ground Coriander and Turmeric are basic Indian pantry spices.
Chili Powder -
Mild heat: ½ teaspoon of Kashmiri Chili powder
Moderate heat: 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder
Very spicy heat: 1 tablespoon of Kashmiri chili powder; also add sliced , fried green chilies along with fried curry leaves
Tip: If you only want the flavor of green chilies, without the heat, do not cut them and use them whole. But make sure to pierce a few holes in the chili with a fork to prevent them from exploding!
How to make Chana Dal
Step 1: Wash & Soak
Always start with washing the dal to get rid of particles and impurities.
When to Soak
Soak the dal for at-least 15 minutes if you are planning to make it in the traditional stove top pressure cooker or want a softer or mashier consistency.
Unlike other dals, channa dal is quite big and needs more cooking time, even in a pressure cooker. To reduce that , you can soak the dal for a couple of hours or even overnight.
When not to Soak
If you are using an instant pot, you may omit the soaking and pressure cook for longer. That said, channa dal always benefits from being soaked.
Step 2: Pressure Cook
Drain the water the dal has been soaking in.
Stove Top Pressure Cooker
Add about 2.5-3 times the water for 1 measure of dal to the pressure cooker you are using.
Also add salt and turmeric to it.
Close the pressure cooker. Keep it on medium flame.
Cook the dal for about 12-15 minutes at medium flame. Which would be about 6-7 whistles, though it really depends on the type and size of the pressure cooker.
If you have not soaked the dal, add 3 cups of water and cook the dal for 20 minutes on medium flame.
Add about 2-2.5 times the water for 1 measure of dal to the instant pot.
Also add salt and turmeric to it.
Close the instant pot. Set it to 12 minutes on HIGH PRESSURE.
If you have not soaked the dal, set it to 16 minutes on HIGH PRESSURE
Cook the dal for about 12-15 minutes at medium flame. Which would be about 6-7 whistles.
Step 3: First Tadka
This is when we make the base sauce. You could have made this in the instant pot and then added the dal to it. Pressure cooked everything together. That's definitely a quicker and more hands on way of making the dal.
But it does dilute the flavor from the tadka. But on busy days, i prefer the one pot method more.
Start with heating the oil or ghee in a pan or kadai or wok
Add the Cumin and asafetida. Let the Cumin split and splutter. Also add saunf at this stage if you wish.
Next add ginger, garlic, green chili and the onions. You want to brown the onions and get them to a crispy, fried consistency.
Once the onions are ready, add Coriander powder & Chili Powder. Give it a nice sauté so that it gets toasted a bit.
Now add the tomatoes and cook till they are mushy. You can help the tomatoes by mashing them up a bit with the bag of your spatula or ladle.
It should take 6-7 minutes of time in total, on high flame.
This is the base sauce for almost all Indian dals and vegetable preparations.
Add the cooked dal, along with the cooking liquid in the tadka. Mix well.
If the dal consistency is too thin, simmer it till the dal is as thick as you want.
Step 4: Garnish & Finishing touches
In my head, this step takes the dal from meh to delicious.
Just 2 things- Lime juice and chopped coriander. They add so so much taste and contrast to the other wise one tone dal.
If there is one thing you take away from this recipe, it should be this.
Step 5: Optional- Second Tadka
This is something that a lot of indian folks do just before serving the dal. I dont because a) i am Lazy b) for an everyday meal, i do not want to add more fat to the dal.
That said, it adds insane taste and flavor! This is a technique which is used across all kinds of indian cuisnes. Most indian folks have a special pan for this too.
You heat the oil or ghee to smoking point and switch the heat off.
Working quickly add a pinch each of cumin & chili powder and thinly sliced garlic.
Just before the chili starts to turn from red to black(Burning) add it over your dal.
I do this when I am craving high flavor or when I am serving guests.
One Pot Instant Pot Channa Dal
Here is a faster , simpler version of chana dal.
You can do this in pressure cooker and instant pot.
Basically you invert the cooking process and start with the first tadka- the onion tomato base.
Step 1: Heat the instant pot/Pressure cooker. Once hot, add the ghee.
Meanwhile, keep the dal soaked till you need to add it to the pressure cooker.
Step 2: Add the Cumin and let it splutter.Add asafetida. Add the ginger, garlic and green Chilli.
Let everything infuse in the oil or ghee for about 10-20 seconds. Saute in the middle to avoid one side getting too burnt.
Step 3: Add Onions and cook till they are translucent.
If you like your onion brown, feel free to extend the cooking time.If you are browning the onions, they can potentially leave brown marks on the inner pot. You need to make sure you use a silicon spatula to deglaze the bottom.If not done, you will get the burn warning!
Add the tomatoes and cook till mushy. This is the most time consuming step.The whole sauteing of onions and tomatoes takes about 10 minutes.
Step 4: Add the dal along with water 2 cups if using instant pot and 3 cups if using stove top pressure cooker.
