A comforting warm bowl of Chana Dhal is a perfect meal choice, especially as it is naturally gluten-free and nutritious.

Although Dhal is usually mild in spiciness, you can up the heat if you like it spicier simply by adding more chilli or going the other direction, eliminating the chillies for children to enjoy Chana Dahl safely.

My recipe includes two different cooking methods, stove-top or high-pressure cooking. The latter is a popular cooking method in India for dahls as it cuts the time to cook the lentils significantly.

What is Chana Dhal?

Dhal (also spelt as dal, dall, daal or dahl) is the generic name for lentils in India, which are used to prepare a slow-cooked, vegetarian, creamy lentil curry combined with tempered spices known as Tarka in Hindi.

Chana dhal lentils are sold mainly at Indian or Asian supermarkets, however yellow split peas or Toor Dhal (aka split pigeon peas) can be substituted. As you can see in the photo below, they look very similar in appearance and taste slightly sweeter and “meatier” than other lentils.

What is Tarka?

Tarka is an infusion of hot oil or ghee with spices that are added to dhal and other Indian dishes either at the beginning or end of cooking time to give distinct flavours and aromas.

What is Garam Masala?

In Hindi, Garam means hot and Masala is a term used to refer to any sort of spice mix. It is said to have originated in Northern India where it was used during the cold winters for its warming properties. It is also used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, as it is known to warm the body and increase the metabolism. If you are new to Indian cookery, garam masala is an important spice blend to have on your spice shelf. It is a combination of ground roasted spices that has a mix of sweet, hot and savoury flavour and aromatic notes. Many Indian dishes require garam masala as a finishing touch for an authentic flavour. 

How do you eat Chana Dhal?

Like most curry dishes, Chana Dhal is typically served with rice and a flat bread like naans, doosas or parathas. The idea is to dip the bread in the dhal and scoop it out, similar to dunking a bread roll in a hot stew, but so much more rewarding if you like spices.

a bowl of chana dahl with some naans on the side

Chana Dhal (Slow-Cooked Lentil Curry)

by Sandra - Fun Without Gluten
Chana Dhal is an Indian slow-cooked, vegetarian, creamy lentil curry combined with tempered spices known as Tarka.
A comforting warm bowl of Chana Dhal is a perfect meal choice, especially as it is naturally gluten-free and nutritious.
No ratings yet
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Vegetarian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

CHANA DHAL

  • 230 g chana dhal or yellow split peas, washed and drained
  • litres water
  • 2 tbsp brown or coconut sugar
  • 1 fresh green chilli, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp  garlic, minced
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped finely, or
  • 300 ml tinned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp garam masala
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

TARKA (Tempering the Chana Dahl)

  • 2 tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 10 fresh or dried curry leaves (fresh is best)

Garnishing

  • 1 fresh green chilli, sliced
  • fresh coriander leaves, chopped coarsely or whole
  • 2 fresh green chillis, whole, to decorate

Instructions
 

CHANA DAHL

  • Wash and drain the chana dhal until the water runs clear. This may take three goes.
    Washing and draining the chana dhal

Stove-top method

  • In a large pot, bring the chana dhal to a boil in the measured water and remove any scum that appears on the surface.
    In a large pot, bringing the chana dhal to a boil and removing the scum
  • Cover, leaving the lid just slightly ajar, turn heat to low and simmer gently for approximately 90 minutes, until it is soft. Stir frequently during the last 30 minutes to prevent sticking. Add more water if the water level runs low and the dahl is still not soft enough.
  • Take the lid off and increase the heat to medium-high to allow some of the water to evaporate. The water should be just below the chana dhal.
  • Add the brown sugar, green chilli, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and salt. Mix well.
    Adding the brown sugar, green chilli, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and salt to the dahl.
  • Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes.

High-Pressure Cooking Method

  • Combine the chana dahl and water in the high-pressure cooker pot.
  • Close the lid and select 5 minutes on high-pressure mode.
  • Allow the high-pressure cooker to release pressure for around 10 minutes before removing the lid.
  • Add the brown sugar, green chilli, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and salt. Mix well.
  • Close the lid again and select 2 minutes on high-pressure mode.
  • Allow the high-pressure cooker to release pressure for around 5 minutes before removing the lid.

TARKA (Tempering the Chana Dahl)

  • In a small frying pan or pot, heat the ghee or oil until it starts to shimmer.
  • Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Allow to sizzle and pop for 10 seconds, shaking the pan.
  • Add the turmeric and chilli powder to the hot oil.

Garnishing

  • Ladle the chana dahl into a large serving bowl.
    The chana dahl served into a large serving bowl.
  • Immediately, stir the hot Tarka and add it to the chana dhal.
    Adding the Tarka to the chana dhal.
  • Pour the lemon juice over the chana dahl.
  • Sprinkle with garam masala, sliced green chillis (leave some whole as a decoration) and fresh coriander leaves.

Notes

  • Keeps for 3 days chilled
  • Suitable to freeze
 
Keyword gluten-free dahl, gluten-free healthy meals, gluten-free indian
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