Bengali Cholar Dal

October 26, 2016
5 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This recipe uses chana dal, the split insides of the black chickpea. They’re naturally very flavorful and don’t need a lot of spicing to transform into a gorgeous, mild coconut dal. In Bengal, this is usually eaten with puri, which are little puffed fried breads, but I like to serve mine with a vegetable subji (dry curry), some punchy pickle, and rice or hot naan bread. —Meera Sodha

What You'll Need
  • 1 3/4 cups chana dal
  • 2 tablespoons mustard or canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 inches ginger, grated
  • 3 medium, ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons nice red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 handful Toasted shredded coconut, to serve
  1. Wash the chana dal in a few changes of cold water until the water runs clear, then cover with twice the amount of water and boil for around 45 minutes, or until cooked through and tender then leave to one side.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry until the garlic starts to brown, then add the tomatoes and cook the tomatoes for around 5 to 8 minutes, or until they reduce and become quite paste-like.
  3. Add the turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, salt, and sugar to the tomatoes. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato mixture and the coconut milk into the chana dal and stir to mix.
  4. Bring the dal to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes to bring all the flavors together. Taste your dal, adjusting salt as need be and topping up with hot water until it’s the perfect consistency for rice. Scatter with the toasted coconut and serve with hot steamed basmati rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Shalini
  • Bern
  • jsoucie
  • George Philips
    George Philips

7 Reviews

Bern April 20, 2020
This was great!! I used whole mung beans soaked overnight instead of chana dal. I doubled the recipe and made a yogurt mint sauce to go on top! Thank you for the great recipe!!
jsoucie January 8, 2020
I have made this several times and it is one of my favorite recipes. In a pinch, I have used green lentils successfully, but I much prefer it with the (harder-to-find) black lentils.

I agree with George P. Toasting the spices briefly before adding the tomatoes seems to work best for me.

George P. December 15, 2016
This is a great recipe for a very different dal than the one I grew up on. A couple notes:

1. Channa dal takes a long time to cook if using straight from the box. It took me about 2 hours to cook it down to a point that I felt it was soft enough. Soaking it the previous night cuts the cook time down to 45 minutes or so.

2. I prefer switching steps 2 and 3. By doing so, I'm able to toast the spices before adding the tomatoes.
gandalf November 14, 2016
How many cups of cooked chana dal are produced by the 1.75 cups of dried chana dal?
Asiya S. November 3, 2016
I have never made any dal using coconuts, garam masala and also to it adding sugar.. I would surely love to try out this bengali dal using these special ingredients...Being a food blogger hope to try out even more regional dal recipes... I blog on
Amanda October 30, 2016
This dal turned out to be utterly delicious. I made it exactly as instructed, and added one extra step. After it was finished I used my stick blender to puree about 1/3 to 1/2 of the lentils. This adds a creamier texture and appearance and is a technique I borrowed from my favorite Chana masala recipe.
Shalini October 29, 2016
This recipe looks great! I've never had coconut milk in a dal, but I bet it's delicious. i want to try it.