A Chana Pulao (Chickpea Pulao) recipe that promises full flavor, tender chickpeas, and fluffy rice. This recipe takes 20 minutes of initial prep time but it’s tasty and elegant enough to serve as main dish for guests. Includes Stovetop and Instant Pot instructions! Tested to Perfection!

Top view of Chana Pulao in a Dutch Oven garnished with cilantro with a bowl of raita on the side.

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“I tried it out and it is THE BEST channa Pulao I ever made. I recaptured the taste of my time in Pakistan and brought back childhood memories to me. Simply awesome! Thank you so much for this recipe.”

Zainab

About 5 years ago, I published the Instant Pot version of this Chana Pulao recipe and since then, I’ve gotten many requests for the stovetop version.

My standard answer has been to make the onion base, then cook it how you would ordinarily cook rice, but this doesn’t suffice for two reasons:

  1. You’ll need more water, because unlike the water-releasing frozen peas of Matar Pulao or meats in Yakhni Pulao, chickpeas actually soak up water.
  2. Because of the extra water + the water-absorbing chickpeas, you’ll need more salt.

So here I am, 5 years later with a proper, fail-safe stovetop Chana Pulao complete with tips for getting your Pulao rice all fluffy and separate.

Chana Pulao

Chana Pulao, or Chickpea Pilau, is made in one-pot with whole spices and aromatics. The taste is subtle, yet earthy and rich. The keys to a beautiful Chana Pulao, or any pulao really, are to:

  • Use a bit of ghee or butter.
  • Deeply brown the onions.
  • Add a balanced amount of whole spices, and a generous amount of salt.
  • Cook the rice to perfection.
Partially eaten bowl of Chana Pulao with raita dolloped on top.

History and Origins

It’s said that chickpeas (garbanzo beans) were introduced to India two centuries ago from the Silk Road. This is probably why they’re often called ‘Kabuli‘ Chanay, noting Kabul, Afghanistan as the place from which they were introduced. I assume cooks started using them in all sorts of recipes such as Chana Masala, Punjabi Chole, and Pulao, which was brought over much earlier by the Moghuls.

More Pulao Recipes: Yakhni Chicken Pulao, Mutton (Goat/Lamb) Pulao, Matar Pulao (Peas Pulao), Instant Pot Chicken Pulao

Ingredients

All pantry items. Here’s all you’ll need:

Chana Pulao Ingredients
  • Canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans): Good quality canned chickpeas are worth it here. Progresso or Bush’s are my favorites.
  • Garlic + Ginger: Aromatics to deepen flavor.
  • Whole spices: You’ll need classic pulao spices such as a bay leaf, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin seeds, and black cardamom.
  • Onion: I’ve used yellow onion here but red onion works just as well.
  • Oil: Provides fluidity for browning onions to their proper degree and carries flavor.
  • Ghee: A pulao essential. You can substitute with butter or replace with more oil to keep it dairy-free.
  • Basmati rice: I use Royal’s Chef’s Secret, aged, long-grain basmati rice. Any aged, long-grained basmati will work. More on rice below.
  • Green chili pepper: In the newer version, I’ve added an optional green chili (I usually use Serrano) for aroma and a gentle kick. This isn’t a requirement, especially if you’re serving with something spicy.
  • Cilantro: Another optional ingredient, for a pleasant garnish.

How to Make Chana Pulao

You can make this on the Stovetop, Instant Pot, and even a rice cooker. Instructions for all three methods are in the recipe card.

Here are the stovetop step-by-step directions:

Prep Rice

  1. Wash and soak rice before you start cooking so it has time to absorb some water. This makes it softer and fluffier.
Basmati rice soaked in water in a bowl.

Make the Onion Base

  1. Brown onions. In all pulaos, the onions will deepen the flavor and determine the color of your rice. It’s important to be patient with them, stir frequently, and deglaze the pan to help them brown evenly.
    Note: Though the onions are diced in the pictures, usually they’re thinly sliced in Pulaos. For larger-sized onions, quarter them before slicing so they’re not too stringy.
  1. Add the garlic, ginger, green chili pepper (if using), and whole spices and sauté for 2 minutes, until aromatic.

