Instant Pot Chana Dal

March 27, 2020 By Aneesha |

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Chana Dal is a creamy mildly spiced North Indian style lentil curry made with split chickpeas, onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and simple Indian spices. This easy Instant Pot Chana dal is ready in just 45 minutes – soaking time included!

instant pot Indian chana dal with green chili in bowl with fresh cilantro on side

One-Pot Dal Recipe

Chana Dal is one of those recipes that brings back so many memories of cooking with my mom. It’s a flavorful curry made with split chickpeas in a classic Punjabi-style onion and tomato-based gravy.

Growing up, I always saw my mom cook all Dals and Beans using the stovetop pressure cooker. Pressure cooking not only reduces the cooking time, but also results in a creamier end texture. A few years ago, I adapted my mom’s recipe to the Instant Pot.

I converted it to a One-Pot recipe. Instead of cooking the lentils separately and then dressing them up with a tadka (tempering), I sauté the aromatics and spices and cook the dal along with it. I get the same texture and taste, with much less effort and and time.

Ready in 45 minutes (including soaking time), this dish goes best with a side of Cumin Rice or roti for a comforting weeknight meal!

What is Chana Dal In English?

Chana Dal is a split lentil. These small pulses are also known as baby chickpeas, split chickpeas, split skinned chickpeas, split desi chickpeas, or split Bengal gram/Kala chana in Hindi.

In North India, they are mostly used in dal recipes. However, in South India, it is more common to find them in tempering, chutneys and sauces.

The split lentils can also be milled into flour to create Besan (chickpea flour).

instant pot chana dal recipe in white bowl with cilantro on side

Is Chana Dal The Same As Chickpeas?

Yes and no. Chana Dal is brown or black chickpeas (kala chana) that have been split and skinned (or polished). They have the same sweet, earthy, nutty flavor as brown chickpeas.

They are often confused with split peas or yellow lentils. Unlike split peas, these ‘split chickpeas’ are textured and not smooth on the outside. They are also not the same as yellow lentils (moong daal) – a common misconception.

Do I Have To Soak Split Chickpeas?

For best results, I prefer to soak Chana Dal. Soaking allows the pulses to break down, making the end texture softer and makes them easier to digest. In this recipe, a quick soak of 10 minutes in warm water does the trick! I use that time to prep and saute the masala.

But, if you forget or don’t feel like soaking it, you can always add another minute or two to the cooking time, depending on how you like the end texture.

Ingredients

The simple list of ingredients for this easy split chickpea recipe includes – chana dal, oil, cumin seeds, serrano chili, onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, water, turmeric, Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander, fresh cilantro and a light squeeze of lime!

Nowadays, chana dal is easily accessible at larger retailers such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Indian grocery stores or online.

split chickpeas, onions, green chili, tomatoes, spices, cilantro, garlic, ginger

How To Make Instant Pot Chana Dal

Here are step-by-step instructions and photos of this easy Chana Dal recipe in the Instant Pot :

onions and chili in small bowl over instant pot, garlic and ginger in small bowl, diced tomatoes in small bowl, spices in small bowl
  • Rinse and soak chana dal in warm water for 10-12 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients and saute the aromatics.
  • Select Saute on Instant Pot. Wait 30 seconds for it to get hot, then add oil and cumin seeds. When cumin begins to sizzle, add serrano chili and chopped onions and cook until softened, stirring in between (Pic 1).
  • Add ginger and garlic and continue to saute for one minute (Pic 2).
  • Next, add tomato and spices, stir and cook until the tomatoes soften and become mushy. Cancel Saute (Pics 3 & 4).
pouring water into instant pot, chana dal in instant pot, instant pot lid, squeezing lime over chana dal
  • Drain the now-soaked dal and add to the Instant Pot along with the water. Deglaze the pot by scraping off any brown bits at the bottom of the pot (Pics 5 & 6).
  • Lock the lid in place and select Pressure Cook or Manual for 12 minutes at HIGH pressure.
    When the cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally. If in a rush, wait for 10 minutes, then follow the quick-release method. Unlock lid and remove after the pressure pin drops (Pic 7).
  • Using the cooking ladle or a potato masher, mash a few lentils. Repeat 2-3 times. This thickens the curry and makes it creamy. Check for seasoning, then add chopped cilantro and a light squeeze of lime (Pic 8).

Dal- Great Source of Plant Based Protein

I grew up eating lentils most weeknights and we had quite a variety- Green, Brown, Moong, Toor, Urad and of course, Chana Dal. Dals are filling, hearty and nutritious, and each variety has a unique creamy texture and taste. I’m so glad my girls love Dals as much as my hubby and me.

Just like most split pulses, Chana Dal is highly nutritious and a great source of plant-based protein, especially for Vegans and Vegetarians!

These small, yellow pulses are packed with fiber, B vitamins, folic acid and magnesium. It’s a staple pantry ingredient I always have on hand!

instant pot split chickpea curry in bowl

How to Make Chana Dal Fry

As with most Indian recipes, there’s a variety of ways you can make this Dal. Some recipes call for adding an ‘extra’ tadka (tempering) to the dal after cooking, just before serving.

That style is also known as Punjabi Chana Dal or Chana Dal Fry, and it is quite popular at small roadside restaurants in India, called dhabbas.

