Here’s a simple, everyday Pakistani Chana Dal (split chickpea) recipe made quick and easy in the Instant Pot. This is a no-soak (unless you want to!), dump-and-go recipe with a simple tadka (tempering) of cumin seeds, onions, garlic, and chili pepper. Creamy and flavorful with only 15 minutes of hands-on time!
A spotlight search on my Mac for the words ‘chana dal’ yields 7 different recipe results. It’s one of those dals I’ve tried many different versions of, whether for variety or just to get closer to “the best”.
This recipe for Instant Pot Pakistani Chana Dal is one I’ve fretted and fussed over quite a bit. I wanted a recipe that takes almost no effort to make except for a simple tadka and garnishing, yet still has depth in flavor. This is a forgiving recipe so feel free to adapt it to taste & ingredients!
What is Chana Dal?
Chana dal, also called split chickpeas (garbanzo beans), yellow split peas, or split yellow gram, is a type of dal that’s very popular in Pakistani and Indian cuisine.
Though ‘chana‘ dal directly translates to ‘chickpea‘ dal, these chickpeas are a different variety than the ones we’re used to in America. Instead of a thin layer of skin, yellow split chickpeas have a dark outer skin, which is removed (husked) and then split in half.
In Pakistani cuisine, there’s a dry, ‘dhaba (roadside) style’ chana dal which is eaten with roti or naan, and then there’s the everyday chana dal which can be prepared in a myriad of ways and is served with both roti or rice.
Do you have to soak Chana Dal?
Pre-soaking helps beans and lentils become easier to cook and digest, so it’s a good idea to soak it if you’re concerned about that. Otherwise, you don’t have to soak chana dal. I’m terrible at soaking, and have developed this recipe to require no soaking so you can grab it and start prepping.
How to make Chana Dal in the Instant Pot
Traditionally, chana dal is cooked in a pot or pressure cooker, and then finished off with a tadka (tempering). I tried making this a one-pot Instant Pot recipe but I found I preferred it with the tadka at the end.
To make this chana dal in the Instant Pot, you simply:
- Dump the rinsed dal, water, tomato, and spices in the Instant Pot and Pressure Cook.
- Once it’s cooked, prepare the tadka. While the onions are browning, turn the Instant Pot to Low Sauté mode.
- Once the tadka is finished, add it to the chana dal.
- Simmer them both together to enhance creaminess and texture.
- Garnish and serve!
Adding Ginger to Dal
Ginger is often added to foods that are harder to digest to help aid in digestion. If you prefer not to garnish with julienned ginger, you can add crushed ginger along with garlic to the tadka, or omit it altogether.
Tea For Turmeric tips for making Pakistani Chana Dal in the Instant Pot
- Turn on your Instant Pot to Low Sauté while you’re preparing the tadka. That way, it can heat up and start reducing down before adding the tadka. If you add the tadka while the dal isn’t simmering, you’ll just have to cook it together longer (plus miss out on the sizzle).
- If your dal has been sitting around in the pantry for a long time, it may take longer to cook. If you soak it, it may take less time to cook depending on how long you soak it. I’d suggest cooking for at least 18 minutes regardless.
- Dals are often combined in Pakistani cuisine. Sometimes I add ¼ cup masoor dal to ½ cup chana dal.
- Depending on the type of chana dal you have, you may not need to pressure cook for the full 22 minutes in this recipe. If your dal needs less time, try decreasing the cooking time to 15 or even 10 minutes.
How to make this Pakistani Chana Dal on the stovetop?
I haven’t prepared this particular recipe on the stovetop, but I’ve cooked chana dal over the stovetop many times. Here’s what I suggest:
- Simply toss all the Instant Pot ingredients in a medium-size saucepan. Add 4 cups water and let it come to a boil over high heat. Discard any foam that rises to the surface.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Allow the dal to cook until tender (~1 hour), adding water if necessary. Then proceed with the tadka.
Chana Dal Serving Suggestions
Since this chana dal is creamy, and not too wet or dry, you can serve it with both rice or any type of bread such as roti or naan. Fresh, crunchy vegetables such as sliced onions, carrots, or cucumbers are ideal alongside dal to add crunch and texture. I also love serving this dal with achaar.
More Dal Recipes
Instant Pot Pakistani Chana Dal
- Instant Pot
To Pressure Cook
- 3/4 cup chana dal – yellow split chickpeas 160-165 g, rinsed several times and then drained*
- 2 cups water
- 1 small to medium tomato ~75-85 g, finely chopped
- 1 1/8 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp cumin powder
- ¼ tsp red chili powder or more to taste
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
For the Tadka (Tempering)
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- ¼ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ inch ginger julienned
- 2 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped
To Pressure Cook
- Add all the ingredients listed under ‘To Pressure Cook’ to the Instant Pot and mix to combine.
- Secure the lid and set valve to Sealing. Select the Manual/Pressure Cook setting and set time to 22 minutes** on High Pressure.
- Once dal is cooked, allow pressure to release for 5 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure.
- In a medium sauté pan, heat oil and ghee over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for a few seconds. Add the onions and sauté until they turn golden (~5-6 minutes).
- Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and set to Less to heat the dal.
- To the tadka, add the garlic and sauté until the raw smell disappears, about a minute. Add the green chili pepper and sauté for another minute.
- Transfer the tadka to the dal in the Instant pot. Continue to simmer on low Sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. Use a wooden spoon to mash dal against the edges to enhance texture.
- Add the garam masala and lemon juice and give it a stir. Top with the cilantro and ginger. Serve alongside achaar and chopped crunchy vegetables.