Cook the Rice

  1. Stir in the drained chickpeas and salt, then pour in the water. While the water comes to a boil, drain the rice well so you’re not adding any excess water. Add the rice to the boiling water. Stir well to evenly distribute the salt.
  2. Simmer with a partially covered lid: In Pulaos, you gently simmer the rice until most of the water has absorbed or evaporated, and then turn the heat down for a final steam, or dum. Keep the heat on medium or medium-low so that it simmers, but doesn’t aggressively boil. I partially cover with the lid to give the long grains time to soak up the liquid as it cooks off.
    • If most of the water hasn’t absorbed in the time indicated, then completely uncover to allow quicker evaporation.
    • If the water is cooking off too quickly, lower the heat and/or sprinkle in 2 tbsp water to give the top layer of rice moisture.
  1. Tip: While you’re bringing everything back up to a boil, this is a good time to do a final salt test, as the rice has absorbed some of the salt.
  2. Steam the rice so it cooks gently and evenly to doneness. Keep reading for more in-depth instructions on steaming!
  • Workflow Tip: This steaming stage is the perfect time to whip up some raita!
Chana Pulao in a Dutch Oven.

3 Essential Rice Tips

Here are a few tips to ensure fluffy, separated rice grains, every time.

#1: Know your rice

  • Rice to water ratio: To cook 1 cup of basmati rice, most people use anywhere between 1.5 to 2 cups of water. 1.5 cups of my rice (Royal Chef’s Secret Extra Long) needs 3 cups to cook on the stovetop.
  • If you cook rice often, use your usual ratio. So if you normally use 1.5 cups of water per 1 cup of rice, use 2 1/4 cup broth for 1.5 cups of rice. Again, keep in mind that chickpeas absorb water and you don’t have any tomatoes or ingredients to provide additional moisture (though you’re welcome to add!).
Top view of Chana Pulao in a Dutch Oven garnished with cilantro with a bowl of raita on the side.

#2: Do Not Disturb

  • Avoid stirring while cooking: Once the rice starts cooking, just let it be. Stirring runs the risk of breaking the rice kernels and interfering with the buildup of heat.
  • Let it rest even after steaming: Keep the lid on even after you’ve turned off the heat. This final rest helps the rice absorb any remaining moisture and prevents the rice kernels from sticking together.
  • Gently stir after cooking: The only reason to stir cooked rice is because resting the rice too long can make it clumpy or stick to the bottom. Use a rice paddle (not a fork) to fluff gently.
Holding a spoonful of Chana Pulao over a pot.

#3: Steam to Perfection

  • How to know it’s ready to steam: When most of the water from the surface has absorbed or evaporated and you begin to see something like potholes forming in the top layer of the rice (see video!), it’s ready for a final steam.
  • Cover the bottom of lid with a cloth: I use old kitchen linens or a cotton cloth. The goal is to contain the steam while absorbing any extra moisture that could otherwise lead to soggy rice.
  • Lastly, relax: Remember, if you’ve given your rice enough time to cook, even if you steam a little too soon or a little too late, you’ll be fine. There’s plenty of room for error in the steaming with cloth + resting method.
Chana Pulao on a plate garnished with raita and cilantro ready to eat.

How to Double the Recipe

With all pulao recipes, to double:

  • Double all the ingredients, including whole spices and water.
  • Use a larger pot (8-10.5 qt).
  • Increase the sauté and simmer times by 2-3 minutes.
Close up of Chana Pulao garnished with cilantro.

What to Serve with Chana Pulao

  • Pairing: I usually serve Chana Pulao with various Kababs or Aloo ki Tikki, but just about any type of meaty or saucy main dish would pair well.

More Rice Recipes

Partially eaten plate of Chana Pulao with raita and garnished with cilantro.

Tried this recipe? If you have a minute, please consider leaving a comment telling me how it was! If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. I truly love hearing from you. Thank you!

Chana Pulao in a Dutch Oven garnished with cilantro.
4.96 (65 ratings)

Chana Pulao (Chickpea Pilaf) – 20-minute prep!

A Chana Pulao (Chickpea Pulao) recipe that promises full flavor, tender chickpeas, and fluffy rice. This recipe takes 20 minutes of initial (pre-rice cooking) prep time but it’s tasty and elegant enough to serve as main dish for guests. Includes Stovetop and Instant Pot instructions! Tested to Perfection!

