Chana Dal (Spiced Split Bengal Gram Soup)

Chana dal is one dish that I make regularly. This is my husband’s favourite recipe and one which can be enjoyed anytime of the year. This particular recipe is one which has been adopted from a North Indian style chana dal masala. Typical Punjabi onion-tomato masala is the base of this dal and the addition of tempering has given this recipe a unique and lovely aroma with a lasting flavour to the dish.

Chana dal is known as Bengal Gram in English and is the most widely grown dal in India. It’s pale yellow in colour and has a sweet, nutty aroma. Chana dal has a very high nutritious value and is particularly recommended for diabetics due to its low levels of glycaemic index; (the measure of the effects of foods on levels of blood sugar). Chana dal is produced through the removal of the outer layer of kala chana (black chickpeas) followed by the splitting of the kernel. Mostly, machines do this but it can also be done at home by soaking the whole black chickpeas and removing the loose skins by rubbing.

Chana dal requires more cooking time than other dals. Usually, it is a good idea to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before pressure cooking. This way they will cook faster with a soft consistency throughout. And so it will cook faster. If you do not have pressure cooker then you can cook in a pot, but you will need more water and it is time consuming.

In the tempering I have used dry red chillies, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves. For a change, I added some lemon juice at the end to balance the taste.

Serve this is boiled rice or hot paratha.

Chana Dal (Split Bengal Gram Soup)

  • Servings: 2-3 people
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 ½ tablespoons cooking oil
2 dry red chillies
½ inch cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves
2-3 bay leaves
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
½ teaspoon asafetida

4 medium sized tomatoes
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic

200g soaked chana dal
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin and coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
salt as required
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped coriander


  1. Wash chana dal until water runs clean, the soak in wash for at least 30 minutes. 

    Soaked chana dal
    Soaked chana dal
  2. Pressure cook until soft but have retained their shape. Keep cover in the pressure cooker in the water. 

    Pressure cooked chana dal
    Pressure cooked chana dal
  3. Peel and chop garlic and onion or use a food chopper. Set aside. 

    Chopped onion and garlic
    Chopped onion and garlic
  4. Chop tomatoes into bite size chunks and set aside. 

    Chopped tomatoes
    Chopped tomatoes
  5. In a pan, heat cooking oil on a medium heat until just warm. Add dry red chillies, bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon stick. Sauté until aromatic. 

    Bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick and dry red chillies
    Bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick and dry red chillies
  6. Remove from heat and add cumin seeds and asafetida. 

    Cimun and asafetida added
    Cimun and asafetida added
  7. Place back on a medium heat and add onions and garlic. Sauté until translucent. 

    Onions and garlic added
    Onions and garlic added
  8. Add tomatoes. 

    Tomatoes added to onions and garlic
    Tomatoes added to onions and garlic
  9. Cook until they have reduced in size to a pulp and the oil begins to separate from the base mixture. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Lower the heat. 

    Cooked tomatoes
    Cooked tomatoes
  10. Add chana dal with the water to the onion-tomato mixture. Add garam masala, turmeric, cumin and coriander powder and salt. Stir well and allow to simmer at a low heat cook for 20 minutes. 

    Chana dal added with garam masala, cumin and coriander powder, turmeric and salt
    Chana dal added with garam masala, cumin and coriander powder, turmeric and salt
  11. Once the dal has cooked turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and chopped coriander. Stir well.
  12. Serve hot with rice or paratha. 

    Chana Dal (Spiced Split Bengal Gram Soup)
    Chana Dal (Spiced Split Bengal Gram Soup)

Best Wishes,


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