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Jill's Chana Dal

This recipe by Jill M. Nicolaus was adapted from Flavors of India: Recipes from the Vegetarian Hindu Cusine, by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, Book Publishing Company, 1996. I discovered the recipe on-line in March 1966 at, but since it does not seems to be on-line there or elsewhere any more, I've reproduced it here.


  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each cayenne, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder
  • 1 Tablespoon tamarind pulp (or 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon sugar)
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped


Chana dal is the larger of the skinned, split, yellow dals you will find in an Indian grocery—it closely resembles the yellow split peas found in Western supermarkets, and in fact these yellow split peas make an acceptable substitute.

Measure the dal into a bowl and sort through it to remove any unskinned (dark) dal, small stones or other debris. Soak the chana dal in 4 cups water for 2-3 hours, then wash under running water and drain. Bring 3 cups water and the salt to boil in a medium-size pot. Add the chana dal and wait for the water to begin its second boil, then cover the pot and cook over medium-to-low heat for 30 minutes. At this time, remove the cover and stir up the dal. To the open pot add the cayenne, turmeric, cumin, coriander and the tamarind pulp (skin & seeds removed). Stir well and allow to simmer uncovered while you prepare the next step.

In a separate small pot or frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over low heat and add the mustard seeds and chopped garlic to it. When the oil gets hot, the mustard seeds will begin to pop (really, and they may spatter a bit). When they have ceased popping, add the oil mixture to the simmering pot of dal. Immediately cover the pot and keep covered for 2 minutes while the dal continues to simmer. Then remove the cover and stir once with a spoon to mix in the new ingredients. Cook uncovered for another 5 minutes and the dal is ready to be served with rice or bread. Taste to correct seasoning (i.e., salt; also, I tend to increase the amounts of all spices a bit, keeping proportions the same). This dal is fairly thick in consistency and should not be made thinned with water.

Serves 4-6.

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Last modified: January 11, 2001

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