‘Chana’ gana mana: 10 recipes that use the pulse

Feeling patriotic. Let’s have some dal, darl!

Reading Time: 7 minutes


It never ceases to amaze me how versatile some of the most traditional ingredients can be in Indian cuisine. Take the chana dal (Bengal gram) for instance. You probably eat it at least once a week in a regular everyday dal form with rice or roti.

Well, there are so many more recipes you can use – whip up an entrée with it in a cutlet form, or in a kebab by mixing it with meat or simply by itself; use it to make a condiment like a chutney; make a curry out of it by combining it with paneer or a vegetable; make dosa out of it; cook it with rice in a khichidi/biryani; convert it into a dessert-like burfi or pinni; or simply use it as a paratha filling.

Mmm, chana dahl-ing, you’re worthy of respect!

Chana Dal Tikki

  • 3 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 5-6 slices of bread
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp. chat masala
  • Salt to taste

For filling:

  • ¾ cup chana dal
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp green coriander, finely chopped
  • Green chillies to taste, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Red chilli powder to taste
  • ½  tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp chat masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying

Soak bread in water and then squeeze out. Mix with mashed potatoes. Add salt and chat masala and knead gently. Set aside. To prepare filling, cook dal, salt added, very lightly, till just done. Ensure the seeds remain whole and slightly crunchy. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add cumin seeds. When they begin to splutter, put in onions and sauté briefly. Add dal, coriander, chillies, garam masala and chat masala. Mix well to combine. Cool. To make tikkis (cutlets), take a small handful of potato dough and smoothen by rolling gently between your palms. Flatten somewhat and fill with a tsp of dal filling. Roll up edges and flatten gently. When all the cutlets are prepared thus, shallow fry on a hot tava or pan, till reddish brown on both sides. Serve hot with coriander-mint chutney.

READ ALSO: Kali Dal: Black gold

Chana Dal Kebabs

  • 2 cups chana dal
  • 3 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • Half a bunch fresh coriander
  • Green chillies to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • Red chilli powder to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp peanuts (optional)
  • Oil for deep frying

Wash and soak dal and then cook in water till 3/4th done. Drain, retaining half a cup of water. Grind dal to a very coarse mixture to make it look like meat mince (essentially these are dal-mince kebabs!) This is best done with a rolling pin, even though it is a laborious process. Add all other ingredients and the water in which the dal was cooked. Knead to a dough. Make cutlets of the dough and deep fry. (Alternately, you may shape them into long kebabs). Serve hot with tomato sauce or coriander-mint chutney.

Chana Dal Chutney


  • 3 tbsp chana dal
  • 2 tsp urad dal
  • Dry red chillies to taste
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Coriander leaves for garnish.

Fry the dals, red chillies, onion and curry leaves in some oil till light brown. Add tamarind and garlic and grind to a coarse paste. Heat oil, splutter mustard seeds and red chillies and add to the ground mixture. Garnish with coriander leaves.

chana dal recipes
Source: CanvaPro

Chana Dal Kerala Style

  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼  tsp grated ginger
  • ½  tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • Green chillies to taste
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • Salt to taste.

Mix together:

  • ½  tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds powder
  • ¼  tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼  tsp garam masala

Cook chana dal, salt added, till done. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and sauté onion till pink. Add ginger, garlic, curry leaves, green chillies and the mixed powders. Sauté till oil separates. Add one cup of water and bring to a boil. Then put in the cooked dal and half of the grated coconut. Mix well, and cook, covered, for about ten minutes. Add in the coconut milk and mix well to combine. Cook to the required consistency. Garnish with remaining grated coconut.

Bhuni Chana Dal aur Paneer

  • ½ cups chana dal
  • 250 gms paneer
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 dry red chillies, whole
  • 4 numbers black cardamom
  • 4 numbers cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ inch piece cinnamon
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Red chilli powder to taste
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Half a bunch of green coriander

Soak dal for about 3 hours. Prepare paneer by cutting up into cubes and deep-frying. Alternately, microwave briefly and cut up into cubes. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add in cumin, bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. When they begin to splutter, add in the onions and sauté. Add in garlic and ginger and sauté till brown. Put in the chopped tomatoes and stir. Add in salt, turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala and mix well. When well combined, put in tomato paste and half the fresh coriander; stir. Then introduce the chana dal and mix gently. Cover and cook till dal is nearly done. Add in the paneer at this stage and cook some more. Serve hot, garnished with the rest of the coriander. (You could omit the paneer and make bhuni dal by itself).

