Chana Dhal – Yellow Split Lentils – A Popular Curry House Side Dish

Chana dhal is an British Indian Restaurant favourite!



chana dhal

Chana dhal makes a great side or main dish

One of the first Indian recipes I ever learned was chana dhal. I was visiting my then girlfriend – now my wife Caroline – in Manchester while she was still at university.

I was a young American who knew little about Indian cuisine and even less about cooking it. One of her roommates was from India and luckily for everyone in the house also loved to cook.

She used to place meals on the table that could stand up to any five star restaurant. Unfortunately, we have lost touch with her but this recipe brings back memories of those awesome meals.


Chana dhal is made with yellow split gram lentils but you could substitute other types of lentil if you prefer.


No – this is not one of the jaw-dropping meals she used to present at the table but it is the recipe she taught me. Chana dhal is an easy and wholesome dish that should be in every Indian food lover’s recipe library.

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Chana Dhal - Yellow Split Lentils - A Popular Curry House Side Dish
Recipe type: Main or side dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 300g ( 1¼ cups) chana lentils (soaked in water for 2 hours and then rinsed.)
  • 1000ml (4 cups water)
  • 1 large white onion finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 1 inch ginger finely chopped
  • 2 fresh green chilli peppers
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water.
  2. Swirl the water around with your hand until the water become cloudy.
  3. Drain and repeat until the water runs clear.
  4. Now place the lentils back in the pan and cover with one litre of water, half the chopped onions, the cumin and red chilli powder.
  5. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a rolling simmer.
  6. While the lentils are simmering away, place the ghee/butter in a frying pan and melt over a low heat.
  7. Add the chopped garlic, ginger, the remaining onion and the chilli peppers to the ghee and brown lightly. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  8. Add the butter mixture to the simmering lentils and continue cooking until the lentils are soft.
  9. You want to cook the lentils slowly being very careful not to let them burn to the bottom of the pan. Cook them low and slow.
  10. Once the lentils are very soft, I like to blend them with a handheld blender for about a minute to make them very creamy though this is not necessary.

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    • Dan Toombs says

      Thanks Keith

      This recipe will be in my upcoming e-book so if you think it can be improved in any way, please let me know.

  1. VENKAT says

    are these dry channa. in that case should they not be soaked in water overnight.????????

    in North India the;y also add garam masala powder

    • Dan Toombs says

      Hi Venkat

      I have used dry channa that needed to be soaked overnight. The last batch I purchased didn’t need to be soaked. I’m not sure why. I recommend following the instructions on the package. I am currently writing an ebook where I have added garam masala. It does bring out the flavours.

      Have you seen the garam masala recipes on my site?

      Thank you for stopping by.


  2. Fred Toombs says

    Hi Dan, is it possible to add “Print the recipe” it would help since I collect all of the Indian, Thai recipes on hard copy


    Fred Toombs

  3. Adila says

    Hi, I tried this recipe and it was delicious!
    Perfect for a novice like me. Will be trying some of the others
    too. Thank you!

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