Now pressure cook for 12 minutes in instant pot or 15-20 minutes on regular pressure cooker.
And that's it, wait for the pressure to release and garnish with coriander and lime juice.
And your No Fuss, one pot Channa Dal is ready!
Instant Pot Tricks & Tips
Do not Quick Release liquid food in instant pot. It has a tendency to splatter.Wait for at least 10 minutes before you release the pressure.
You could make a big batch of Onion- Tomato Masala and freeze in advance for quicker curries. Here is my post on how to make indian masala base.
Variations of Chana Dal
Ghiya Chane Ki Dal aka Bottle guard channa Dal - This was a staple while growing up.In fact it still is with my parents. Add big chunks or cubed bottle guard to the dal before pressure cooking. You have to do 2 things different here- soak the dal for atleast 4-5 hours and reduce the cooking time by 2 minutes.
Palak Chana Dal - To make it more nutritious, you can add chopped spinach after you open the instant pot lid. Just cover for 10 minutes after and the spinach will cook on it's own.
Jain Version - Omit Ginger Garlic and Onion from the recipe to make a jain version of the Channa Dal.
Vegan Chana Dal- Skip on the Ghee while making Vegan version of chana dal.
Gluten Free Chana Dal- Dal is naturally gluten free.Skip using asafoetida to make the dal Gluten Free.
How to Serve Chana Dal
Chana Dal is a chunkier dal than Toor dal or the normal Dal Fry.
I love it with hot , just off the heat phulkas with a smattering of ghee. You can serve it with plain white Rice or brown rice, if you want to add more fiber. If you want something more fancy, serve it with Basmati rice or Jeera rice.
What do you do with leftover dal.Well..Freeze it for a rainy day! Anything which has a lot of liquid, freezes very well in the freezer.
To thaw, you can either microwave it. Or! Add ¼ cup of water to the instant pot along with the frozen dal(without the zip lock bag please,lol). And pressure cook for 5 minutes.
The dal keep well in the refrigerator for upto 5-7 days.
My favorite way to use leftover dal is to make parathas with it. Dont use water to kneed the dough but the dal.
Here are some Instant Pot Dal Recipes for you
Are you looking for more everyday dal or lentil recipes that you can make in the instant pot? Try the below recipes.
Instant Pot Toor Dal
Instant Pot Langarwali Dal
Instant Pot Dal Palak
Instant Pot Khichdi
I would love to know if you try the recipe! Do leave a comment and share it with your family and freinds if you found it useful!
- Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker
- ¾ Cup Chana Dal or Bengal Gram
- 2 Cups Water 1.5 cup for instant pot
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- Salt to Taste About 1 tsp
- 1 tablespoon Lime Juice
- 3 tablespoon Cilantro Leaves Coriander for Garnish
- Start with Washing and Soaking the Chana Dal. Check notes on Soaking.¾ Cup Chana Dal
Stove Top Instructions
- Drain the dal and add it to the pressure cooker along with 2 cups of water, Turmeric and Salt.
- Pressure cook for 10-12 minutes- Till the first whistle on High, there after on medium low flame.
- Let the pressure release on its own before opening the Cooker.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Add the dal along with 1.5 cups of water, turmeric, and salt.
- Select PRESSURE COOK on HIGH for 14 minutes for dal that holds its shape and 16 minutes for soft mashable Dal.
- Let the pressure drop naturally for 10 minutes, after which quick release the valve.
- While the Dal pressure cooks, lets make the onion- tomato tempering or base sauce.
- Heat a pan on medium flame.
- Once hot, Add Ghee or Oil.Let it melt.1 tablespoon Ghee
- Add - Cumin & Asafetida.Once it splutters, add ginger, garlic and green chilli(if using).Saute for 20-30 seconds so it infuses in the oil.1 Teaspoon Cumin, 1 Teaspoon Ginger, 3-4 Cloves Garlic, 1 pinch Asafetida, 1 Green chilli- split(optional)
- Add the chopped onions and cook until they turn golden brown, almost fried, for about 3-4 minutes. If the onions start to burn, add a little splash of water.1 Medium Onion
- Once the onions are brown, add the coriander powder and chili powder. Mix well.2 Medium Tomatoes
- Add the chopped tomatoes along with 1 tablespoon of water. Cook till tomatoes are mushy.
- Add the cooked dal to this tempering. Add more water if needed in ¼ cup increments.
- Finish with Lime Juice and coriander and mix. Check on the seasoning, add salt if needed.3 tablespoon Cilantro Leaves
SoakingI recommend soaking the dal for at least 15 minutes. Especially if you are looking to make a softer dal that can be mashed. Soaking does decrease the cooking time by a minute or so.
Consistency of Chana DalChana dal, unlike masoor and toor can have a little bite.This recipe is for a dal where the lentil pieces stay separate. If you would like a mashier, softer dal, you have to cook the dal for longer. Pressure Cooker: 13-15 minutes
Instant Pot : 15-16 minutes