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, Ace, 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? Or check out some of the reviews it’s gotten. 😉

“This turned out exceptionally well. It’s the second recipe of yours I’ve made and both surprised me by how great they taste. It’s also kind of magical because I used to assume I couldn’t cook my favorite Indian cuisine because it’s overly complicated and time consuming and I have little knowledge about cooking. Thanks so much for the insight and all of this delicious magic. I can’t wait to try making the veg korma next.”

Colin D.
instant pot chana dal

What is 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

Onion Masala Makes this a Pour and Cook Recipe

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 Lentil Recipes!

instant pot chana dal

Instant Pot Chana Dal

instant pot chana dal

Instant Pot Chana Dal

4.97 from 27 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. Tom M. says

    The flavors are awesome, and as long as you’ve done the step to premake the onion masala, this is the quickest indian recipient I’ve ever tried. It was a bit watery (I know it is a soup.) I’m trying to figure out how to get the texture more creamy. I soaked the dal for a full day, so that might be the issue. Should I add more dal or less water? Or just be careful not to over soak?

    Despite my goof, this inspired me to try some of your other recipes. Thanks for you hard work!

  2. niraj sheth says

    5 stars
    excellent recepie but give little easy how to made i am 50 yrs old men never cooke. but now the time cooke my self thank you/

  3. Maneesha says

    5 stars
    Another amazing daal recipe, Ashley! Thanks so much! I’ve never cooked Chana daal by itself like this – turned out beautifully

  4. Pete says

    5 stars
    Did make it per your instructions. Doubled the cups of Chana Dal.
    And accordingly increased the amounts of the spices indicated. But also adjusted them since I also put Sambar powder mix. And Mango powder.
    Also added some frozen mixed vegetables and 3 medium sized potatoes. (add potatoes as you are comfortable with)
    Set it for 12 minutes on high.
    After allowing it to naturally release pressure after 25 minutes, added lime juice adjusted to my taste. And appropriate amounts of chopped coriander leaves.
    Ashley your recipes are quite a go to for a lot of items I cook.

  5. Julia says

    5 stars
    Super yum and easy! Thanks for the recipe!
    When i purchased the chana dal at the indian market I was confused, as they look so much like the yellow split peas. The internet helped me understand the difference! Learn something new every day!

  6. Colin Davis says

    5 stars
    This turned out exceptionally well. It’s the second recipie of yours I’ve made and both surprised me by how great they taste. It’s also kind of magical because I used to assume I couldn’t cook my favorite Indian cuisine because it’s overly complicated and time consuming and I have little knowledge about cooking. Thanks so much for the insight and all of this delicious magic. I can’t wait to try making the veg korma next.

  7. Meher says

    It would be so helpful to have some sort of conversion for the onion masala if one doesn’t make it before and freezes it. So many recipes now call for onion masala, but I’m not sure how much onion, tomato, and spices are supposed to go in one cup vs half cup. It’d be super helpful if you could create a conversion table or even just measurements of what goes in one cup of onion masala. Thanks!

  8. 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.

  9. 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 🙂

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. Veronica Gulotta says

    I am about to embark on the wonderful journey of ethnic cooking, and I’m so glad I found your blog!
    I definitely saved it as a favorite.
    I have no idea where to find this chana dal. Where do you do your shopping? Local or online?
    For spices, do you have any tips for shopping, or can I just use the McCormick in my grocery store?
    I want to start cooking food from around the world, but I need it to be healthy and reasonably priced.
    Thank you very much!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Veronica, I’m really glad you found my blog too! If you have a local Indian grocery store, you’ll find everything you need there at a great price especially compared to what you’ll find online. I often buy organic dals at Indian grocery stores for far less than what you’ll pay for non-organic products on amazon. That said, if you don’t have a local Indian grocery store then amazon works too – they have this dal available: As for spices, you can use your local grocery store, Indian grocery store or amazon. If you use amazon, I like the brands: 24 Mantra, Simply Organic as well as Pure Indian Foods. Keep me posted on your cooking journey!

  17. Kammy says

    4 stars
    Finally made onion masala so I could start making all your yummy instant pot recipes. I soaked the beans for 2 hours and when I opened up the pot there was a ton of liquid. I cooked it down a little as others did with the lid off, but really I should have just left it. The beans ended up soaking a ton of liquid as it cooled. Next time I’ll leave as is. Will definitely tray again!

  18. AshleyKU says

    5 stars
    This was DELICIOUS! Even my kids ate it up, we served it with rice and na’an.
    There *was* an issue, though. When I opened the lid to my IP, it was a huge watery mess. Confused, I scoured the ingredients and method..I didn’t miss anything and can’t figure out where I went wrong. But! I just hit the sauté button and let it boil down for about 15 minutes until it looked like the consistency of the photo. Perfection!!
    Thanks for yet another amazing dinner!

  19. Harry says

    5 stars
    Hey Ashley – I have made this almost exactly as written three times now and it’s so excellent. I just like to use an extra serrano or jalapeño pepper and double the cayenne because I love things hot and spicy. The onion masala is a game changer. Thanks so much for the great recipes. – H

  20. Toni Marie says

    Hi there! Just made this with the frozen onion masala I made (your recipe) a week or so ago. My dish is more watery than I’d like and a little bland. Any suggestions? I was thinking of adding more onion masala.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Toni, you can definitely add more masala – since the masala is already cooked, you can always add it at the end if you feel a dish needs more flavor. Feel free to also add more salt and spices! Let me know if that helps 🙂

  21. Anjana Virdi says

    5 stars

    I just wanted to say thank you for your blog and all of your recipes. I have tried so many of themr and they have all come out perfectly. You have made me really enjoy cooking! 🙂 Thank you!

  22. Samantha says

    This is such a comfort food for me. I love all Indian lentils. Alway have a few bags of different lentils in my pantry. I will be trying this out this week. Need to something different everyday or will go mad from boredom sitting at home. Hope you are doing well.

  23. Coco says

    Can I use canned chickpeas in this dish instead of dal? I’m trying to use my pantry items instead of going to store in this pandemic. Maybe instant pot 5 minutes?

instant pot pour and cook chicken biryani

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