Masala Chana Dal: Bengal Gram Lentil Curry

13 Sep

Chana dal (Bengal gram lentils) in a gloriously spiced curry, the kind one describes with epithets like "meal fit for a king".

You Need:

  • Chana Dal ((Bengal gram lentils) – 1 cup
  • Tomatoes – 2
  • Ginger – 1/2 inch stick
  • Garlic – 4 fat cloves
  • Green chili – 1
  • Coriander powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Cumin powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Amchoor (dried mango) powder – 1/3 teaspoon
  • Fenugreek powder – a pinch
  • Fennel powder – a pinch
  • Black pepper powder – a pinch
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch
  • Salt – to taste
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Cloves – 3
  • Cardamom – 1
  • Cinnamon stick – 1/2 inch
  • Raisins – 1 tablespoon
  • Ghee – 2 teaspoons
  • Fresh coriander leaves – a few sprigs
  • Fresh lemon juice – 1 teaspoon, adjust to taste


How To:

Wash chana dal well in a few changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak in 2 cups of water for an hour. Drain.


Chop tomatoes. Crush garlic, ginger and green chili into paste.

Heat ghee in a pressure cooker. [Be careful – ghee burns easily, do not let it smoke.] Add cloves, cardamom and bay leaf to hot ghee. Stir and add garlic, ginger and green chili paste. When the spice paste takes on a golden hue, add chopped tomatoes, salt, and all the dry masala powders: coriander, cumin, red chili, amchoor, fenugreek, fennel, black pepper, turmeric. Cook on medium heat for 5-6 minutes, or till the masala turns fragrant and the tomatoes mushy.

Add washed and drained chana dal to the spiced tomato masala and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Stir regularly so that the dal does not stick to the bottom of the cooker.


Add raisins and 1.5 cups of water, and bring the dal to a boil. Put on the lid of the pressure cooker, let it whistle, then lower the heat and cook for another 3 whistles.

Let the pressure cooker stand and release pressure naturally. Open the lid and smash the dal lightly. Add more water if you want the consistency runnier, adjust salt, and bring to another boil. Stir in fresh lemon juice and chopped fresh coriander leaves.


Serve masala chana dal piping hot alongside a bowl of cumin rice, raita and a vegetable dish like crispy green brinjal.


Raisins add a subtle hint of sweetness to the dal – as they get pressure-cooked, they burst open and infuse the curry with their flavor. Even if you don’t like your dals sweet, do give raisins in this recipe a try.

For a variation of a dry chana dal side dish, you might want to check out chana dal with raisins. For a vegetable-chana dal combo, have a go at nenua chana: sponge gourd with chana dal.

Feel free to adjust the spice mix proportions to your taste.

6 Responses to “Masala Chana Dal: Bengal Gram Lentil Curry”

  1. Saudamini September 19, 2013 at 6:19 PM #

    Easy and delicious recipe. Love your pics

    • S September 19, 2013 at 8:19 PM #

      Thank you Saudamini!

  2. mustardseed September 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM #

    What a delicious dal! I can imagine the divine smell while preparing this with all the spices that you have added. This is a must try for me!

    • S September 27, 2013 at 11:40 PM #

      Do try it…I’m sure you’ll like the actual as much as the imagined :-)

  3. Sevpuri Rocks November 10, 2013 at 6:15 AM #

    Tried this a few weeks back and now this is a weekly fave. My husband who is white amrikan ( I am desi) consumes this as if it is water. As it gets colder in our part of the US, this is a heartening and warming smell to come home to. I put everything in a slow cooker and up the mirchi. Absolutely mouth watering delicio!

    • S November 10, 2013 at 8:59 AM #

      Thanks for your lovely feedback, Sevpuri Rocks!

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