Masala Chana Dal – Spiced Split Grams

masala chana dal - spiced lentils

I have got to love my life surrounded with little girls, candy trees, unicorns and … and also some masala chana dal.

Lentils always have been and always will be the comfort food. The meaty, nutty chana dal is now competing with the red lentils in our home. The masoor or the red lentils had been the popular one, but now that my little one has changed her loyalties from red lentils to chana dal, we have been having this as often as the red lentils.

We call her the perpetual motion machine.

She is petite, picky and very silly, and will eat only a couple of tablespoon of the dal;

yet I make this for her just so she eats – something.

Here’s her split second of quiet, then she is up and spinning again.

The 6 year old decided to draw a candy tree when she was told to draw the life cycle ofΒ  a tree for homework. And once she decides on something, I have a tough time to lead her out of it.

Her “Unique” tree from her school book…

Finally after a little fun talk (and a big sigh of relief on my part), she decided on a lemon tree and the candy tree was left alone only for home. The imagination of children is what makes their world so different from ours.Β  And everyday I fear that the childhood in them is slipping away. Once before she had once asked me if we could go to fantasy land. When I asked her why she wanted to visit fantasy land she told me that her preschool teacher told her that Unicorns (her favorite animal) are not real and they live in fantasy land πŸ˜‰ I could not let her down. I told her may be some day we will go there, praying that this little magic stays with her forever. I know against my wish that she will soon discover the difference between the real and the fantasy world and there will be no visit! But by then, hopefully she forgets she ever wanted to visit the fantasy land.

masala chana dal

Her latest obsession is chana dal, and I guess I will keep making it until this healthy obsession/fascination lasts.

The chana dal has a lovely aroma and absorbs the flavors of the spices really well. Once it starts cooking and getting infused with the masala (the spice mix), you will breathe in the air with pleasure. And because of the hard to mess up texture unlike most other lentils, this is cooked byΒ  braising the lentils with the spice mix for a little while, just as you would do to with the meat. The whole spices and the fresh ginger adds a beautiful subtle flavor to this dish.

Masala Chana Dal

The Spring is here and so is the spring break. We have been looking forward to the break for a while and now that it is here I am starting to panic that it is going to be over soon. I will be away from the blog and anything related to the virtual world for a few days. We have plans to relax and rejuvenate and slow down.Β  Are you having a spring break too?

Masala Chana Dal – Spiced Split Grams

Ingredients: (serves 4-6 as a side)

  1. 1 + 1/4 cup chana dal/hulled & split bengal gram
  2. 2 tablespoon ghee or oil
  3. 1 green cardamom
  4. 1 inch cinnamon stick
  5. 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  6. a generous pinch of hing/asafoetida *
  7. 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  8. 1 tablespoon chili garlic paste Or (3/4 tablespoon garlic paste + 1 teaspoon red chili powder)
  9. 4 tablespoon tomato paste + 3/4 cup water or 1 cup grated fresh juicy tomato
  10. salt to taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  12. 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  13. 1 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
  14. 1 teaspoon slivered fresh ginger, (cut into paper thin slices after peeling the ginger)
  15. fresh cilantro/coriander + some thinly sliced green chili pepper for garnish
  16. fresh lemon juice to finish it off right before serving

  17. * Note:
    If you do not find the asafoetida, it is okay to do without it.

    Any other kind of lentils may be made into “Masala Lentils” in the same way.


Wash lentils until water runs clear. Soak in enough water to cover the lentils. This is an optional thing to do, but the lentils will cook faster if they are soaked.

Heat oil in a deep saucepan or pressure cooker if you will use one. Add the cardamom and the cinnamon sticks. When they just start to sizzle add the cumin seeds and the hing/asafoetida. When the cumin sizzles and the hing is fragrant add the chopped onion and cook in high heat until the onion starts to get golden on the edges and starts getting clear.

Combine chili garlic paste, salt, coriander powder, turmeric and chili powder if you are using with the tomato paste and 3/4 cup of water (or grated tomato). Add the mix to the pan and cook on high heat while occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan so it does not stick. Cook for 3-5 minutes in medium to high heat, making sure the mix at the bottom of the pan does not start to burn. So give it a stir once in a while. When the oil starts to separate and most of the water has evaporated reducing the mix, drain the lentils and add it to the pan. Toss everything well and cook for 6-8 minutes in medium heat stirring and scraping frequently, allowing the spice mix to coat and infuse the lentils.

Add 4-5 cups of water (depending in how soupy you want the lentils to be), cover and cook (or cook in the pressure cooker or slow cooker) until the lentils are tender but not mushed. They should still be whole and have a tender but good bite to it. (Adjust water to as dry or as soupy as you would want it. )

When cooked, uncover and add the fresh ginger, cilantro, chili pepper and fresh lemon juice.

Serve hot with rice or flat bread or any crusty bread.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: approx. an hour without pressure cooker & 15 minutes cooked in a pressure cooker

Serves: 4-6 as a side

Serving suggestions: as a sideΒ  or as a soup

Masala Chana Dal - spiced lentils

For Indian FoodPalooza By Prerna, Barbara and Kathy

Related Posts:

Tomato Dal – Seasoned Lentils with Tomatoes

Masala Mung Wadi- Lentil Drops in Garlic Tomato Sauce

Dhoka – Fried Lentil Cakes

Bhaja Muger Dal/Roasted Mung Soup

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33 comments to Masala Chana Dal – Spiced Split Grams

  • Oh, how I love masala chana dal! I have tried it in most of the curryhouses we have been to here in London (and there are quite a few LOL!!) and just can’t get enough of it. I really need to start making my own… We are lucky that the huge grocery store near us has a big World Food section and we can always get the yellow split lentils so I really have no excuse! And I agree totally on letting kids hang on to childhood as long as they can…

  • That chana dal looks so comforting and tasty! I love that kind of spicy food that uplifts your soul.

