Instant Pot Chana Dal


Simple, nutty chana dal made in an instant pot!

instant pot chana dal

I was going to start this post by telling you how much my 10-month-old loves this chana dal, but earlier today I caught him trying to eat a crumpled piece of paper that had fallen on the floor and so I decided that perhaps my crawling infant’s approval isn’t necessarily the best litmus test for whether a dish is tasty.

That said, my older son, who is three-years-old, genuinely enjoys this dal (and most of my other dal recipes). But… he also thinks his father is a master chef for his ability to stick sliced cheese in a tortilla. So I’m not sure whether my toddler’s approval makes for a great endorsement either. (FYI, I am not above putting cheese in a tortilla and calling it a day. I am however resentful that my husband got a “wow, good job daddy!” for what I consider a pretty lackluster quesadilla).

So… how can I prove to you that this chana dal will be a hit? Maybe just take my word for it?

instant pot chana dal


Chana dal is a soup made with split desi chickpeas, also known as bengal gram (read this post to learn about lentils used in Indian cooking).

Split legumes (like red lentils or toor dal) typically melt into soup but chana dal, though it softens, maintains its shape. It gives dal texture and adds a nice nutty flavor to a dish.

instant pot chana dal


If you are not familiar with onion masala, then you must be new to the blog – welcome! I like you already.

What’s onion masala? It’s a magical sauce that makes cooking flavorful Indian food so much faster. Having this masala handy allows you to skip the time-consuming step of sauteing onions and tomatoes. It really is a game-changer for those of us who love Indian cuisine.

If you have this masala ready to go, you’ll just need to toast cumin seeds in hot oil and then dump the rest of the ingredients listed below into an instant pot and cook. That’s it.

I have several recipes on my blog that call for this masala and you can also always make up a dish of your own.

instant pot chana dal

Serve this chana dal with plain basmati rice or jeera rice. And then be sure to try another one of my many lentil recipes!

instant pot chana dal

Instant Pot Chana Dal

instant pot chana dal

Instant Pot Chana Dal

4.93 from 14 reviews
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  • 1 cup chana dal soaked 1 hour
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 serrano pepper slit in half but still intact
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup frozen onion masala
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • teaspoon cayenne or red chili powder to taste
  • Cilantro garnish


  • Soak the dal for 1-2 hours, drain and rinse.
  • Press the sauté button, add oil and allow it to heat up for a minute. Add cumin seeds and serrano pepper to the pot. Once the cumin seeds begin to brown, add the remaining ingredients to the pot. 
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 12 minutes at high pressure. 
  • Naturally release pressure or wait 15 minutes, then release pressure. 
  • Adjust salt to taste and add more liquid if you’d like a thinner dal. 
  • Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!
Did you make this recipe?Tag @myheartbeets on Instagram and hashtag it #myheartbeets!

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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. Linda says

    What is green (Desi) chana dal? And can I use it in the same way the other chana dals? Or are they just meant for sprouting? I’m making a one pot cauliflower dal.

  2. Heather says

    5 stars
    This has become our weekly dinner rotation staple. If I forget to soak the dal I cook it for 14 minutes instead of 12. I infer to my family that it’s complex and takes time so they appreciate it even more 🙂

  3. Jennifer R says

    5 stars
    I’m making this dish for the first time tonight — our Meatless Monday. Every recipe I’ve tried from your blog is amazing — the onion masala is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. I found a local Indian grocery that delivers, so I got some amazing ingredients for many dishes.

  4. Ann says

    5 stars
    I have been having a wonderful time making all of my favorite Indian recipes at home. This one made my mouth so happy as the flavor and texture were exactly what I was looking for. I was a bit surprised to see how much of the water the dal absorbed as it cooled, but I just thinned it out before eating at a later point and it was still great. I am currently making another batch that my husband MIGHT get to try. Thank you for sharing.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Ann, that’s so great to hear! I’m glad you liked the chana dal 🙂 And yes, some dals do thicken up quite a bit (wait until you use masoor dal or toor dal, lol). Hope your husband enjoys this too – if he gets to try it haha!

  5. Donna Piasetzki says

    5 stars
    Thank you for sharing your excellent recipes. The onion masala was a game changer. I have always liked dal, but now I absolutely love it.

  6. Anika Fassia says

    Hi! I want to make this for my twin toddlers tomorrow aka #ihavenotime so I’m wondering if I can make rice at the same time? Do you have a standard protocol for how to do rice in pot recipes for stuff like this?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Anika, so sorry for the late reply! To cook rice at the same time, I’d put a trivet into the dal, then put rice and water in an oven-safe container on top of the trivet (this is called pot-in-pot). The only thing is that this dal calls for a longer cook time than I usually do for rice, so I’d trying this with rinsed rice rather than soaked – perhaps that’ll prevent the rice from overcooking? I haven’t tried this so I can’t say for sure but it’s what I’d do.

  7. Shelly says

    Hi! My Indian- American family loves your recipes! I was wondering if there’s a reason you suggest cooking the dal with 2.5 cups of water and thinning it after cooking instead of using more water to start with? As in, does it make a difference to softness of the lentils, cook time, etc if we start with more water? Thanks!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Shelly! That’s great to hear 🙂 The only reason I suggest that amount is because you can always add more water later to make it soupier but if you prefer a thicker dal, it’s harder to thicken when you start with more water upfront. Hopefully that makes sense! Also, the less water you use, the quicker the pot will reach pressure – thereby slightly decreasing the overall time it takes to make this. If you know you prefer your dal with more water, you can always add that at the start.

  8. Natalie says

    5 stars
    yummy! the onion masala was a game changer – the depth of flavour was amazing, particularly compared to previous curries I’d made in the instant pot. also a bit watery when I first took the lud off but easily thickened. thanks, a new favourite!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Natalie, that’s great to hear! Thanks for letting me know how the onion masala and chana dal turned out for you 🙂 Can’t wait to hear what else you make with the masala!

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