Eat More Chickpeas: Easy Chana Dal

chana dal

I know the blog’s been lean on posts lately.  Last week was “vacation” week, and then this Tuesday night L. came down with a high fever and stomach thing that threw us under the bus.  Those of you with kids know how this works . . . you lose entire days of your life tending to these poor kids.  When you can finally leave the building, it’s like being re-born, and then there is just so much to do to catch up . . . .

But enough whining.  I did cook for myself while this was going on.  A mama’s gotta keep her strength up, right?  For whatever reason, last weekend I was craving sweet mango chutney, so I was cruising the Indian foods section at Whole Foods.  While I was there, I couldn’t resist buying a 2 lb. bag of dried, split desi chickpeas, (Chana Dal); split chickpeas with the skin removed. They’re pretty and yellow and small.  They caught my eye as a legume I hadn’t yet tried, and their small size lead me to believe they’d be quick to cook.  They are, and I am hooked.

First off, though, let’s talk about the health benefits of chickpeas . . . so if you make this easy recipe, you’ll feel even better about yourself as you munch. Chickpeas are a good source of fiber, which has cholesterol-lowering benefits.  Their high fiber content also prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly, so they’re an especially good choice for folks with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. And when combined with whole grains like rice, chickpeas provide virtually fat-free high-quality protein.  They’re cheap, too.  Really, no downside to these puppies - so eat up!

Easy Chana Dal

 1 c. uncooked chana dal
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 t. garam masala
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rice for serving
Sweet mango chutney for serving (or hot, if you're so inclined)


Rinse and pick over the dal.  Place the dal in a bowl and cover with cool water.  Let soak for 2 hours.  Drain and rinse the dal again and place it into a medium saucepan with 3 c. of water.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until the dal is tender.  Remove from heat and drain. (Note:  you could soak & drain the dal the night before and keep the dal in the fridge to cook the next night if you want to speed this up.  You can also cook your dal in the pressure cooker - I don't have one!)

Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent.  Set aside.

Place the dal in a large bowl.  Add the sautéed onions, garam masala, salt and pepper and mix.  Serve over rice with chutney to taste.

Serves 4.

Now – if I hadn’t been freaked that I was getting a stomach virus, I would’ve added a bunch of steamed baby spinach to this mix.  I’d steam a 5-6 oz. box of the stuff (maybe more, if you’re a spinach lover like me) and season it with salt and pepper.  I’d add it to the dal mix, and probably up the garam masala because of the added spinach.  Taste it and see what you think.  Other steamed, chopped greens would be tasty too, I’m sure.  If you fool around with this, let us know what you did and how it turned out in the comments below!