My mom’s toddler-approved chana dal

April 14, 2016 at 11:13 am (A minus, Alma's faves, Beans, breakfast, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Indian, My Mom's recipes, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

My mom visited us in January and made us her favorite chana dal recipe for dinner one night. It was a hit, but we ate it all up immediately. So before she left she made us a second, doubled batch and froze it. We defrosted it a few weeks later and again it was a hit with everyone, including my 1-year-old. Since then I’ve been making a quadrupled batch of chana dal every two weeks. We eat it for dinner, freeze some of it, and eat the rest for breakfast a few days later. Then we defrost the frozen portion and have it for a dinner and a breakfast the following week. Sometimes we serve it with yogurt, but often we don’t. My now 14-month-old always eats it happily. When we have it for breakfast, I try to serve it with a piece of vitamin C rich fruit, often a grapefruit, an orange or clementine, or a kiwi. The only problem with the recipe is that it doesn’t have any vegetables in it. I’m curious to try adding some vegetables — maybe a bit of spinach or carrots? In the meantime, if I have leftover roasted or curried cauliflower, I will serve that as a side dish. 

The first time I made this I made a triple batch, and after that I switched to making a quadrupled batch. But we like it so much and it freezes so well, that next time I think I will make a quintupled batch. So here is my mom’s recipe x 5!


  • 5 cups chana dal
  • 15 cups water
  • 5 Tbsp. oil, divided (originally  6 2/3 Tbsp. My mother uses non-roasted sesame oil, and I usually use olive oil)
  • 5 tsp. minced ginger (original said “grated ginger”)
  • 5 tsp. minced garlic (original said “grated garlic”)
  • 2/3 tsp. cayenne pepper (originally 1 1/4 tsp. red chili powder)
  • 2.5 cups chopped onions
  • 1 – 2 tsp. fine sea salt (originally 3 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, use a much smaller amount if feeding a toddler)
  • 5 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2.5 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 5 tsp. garam masala
  • 5 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 5 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 25 curry leaves (original instructions said “broken up”)
  • cilantro (optional, we often leave this out)


  1. Wash dal in several changes of water.  Drain. Put dal in a large (6- to 8-quart) heavy-bottomed pot with the water (15 cups). If you’re using a pressure cooker, you’ll need an 8-quart pressure cooker, and you should only add 11 cups of water, so that you don’t go over the halfway mark. You can add the rest of the water after the dal is done cooking.
  2. Bring pot to a boil, turn down to a low rolling boil and cover. Cook until soft, approximately 1.5 hrs, checking occasionally. Fresher beans will cook faster. Older ones will cook slower. Alternatively, bring your pressure cooker up to high pressure and cook for about 18 minutes, then turn off heat and let the pressure release naturally. It will take about 20? minutes.
  3. When the beans are almost done, put 2 Tbsp. (originally 3.33 Tbsp.) of oil in a medium hot cast iron skillet. Add onions and stir. When the onions start to become translucent add the salt, the ginger, the garlic, the cayenne powder, the ground coriander, the turmeric powder and the garam masala. Stir. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Add  onion-spice mixture to dal.
  4. Wash skillet, dry and again heat it to medium hot.
  5. Put 3 Tbsp. (originally 3.33 Tbsp.) of oil in the pan. Add the mustard seeds on one side and the cumin seeds on the other. When the mustard seeds begin to pop take the pan off the burner and add the curry leaves. Stir and then immediately add to the dal mixture.
  6. Cook the dal for another 5 minutes while you chop up the fresh coriander / cilantro. Shut off heat, add cilantro leaves , stir and serve.

My Notes:

To make this recipe more quickly, I try to keep minced garlic and ginger in the freezer in 1 tsp. chunks.


1 Comment

  1. austingardener said,

    I have tried adding spinach but it tones down the spices too much. I like to add fresh cilantro when I serve it. Doesn’t that count as a vegetable?

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