To make Tadka, simply heat up a tablespoon of ghee in a fry pan and add cumin (or mustard seeds) and curry leaves, and let them splutter for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and add it to the dal and stir. For a slight kick, you can also add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne to this mix.

Two Popular Variations Of Chana Dal

I love adding even more nutrition and greens to transform this dal into a complete, one-pot meal.

  1. Chana Dal with Lauki: Lauki (known as Bottle Gourd in Hindi) is a zucchini-like vegetable easily available in Indian and Asian grocery stores. When I can’t find lauki, I typically substitute it with 1 cup of cubed zucchini cut in 1-inch chunks. Simply add it to the Instant Pot with the dal. The larger chunks hold their shape after cooking.
  2. Palak Dal: Palak is the Hindi term for spinach. After pressure cooking and pressure release, remove the lid and turn on Saute. Stir in 2 cups chopped baby spinach and simmer 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach wilts. Add lemon juice and garnish with cilantro.

Make a Meal- Serving Suggestions

To enjoy a delicious and comforting meal, serve this dal with:

easy split lentil curry with green chili in bowl with fresh cilantro

Recipe Tips

  • Soaking: Soaking chana dal in warm water for 10 minutes prior to pressure cooking will ensure that chickpeas are creamy in texture and easily digested.
  • How to check if dal is done? The split chickpeas need to be cooked until it can easily be squashed between two fingers.
  • Creamy texture: Using the back of your cooking spoon, or a potato masher, mash a few lentils after pressure cooking. This makes the curry thicker and creamier.
  • Extra Tadka (tempering) for Chana Dal Fry: Heat up a tablespoon of ghee in a fry pan and add cumin (or mustard seeds) and curry leaves, and let them splutter for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and add it to the dal and stir. For a slight kick, you can also add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne to this mix.

More Dal (Lentil) Recipes From My Kitchen:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating below! For more quick & easy recipes, FOLLOW ME on Facebook, Instagram,  Pinterest and Youtube.

instant pot Indian chana dal with green chili in bowl with fresh cilantro on side

Chana Dal in Instant Pot

Instant Pot Chana Dal is a mildly spiced North Indian style curry made with split chickpeas in a traditional onion-tomato gravy, and it's ready in 45 minutes!
4.8 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 5
Calories: 191kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Chana Dal (Split Chickpeas) rinsed and soaked for 10 minutes in warm water
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 serrano chili whole, slit in the middle and crown removed (optional)
  • 1 cup onion finely chopped, (1 medium onion)
  • 1 tbsp ginger grated (1-inch piece)
  • 2 tsp garlic crushed (2 cloves)
  • ½ cup tomato chopped (1 Roma tomato)
  • 2 cup water

For Finishing

  • 3-4 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • light squeeze of lime

Equipment

Instructions

  • Rinse and soak chana dal in warm water for 10-12 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients and saute the aromatics.
  • Select Saute on Instant Pot. Wait 30 seconds for it to get hot, then add oil and cumin seeds.
  • When cumin begins to sizzle, add serrano chili and chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring in between.
  • Add ginger and garlic and continue to saute for another minute.
  • Add spices and tomato, stir and cook for 2 minutes, stirring in between, until the tomatoes soften and become mushy. Cancel Saute.
  • Add chana dal and water and deglaze the pot by scraping off any brown bits stuck at the bottom of the pot.
  • Lock the lid in place and select pressure cook or manual for 12 minutes at high pressure.
  • When the cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally. If in a rush, wait for 10 minutes, then follow the quick release method. Unlock lid and remove after the pressure pin drops.
  • Using the cooking ladle or a potato masher, mash a few chickpeas. Repeat 2-3 times. This thickens the curry and makes it creamy.
  • Check for seasoning. Add chopped cilantro and a light squeeze of lime, and serve with rice or roti.

Video

Notes & Recipe Tips

Recipe Tips:

  • Soaking: Soaking chana dal in warm water for 10 minutes prior to pressure cooking will ensure that chickpeas are creamy in texture and easily digested.
  • How to check if dal is done? The split chickpeas need to be cooked until it can easily be squashed between two fingers.
  • Creamy texture: Using the back of your cooking spoon, or a potato masher, mash a few lentils after pressure cooking. This makes the curry thicker and creamier.
  • Extra Tadka (tempering) for Chana Dal Fry: Heat up a tablespoon of ghee in a fry pan and add cumin (or mustard seeds) and curry leaves, and let them splutter for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and add it to the dal and stir. For a slight kick, you can also add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne to this mix.

Two Popular Variations Of Chana Dal

  1. Chana Dal with Lauki: Lauki (known as Bottle Gourd in Hindi) is a zucchini-like vegetable easily available in Indian and Asian grocery stores. When I can’t find lauki, I typically substitute it with 1 cup of cubed zucchini cut in 1-inch chunks. Simply add it to the Instant Pot with the dal. The larger chunks hold their shape after cooking.
  2. Palak Dal: Palak is the Hindi term for spinach. After pressure cooking and pressure release, remove the lid and turn on Saute. Stir in 2 cups chopped baby spinach and simmer 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach wilts. Add lemon juice and garnish with cilantro.
 
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates. If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

Nutrition

Calories: 191kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 474mg | Potassium: 89mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 208IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Chana Dal, Chana Dal Recipe, Instant Pot Chana Dal
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HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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