This easy chana dal recipe made in the instant pot is tasty and nutritious. It tastes amazing with plain rice as well as Indian breads like roti or wholewheat naan. Serve this no soak, vegan dal with a fresh salad on the side for a simple and wholesome meal.
Want to make your meal even tastier? Pair the chana dal with some curried vegetables or sabzi. This mixed vegetable curry or this aloo gobi goes very well with dal. Oh, and these stuffed green peppers would also be great with it.
If you like lentils, you've got to try this curried chana dal. These lentils are made from husked and split brown chickpeas (kala chana) and have a distinctly nutty taste. Add some fresh ginger, garlic and spices and finish it off with an onion and cumin tadka (tempering), and this humble dal transforms into a flavorful, creamy curry that tastes so good with wholewheat naan, rice or a sabzi of your choice!
Why make chana dal in the instant pot?
The instant pot makes it all so easy to do. I've stopped cooking it on the stovetop because pressure cooking it simplifies the process so much. For one, you don't need to soak the dal. I mean, it's a real discovery for people like me who forget to soak their dal but still want to make it when they want to make it. And what's more, I noticed NO difference from the soaked dal. Isn't that cool?
Cooking this dal in the instant pot also saves time. If you cook the same amount of dal in a saucepan, it takes longer to cook and soften. More than an hour, to be precise. Plus you cannot leave it and forget about it 'cause the water is all going to evaporate or boil over if you turn away. So, it's just easier to make use of the pressure cooker for making dals that take a long time to cook, like this one. Just sayin'.
Note: Exact amounts are mentioned in the recipe card further down.
FOR COOKING THE DAL
FOR TEMPERING THE DAL AFTER IT IS COOKED
- Cooking oil
- Onion, sliced
- Cumin seeds
- Green chillies
- Cilantro (optional)
How to make the perfect instant pot chana dal
Time needed: 45 minutes.
How to make chana dal in the instant pot
- Add all the ingredients except the lentils to your instant pot.
Tip in the cooking oil and when it is hot, add the onions, ginger and garlic, tomatoes, and ground spices (coriander, red chilli, turmeric and garam masala). Cook this mixture for 8-10 minutes or until the oil leaves the sides and the mixture loses its raw smell.
- Add the chana dal, water, and salt and pressure cook.
The water should be exactly double the amount of dal. In this recipe, I used 1.5 cups dal, so I put in 3 cups water. Pressure cook for 20 minutes to get soft dal that still holds its shape. If you want even softer dal, increase the pressure cooking time to 25 minutes.
- Temper the dal.
Take a small frypan and add the cooking oil. Add the sliced onion and cumin seeds and sauté on medium heat until the onions turn reddish-brown. Then add slit green chillies and carefully pour this tempering into the prepared dal. Garnish with some chopped cilantro if you wish to. Instant pot chana dal is ready to be served.
Frequently Asked Questions
You bet! It is a good source of vegetarian protein, rich in fibre and folates. For more info on how and why these lentils are good for you, check out this article on the benefits of chana dal.
Absolutely. Chana dal is made from husked and split brown chickpeas which are 100% gluten-free. Skip the bread and have it with white or brown rice for a complete gluten free meal.
Yes! You really don't need to soak the dal unless you want to. Even without soaking, the dal turns out very soft and creamy.
Chana dal can cause a little bloating if not cooked properly or with the right mix of ingredients. To counter this, we cook it until soft and add some minced ginger while cooking it. You can also garnish the dal with ginger juliennes once it's cooked to increase the amount of ginger in the recipe. Doing these things makes it easy to digest.
Yes, adding hing (asafoetida) to the dal does improve digestion. However, hing will also make it unsuitable for those on a gluten-free diet. If you don't care about this, go right ahead and add a pinch of hing to the dal while cooking it. Hing is easily available as a powder in all Indian groceries and can be ordered online too.
More Instant Pot Dal Recipes
- Maash Dal - Split and skinned black gram lentils in a thick tomato sauce tempered with ginger, green chillies and mint.
- Whole Masoor Dal - Brown lentils with a savory, earthy taste.
- Dal Makhani - Smooth and creamy black lentils plus kidney beans cooked in tomatoes, spices, butter and cream.
Want even more Indian vegetarian recipes made in the instant pot? Check out this collection: Instant Pot Indian Vegetarian Recipes.
Instant Pot Chana Dal
- 2 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 onion small, diced
- 1 teaspoon ginger minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 1 tomato medium, chopped
- ½ tablespoon coriander pd
- 1 teaspoon chilli pd
- 1 teaspoon turmeric pd
- ¼ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 ½ cups chana dal split chickpeas, rinsed
- 3 cups plain water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 onion small, sliced fine
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 green chillies slit
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro optional
- Turn on your instant pot to sauté and add the cooking oil to the steel insert. When it becomes hot, add the onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, and powdered spices (coriander, red chilli, turmeric, and garam masala). Cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes, adding splashes of water to prevent the masala from burning. The masala is cooked when the raw smell goes and the oil comes to the surface. Cancel sauté.
- Add the rinsed chana dal, water and salt and stir. Secure the lid and make sure the steam release vent is sealed. Press the pressure cooking button on high and set the timer for 20 minutes.
- When the timer beeps, wait for 5 minutes before releasing the steam. Open the pot and stir the dal. Check for consistency. If it is too thick, you can add ½ cup water and cook it on saute for 2-3 minutes.
- For the tempering, heat the cooking oil in a small frypan and add the onions and cumin seeds. When the onions turn a reddish-brown, add the green chillies. Pour this tempering carefully on the dal. Garnish with some chopped cilantro if using. Serve the dal with some bread or rice.
- Increase the cooking time by 5 minutes if you want even softer dal that breaks and mixes with the curry.
- While tempering the dal, keep stirring the onions to prevent them from burning. As soon as they turn a reddish-brown color, add the slit green chillies and pour immediately on the dal.
- Add a pinch of hing (asafoetida) to the dal before pressure cooking it. It is an optional ingredient, but it aids in digestion and is easily available in Indian grocery stores.
- Do not skip the ginger as it is another ingredient that makes the dal easy on the stomach.