Chana Dal Uttappam

  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • ½ green capsicum, finely diced
  • ½ a bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • Green chillies to taste, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying.

This one is a relatively simple chana dal recipe. Soak chana dal for 3-4 hours. Grind to a smooth paste using as much water as required, and add salt. Mix together the chopped up veggies, coriander leaves and cumin seeds in a bowl. Heat the tava or a non-stick pan and grease with a little oil. Spread 2 tbsp of the chana dal batter evenly like a dosa. Sprinkle over this a tbsp of the vegetable mix. Cook briefly and then turn over gently, adding as much oil as required. Cook both sides till done. Serve with coriander-mint chutney.

Chana Dal Pulao

  • 1 ½ cups chana dal
  • 2 ½ cups long-grained rice
  • 5 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 numbers peppercorns
  • 6 numbers cloves
  • 3-4 numbers black cardamom
  • ½ inch piece cinnamon stick
  • Salt to taste

Soak dal for about 3 hours. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add cumin, bay leaf, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves. When they begin to splutter, add in the onions and cook till translucent. Introduce the soaked dal and sauté. Add in the rice and fry gently till both rice and dal are well coated with the oil. Then add the water and salt. Stir well and cook, covered, till done.

chana dal pulao and rice recipe
Source: CanvaPro

Chana Dal Biryani

  • 2 cups long-grained rice
  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • Green chillies to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp each coriander leaves and mint leaves
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 3 tbsp grated coconut
  • 10 numbers cashew nuts
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 numbers black cardamom
  • ½ inch piece cinnamon stick
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½  tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • A few strands saffron.

Soak dal for about 3 hours. Soak rice briefly and then cook till just done. Soak saffron in half cup warm milk. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and sauté half the chopped onion till brown. Add green chillies, ginger, garlic, herbs, poppy seeds, coconut and cashew nuts and sauté. Cool, and then grind to a paste using the remaining milk. Heat butter and put in cumin seeds, bay leaf, cardamom and cinnamon.

When they begin to pop, put in the remaining onion and fry till brown. Introduce the ground paste and fry briefly. Add turmeric powder, chana dal, salt, garam masala and enough water to cook the dal till just soft. Sprinkle cornflour over and cook for a minute. Turn off heat. Grease a heavy-bottomed oven dish and spread half the cooked rice in it. Spread the cooked chana dal over this. Top off with a third layer of remaining rice. Pour the saffron milk over the rice. Cover and cook in a moderate oven for about ten minutes. Serve garnished with fried cashew nuts.

Chana Dal Burfi

  • 250 gms chana dal
  • 4 tsp oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • A few strands saffron, soaked in a little milk
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 10 numbers cashew nuts, finely chopped.
chana dal burfi
Source: CanvaPro

Soak dal for about 3 hours. Drain. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and fry the dal well. Cool and grind to a paste. Mix sugar in one cup water and bring to a boil, then keep stirring to make a thick sugar syrup. Add in the chana dal paste and stir till combined well. Keep stirring till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Add in butter and mix well. Empty out onto a greased plate, sprinkle cashew nuts over and smoothen. Cool and cut into desired shapes.

Chana Dal Pinni

Pinni is a winter favourite in Punjab, rich in warmth-producing ingredients.

  • 1 kg chana dal
  • 3 ¾ litres milk
  • 750 gms castor sugar
  • 250-300 gms ghee
  • 125 gms khaskhas
  • 125 gms fresh grated coconut
  • 100 gms sultanas or raisins
  • 125 gms phool makhane (optional)
  • 100 gms melon seeds (optional)
  • 100 gms each cashew nuts, almonds and/or any other nuts, chopped.

Wash dal well and soak overnight in about 1 ¼  litres of milk. Grind to a coarse paste.
Put the remaining milk in a heavy-bottomed pan and add khaskhas and coconut. Bring to a boil and then keep stirring on low heat till the milk is completely reduced; cook till mixture is slightly browned. Remove from pan. Add in the ghee and the ground dal and cook till the raw smell disappears and the dal begins to come together like a halwa. Add the khaskhas-coconut mixture and sugar and cook till well-combined. Add in the nuts and raisins and mix well. Cool till easy to handle. Then grease your palms and roll small handfuls of mixture into balls. Spread out single file to cool fully and harden. Store in an airtight container.

READ ALSO: “Stop cooking curry”: when neighbours complain about ‘smelly’ Indian food

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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