    Your daughter is so cute! What a impish looking girl. πŸ˜‰



  • Just looks perfect… Iove that it is spicy and comforting!!!
    Your lil one is just so adorable.. I esp like the pic where she is closing her eyes and smiling πŸ™‚

  • Must be so much fun with two girls. I have a girl and I cannot wait to do stuff with her! Mine is too the PMM. Hyper and so restless.
    The channa dal looks so good. I would love that with a methi paratha.

  • Comfort!!! V loves daa! He can have it any day will make it soon πŸ™‚ BTW lovely picture of ur daughter n her candy tree! I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to have my own dairy milk tree…LOL
    Ur daughter is beautiful πŸ™‚

  • One of my all time favorite dals!! Beautiful pics as always πŸ™‚

  • Deepa

    Yummy looking chana dal. Must have tasted great.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  • Very simple and comforting dal, Loved ur clicks and ur cute little girl

  • That bowl does looks yum,.wish ya happy weekend

  • Loved reading about your daughters’ stories! Daughters are just so much fun!
    Channa dal looks yum! Will make it for my daughter and see how she likes it πŸ™‚

  • s

    really mazedaar, Soma. love all the photos. i think when it comes to a mother-daughter relationship , that fantasy world never ends- i still feel like a little girl when i talk to my Ami. may mothers have a very, very long life. your daughter is so cute, touchwood. x s

  • This looks really delicious. I love all the spices along with the chili garlic paste. Beautiful photos.

  • Your daughters are so beautiful Soma, God bless! And yea, dal’s comfort food for me too. Mostly I do red lentils; tuvar and chana once in a while.

  • Lovely and cute..that’s her !! (same age I have a girl here too)

    Wow what dal curry there Soma..You keep on torturing with the clicks…Too yum to resist !

  • Gorgeous looking Dal Soma..
    May this healthy craving spell last as long as possible πŸ™‚
    Wish my picky little girl craves for healthy food too..

  • love the pictures and love your daughter in perpetual motion!:) daal with some masalas is just such a staple..!

  • Well she’s chosen something quite tasty and healthy to be obsessed with, good for her!

  • Kaushiki

    God Bless the little one…and must tell you the moment I read this post I want to have luchi with begun bhaja and cholar dal…ahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa yum yum

  • Sounds really lovely! I like channa dal a lot and must really try this one!

  • This looks really very healthy and delicious too….thanx dear 4 sharing this…

  • E’ sempre bello ed interessante passare a trovervi

  • I have to say this dal is my love…
    God you have made is so well, love the recipe!!!
    Your daughter is adorable!!!!

  • Beautiful post! I too wonder how quickly the childhood and innocence keeps slipping away and the questions about unicorns and fairy and magic all disappears. But we can have fun till it is there and keep it alive and their minds energized by these simple magical joys! BTW I loved your recipe of chana dal and in our house red lentils are still doing their rounds.

  • Such a lovely post Soma and your daughter is a darling. And you should be proud of her obsession πŸ™‚

  • Just made this for the husband and son, they loved it! I was kinda surprised that my twelve year old ate it, in the past he’s told me lentils make him sneeze and/or they taste like mud, but he scraped his bowl clean. Excellent recipe with easy to follow instructions, thank you!

    I am delighted that you tried this dish out and loved it too! Thank you so much.

  • […] from: Masala Chana Dal and Punjabi Chana […]

  • I love chana dals, it’s one of my favourite meals. I love Pakistani/Indian cuisine, I think it is amazinglt tasty. Orange chicken along with aloo keema are my favourites. As well as chana dals, of course. Great pictures, thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • Jean

    Just tried this recipe. DELISH! Didn’t have a tomato, so I used a can of Rotel and I added some fresh spinach. Really, really good.
    Thank You!

  • Laura

    Hi ECurry, I love that spoon in the picture. where can I get one. so beautiful. Thank you for the recipe. I really like your blog.

    Thank you. Do you mean the spoon with the curvy end? That is from World Market.

    – Soma

  • sailaja

    Thanks so much, I made a delicious chole masala =)

  • Sarah in NZ

    I’ve had a bag of chana dal sitting in my cupboard for months, and I finally got around to trying this recipe. It was the most beautifully flavoured dal I’ve ever cooked! I tweaked it a little, stirring through a bag of baby spinach leaves at the end of cooking for a bit more vege, and I used a cup of tinned tomatoes, crushed up with the back of a spoon, rather than freshly grated ones. I also added black salt along with regular sea salt for a different flavour – perhaps some non-traditional tweaking but delicious nevertheless πŸ˜‰ Served with yogurt and a warm cherry tomato salad with fresh garlic and black mustard seeds, and homemade millet and buckwheat flatbread (I’m gluten free). We oooohed and ahhhhed our way through this meal and I’ll be coming back to it again and again…Thanks so much for wonderful inspiration and a lovingly-crafted, delicious recipe!

  • I use a similar recipe, but instead of adding the soaked daal to the masala , I add boiled and already cooked soft daal to the masala. This takes away the worry of daal getting stuck to the pan and end up getting burnt.

  • Ali

    can i cook this dish on low flame instead of high.
    because i m not good cook whenever i cook dishes on high flame they burnt..:(

    Yes you can:)

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