Cholar Dal

Cholar DalRecipes for Cholar Dal almost always start off by alerting you that this is a dish for special occasions, served at Bengali weddings or other life events. Its simplicity, though, tempts one to break that hallowed tradition and label this a dal perfect for weeknight meals. In fact, that’s exactly what I am going to do without taking away one bit from its Superdal status.

Cholar Dal stands apart from other dals because, for one, it starts out with chana dal or split Bengal gram dal, a lentil that often features in Bengali cooking but is not used as much to make dals by the rest of India as, say, tuvar dal or masoor dal or moong dal are. Chana dal is nuttier than its counterparts which is why you’ll often find it in Indian sweets. When cooked, it holds its shape better than other lentils which reduce to a sludge, giving the dish a prettier look.

Cholar DalFor another, Cholar Dal tastes quite unlike any other dal, with raisins and jaggery adding a hit of unexpected but delicious sweetness.  And then there’s the richness from the coconut which makes the dal creamy and luscious and quite out of this world.

But for me, a huge part of what makes Cholar Dal so special is that it takes all of a few minutes to make, at least after you’ve got your lentils all cooked and tender. There’s no grinding of masalas here to add precious minutes to a weeknight cooking project. Just get some spices out of a jar, toss them into the saucepan, and you’re done. In fact, as you lick off that spoon in the end you might feel just a little guilty that you’re getting so much deliciousness for so little work.

Cholar Dal is typically eaten with luchis — small, puffy, wheat breads that are deep fried and are a lot like pooris. But the dal is equally delicious with some rice. Try it either way– or both ways. Hurry.

Cholar Dal

4.5 from 2 reviews
Cholar Dal
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dal
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
  • 1 cup chana dal or Bengal Gram Dal
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1-inch stick cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup thick coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp grated jaggery (substitute with brown sugar if you can't find this)
  • 3-4 slivers of fresh coconut (optional. This is an essential ingredient in the traditional Cholar Dal but it's optional here because it's not always easily available to everyone here in the United States)
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  1. In a pressure cooker or in a saucepan, combine the lentils with bay leaves and turmeric. If you're cooking in a saucepan, cover the lentils with an inch of water, bring to a boil, and let the lentils cook at a simmer, covered. Check frequently to ensure they don't dry up and add more water if needed. Cook the lentils until they are really soft and tender.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds and, when they sputter, add the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Saute a minute until the cardamom looks puffy, then add the slivers of coconut, if using, and saute until they get lightly golden brown.
  3. Add the raisins and ginger, saute for 30 seconds, then add the cooked dal. Stir well to mix. Add some water if the dal is too dry. You want it to have a thicker consistency than most dals do, but not so thick that it's dry.
  4. Add the jaggery and coconut milk and heat the dal through.
  5. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 133 Fiber: 3.5 grams Protein: 6 grams

Cholar Dal

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  1. Lisa H says

    I just spent a day cooking Indian dishes earlier this week and wish so much I had this recipe! I love dal, which I often eat for breakfast because it is so filling. I am looking forward to trying your version!

    • says

      Hi Lisa, dal for breakfast sounds like a great idea– can’t think of anything healthier to start the day with! And hope you try the dal when you cook Indian next. It’s really quite a breeze to make. :)

  2. Toya says

    Hi vaishali,I love this dal preparation so much. I am from Orissa ,and at every festival or family gathering,channa dal is cooked in different ways .we frequently make it with Indian pumpkin or with lauki. You will be surprised how much channa dal is consumed in Orissa and Bengal. Your recipe is just perfect and just adore your blogsite so much.

    • says

      Hi Toya, you are so sweet– thanks for your kind words! Chana dal is so amazing and I can see why the folks in Bengal and Orissa love it so much– I am going to cook with it even more now than I did before, esp. this Cholar Dal. :) I love the idea of adding pumpkin to it– seems like the flavors would be perfect together.

