Cholar Dal – Split Bengal Gram with Indian Five-Spice

Split Bengal Gram with Indian five-spice : Playful Cooking

Every now and then, when I am chitchatting with my friends, the very first question is always about food. They like to discuss what I made for dinner, which recipe would I be sharing next and if it would be sweet or savory. Some even desire to be in my shoes and wish they could appreciate cooking as much I do. They share stories about how I encouraged them to bake a cake or make a simple soup. They always motivate me and I feel blessed!


Food Blogging is hard and only a food blogger can understand why I used that word instead of just saying fun. I don’t blame people who think it’s the easiest job or hobby one can have. It’s no math or biology and I agree to that, but it truly needs every bit of creative juice running inside you to blend properly with your enthusiasm and passion to bring out something good enough to share with the world. Food Blogging is beautiful fusion of hard work and fun.

Please don’t get me wrong here, I am not ranting, just sharing some thoughts along with a humble dal that I grew up gobbling a lot.


Split Bengal Gram with Indian five-spice : Sunshine and Smile


Back at my parents place, dal is prepared every single day, one kind or the other. Sometime it’s cooked thin so that one can sip and sometimes it’s so thick that would need a spoon to ladle. There was a time when I would never refer daal as a soup cause it was always eaten with rice or roti but these days, at times, even we treat it like a soup and dunk our bread in it.


This daal is different. I like to eat this only with white rice. It reminds me of home and of childhood. It also reminds of the time when I used to eat just because I had to and not because I love to. My life didn’t revolve around food back then.


Split Bengal Gram : Sunshine and Smile


Indian Five-Spice : Sunshine and Smile


Split Bengal Gram (chana dal) is very commonly confused with Split Pigeon Peas (toor dal). They both look very similar except the Bengal gram is chunkier and doesn’t cook down to creamy or mushy. It’s kept whole and soft, giving a beautiful texture at every spoonful.


Mom prepares multiple dishes with Chana Daal but this one is my favorite and it’s called Cholaar Dal in Bengali. The recipe is simple, uncomplicated and flavored with Indian five-spice Paanch Phoron. Even though it’s a savory dish, at times it’s sweetened with a tad bit with sugar, raisins, dates and even fresh coconut. I like it plain, with just a pinch of sugar and chunky coconuts on top.


Split Bengal Gram with Indian five-spice : Sunshine and Smile  

The other day, a friend asked me if there is always a feast spread out on my dinning table. I wish that was true but it’s not. A simple veggie stir-fry or a daal like this one happens more often. Cholar dal is my go-to dish on most busy weekdays, or a lazy one and sometimes I make it just because it takes me back home.


Cholar Dal

Prep Time: 4 hours

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours, 40 minutes

Serving Size: Serves 2

Cholar Dal

Split Bengal Gram flavored with Indian five-spice and topped with roasted coconut flakes. It's uncomplicated and comforting!


  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 1/2 tablespoon Indian five-spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 inch ginger grated
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes, roughly chopped to bite size
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro to garnish on top


  • Soak the chana dal in water overnight.
  • Pressure cooker method of boiling the dal – Rinse dal and put it in the cooker along with enough water and 1 teaspoon salt. The thumb rule says the water level should be 1 cm above the dal. Cover the lid and let it cook in medium heat until you hear three whistles. Remove from heat and let it rest for 10 minutes or so before you open the lid. Be very careful while doing so as hot steam will come out as soon you open the lid.
  • Boiling the dal in a deep sauce pan – Rinse dal and put it in the pan with 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring it to boil and then let it simmer until the dal is soft. Add more water in the process, if required.
  • Once dal is boiled, keep it aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a deep pan or wok. Add bay leaves and five-spice. Give it a couple of seconds for the spice to sizzle and infuse the oil. Now drop the boiled dal and add turmeric. Stir and let it cook for couple of minutes. Add water, if it looks too thick.
  • Add sugar, grated ginger and half of the toasted coconut flakes. Check for salt and add any, if required.
  • Once done, pour it in the serving bowl, add chopped cilantro and more toasted coconut flakes on top. Serve hot with rice or bread.


  • The cooking time will differ if you boil the dal using a pan instead of a pressure cooker.
  • Indian five-spice is very easily available in any Indian store. It's also extremely easy to make at home. Follow the link in the ingredient list to learn how to make it at home.