Watch the Video

Ingredients 

  • 1 ½ cups (~275 g) aged long grain basmati rice
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado
  • 1 tbsp ghee, sub butter, or oil to keep it dairy-free
  • 1 (~150-200 g) medium onion, thinly sliced – quarter, then slice if your onion is on larger side
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/3 inch piece ginger, crushed
  • 1/2-1 Serrano or Thai green chili pepper, sliced lengthwise or finely chopped for more heat – optional
  • 2 small bay leaves, or 1 large
  • 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1- inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp (1 1/2 tsp heaped for Instant Pot) sea salt/table salt, or to taste
  • 3 cups (2 cups for Instant Pot) water
  • finely chopped cilantro, optional – for garnish

Equipment

  • Nonstick Dutch Oven (or Instant Pot)

Instructions 

Stovetop

  • Wash rice: Place the rice in a small bowl and gently wash the rice until the water runs mostly clear. Soak in water and set aside while you proceed with the recipe.
  • Heat oil and ghee in a nonstick Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring often, until golden brown (~10 minutes). The onions will determine the color of the pulao so you want them deeply and evenly golden-brown. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup water. Once the water dries up, add all the garlic, ginger, green chili pepper (if using), and whole spices and sauté for 2 minutes, until aromatic.
  • Add the drained chickpeas and salt and stir to combine. Pour in the water.
  • Increase the heat to high and cover to bring to a boil. Meanwhile, drain the rice thoroughly. Once the water comes to a boil, add the drained rice and stir gently to mix. Taste the broth. It should taste saltier than you prefer because it’ll mellow out once rice is cooked. If it's not, add a bit more salt.
  • Cover to bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low. Cover partially with the lid. Allow to gently simmer, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. The water level will reduce and the rice will rise to the surface. (See Note 1.)
  • Steaming (‘Dum’): Layer the lid with a kitchen cloth or tea towel and seal tightly. Allow the pulao to develop steam for a few seconds. You’ll be able to feel the steam escaping from the sides of the pan.
  • Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and allow it to cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow it to rest for another 10-15 minutes. (Do not peek or stir throughout this process.)
  • Use a rice paddle to gently lift the rice from the edges and fluff. Transfer onto a serving tray (or your plate!). Garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve with veg raita, mint raita, or plain yogurt.

Instant Pot

  • Wash rice: Place the rice in a small bowl and gently wash the rice until the water runs mostly clear. Soak in water and set aside while you proceed with the recipe.
  • Turn Instant Pot to high Sauté Mode. Once hot, add the oil, ghee, and thinly sliced onion. Sauté, stirring often, until the onions are golden, about 8-10 minutes. The color of the onions will determine the color of the rice so you want to get them even and golden.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, and green chili pepper (if using) and sauté for another minute or until the raw smell disappears. Deglaze the pan with 2 tbsp of water and continue to sauté.
  • Add the whole spices and drained chickpeas and stir to combine.
  • Drain the soaked rice and add it to the Instant Pot along with 2 cups of water and salt. Mix gently and press down the rice and chickpeas so that they are submerged in the water. Taste the water – it should be saltier than you would normally prefer. If it's not, add a bit more salt.
  • Cancel sauté. Cover and pressure-cook on high for 6 minutes. Let naturally release for 15 minutes. Use a rice paddle to gently lift the rice from the edges and fluff. Transfer onto a serving tray (or your plate!). Garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve with veg/cucumber raita, mint raita, or plain yogurt.

Notes

Note 1: I like to partially cover with the lid to give the long grains time to soak up the liquid as it cooks off.
  • If most of the water hasn’t absorbed in the time indicated, then completely uncover to allow quicker evaporation.
  • If it’s cooking off too quickly, lower the heat and/or sprinkle in 2 tbsp water to give the top layer of rice moisture.
See post for more Essential Rice Tips.
-To make this in a rice cooker – Prepare the onion/chickpea mixture in a saucepan and transfer it to a rice cooker along with the drained rice and 3 cups water. Cook on regular rice setting. For more tips, check out How to Cook Basmati Rice in Rice Cooker.
Calories: 463kcal, Carbohydrates: 75g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 10mg, Sodium: 1025mg, Potassium: 291mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 16IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 75mg, Iron: 2mg

This is an update of my Instant Pot Chana Pulao recipe that was originally published in October of 2018. Since then, it’s been updated with stovetop instructions, plus new pictures and video!

Easy Instant Pot Chana Pulao