    • says

      Hi Raquel, As much as I cook, I struggle with getting out of my comfort zone too at times, often because of a bad memory of a food or because I am not sure how something will taste. Dals are a great way to “break into” Indian cooking. They are usually simple and always delicious. This one’s super easy, so it would be great to start with. Happy cooking! :)

  3. Meg says

    Hello Vaishali,
    Your things are always inspiring and i haven’t had a flavour failure yet! Good pics too, thx Desi
    Looking forward to cooking with you both lots more
    Warm wishes from Meg in NZ

    • says

      Hi Meg, thanks so much for your kind words, and a big hug to you! :) I will be sure to share your compliment with Desi, and hope you will try some of the recipes at Holy Cow!

  4. Indhu says

    Hi Vaishali,

    I haven’t commented in a long time. I still check your site frequently for recipe inspiration. Had to stop and say hi and thank you for the changes you have made to your site. Looks very nice and loads up fast. For a while it would load really slow and that had been my only issue. One more thing, there have been a few times when I have wanted a particular recipe and it would so happen you would have posted just a day prior! One that comes to mind is the pecan pie. I haven’t tried it yet but will one of these days.

    • says

      Hi Indhu, so lovely to hear from you again, and I love the feedback– thank you! I am happy the pages are loading faster. That was exactly what I was hoping for, so readers would have a better experience. And what a sweet coincidence that I was almost reading your mind on the recipes. :) Well, you’ve got no excuse– go, get cooking! Haha. :) Just kidding.

  5. Sheela says

    Hello Vaishali,

    Happy to see many new blog posts. This Dal post of yours reminded me of your whole masoor dal with toasted spices recipe as I tried it vey recently. Although, had bookmarked the recipe a while ago.
    The recipe was so delicious. It took very less time to cook as well. I am a sucker for such short and sweet recipes.

    Thanks for sharing!

    A big hug!

    BTW I barely get to read about our four legged friends…All good?

    • says

      Hi Sheela, how lovely you tried that masoor dal. It was one of the first posts I put up on Holy Cow– more than 6 years ago — and that remains one of my favorite dals to make. I can slurp it up by the bowlful. :) I am a sucker for short and sweet recipes too. A big hug right back to you. :)

  6. says

    Hi! I just made this recipe for my packed lunch for the week. I have to say that I am so excited for this week because it tastes so good. When I was making the recipe, I noticed that you did not mention where to include the grated ginger while cooking. I added mine just after adding the coconut milk and it seems fine. Anyway, thank you for such a lovely recipe. I am really glad I have discovered your blog.

    • says

      Hi Sims, sorry about that– you’d add the ginger with the raisins. I’ve added it to the recipe now. Glad you worked it out, and so glad you tried the dal! It is definitely one of my favorites. Happy lunches! :)

  7. says

    I made this for lunch today and really enjoyed it! I cooked the dhal in a pressure cooker and it took 6 minutes. I had the dhal ready before the rice was cooked! I’m going to write this up on my blog with a link back to your recipe as I enjoyed it so much. Thanks for all your inspiration, I’ve never been great at Indian cooking and since discovering your blog I’ve lifted my game a lot! :)

  8. Ruth says

    I finally got around to making this over the weekend and it will be my new favourite and quick (thanks to the pressure cooker) go-to meals. I doubled the recipe (but not the coconut milk) and left out the jaggery to cut down sugar. It is still richly satisfying and oh so delicious. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  9. Monique says

    What an amazing recipe! Who knew you could fry raisins?! Thank you very much. And I’m curious, how did your dog help you to become vegan? Because you love him so much, and he’s an animal, so you can’t conceive of eating other animals either? Just slap me down if you think I’m being too nosy…

    • says

      Hi Monique, yes, it was my first dog, Lucy, who set me on the vegan path, and it was because when I lived with her I started to realize just how smart and sensitive animals are. It felt hypocritical loving Lucy so much, and contributing to killing other animals– probably just as smart and sweet– so I could eat them.

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