Split Bengal Gram with Indian five-spice : Sunshine and Smile

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Reem says:

A simple dal like this is no less than a feast..
Loving the pics. Stunning as always:)

What a co-incidence, Kankana. I soaked some cholar dal about half an hour ago to cook tomorrow and now your post. The photos are beautiful as always. Can’t wait to eat some dal tomorrow 😉

Papori says:

Yummy. Superlicious. :p

cholar dal looks so yum Kankana..awesome pics :), we make the chana dal in punjabi style, would love to try this version with Indian five spice!

Deepa says:

only you can make a simple dal look so so gorgeous …ami luchi er shonge khabo…Thanks for this virtual treat

Mallika says:

Chana dal is not my favorite of all. Yet this one looks wow and I can probably eat this heartful! Your Cholar Dal looks delicious!

The dal is gorgeous. When there is no non veg@home, I like to cook dal. I like how you have added coconut flakes to the dish.

Lovely, lovely pictures as always.

Love love LOVE! And you know that, don’t you? 🙂
Making it tomorrow.

Joyti says:

Coconut flakes in dal – never had that before. And now I’d really like some dal…I haven’t made it in a while.

Gorgeous, GORGEOUS photography! Your work really, truly does amaze me.

Rosa says:

A great split pea dish! Wonderfully flavorful and wholesome food.

I’m bookmarking that recipe.



I have a spiced yellow pea soup on my blog right now 🙂
Beautiful dal and I am sure I can eat this as a soup.

Kankana, I keep getting comments on how easy it is to be food blogger as all you need is a good camera and write a recipe! I just smile every time I hear someone talk like that and walk away. hope one day they will understand 😉 If not, we are not really loosing anything!

To make the humble and simple dal look this gorgeous is not easy and you have pulled it off with aplomb! A bowl of rice with ghee, dal and pickle is something that I never get tired of eating.

Archana says:

Beautiful pics! I too make dal quite often at home…it’s just so simple to make and wholesome! Love the addition of coconut here!

Erin Hess says:

As always you inspire me to write, cook and blog. Thank you. How long do you estimate boiling the dal will take. I don’t have a pressure cooker.

debjani says:

Can I say this is your best yet? Although, I might say it again!
You have tremendous talent, you certainly do. Someday you will be going places, teaching workshops and inspiring many more. I keep telling you the same thing, don’t I?
That coconut does wonders to cholar daal. Cholar dal and bhaat, cholar daal diye luchi or porota…aar cholar daal diye murgir mangsho…

OH MY GOD YUMM! The pic with rice with dal poured on the top, that is my comfort food, to-go-food, not-in-mood-to-cook food and what not! Will try cholar dal now. 🙂

Can totally feel your thoughts about blogging being anything but easy. When I started blogging, I thought it would be an easy hobby to keep. But now, I know how consuming it is of me and not just my time! I know how much you put in to make each post so good and keep things consistent. That takes a lot!
Know that you are doing a fantastic job out there!
I’m sure your readers are very well aware of that and truly appreciate your efforts and talent too.. You have already come a long way from where you started and will go places for sure.. So, shake it off and smile your sunshine smile!

As for the five spices, I am crazy about Paanch phoron. I need no excuse to use it in my kitchen often. The aroma has me intoxicated every time! Dal with five spices is an ultimate comfort food..

Kankana says:

Thanks so much sweetie 🙂 I am blessed to have friends like you in my life!

So beautiful! Dhal is one comfort food for sure.Everytime we make, I am sure we are transported to our growing up days.

Soma says:

I love it with luchis. Now I have to have some. I know what you are talking about…food blogging is no easy hobby. It’s definitely hard work if you want to do it nicely.

melanie says:

Oh wow, the pictures are absolutely amazing ! i love your style of photography !
The recipe also sounds delicious … I think I will try it very soon !

kind regards from vienna,

Without sounding like an idiot-is this the dal that is so often found on Indian buffets? I love that one and would love to figure out if this might work. I too, find dal very homey and wholesome.

Beautiful images! I love the flavors in your dal :).

Shri says:

Had this in Kolkata recently! The coconut slices and sweet-spices are new to me.
Beautiful snapshots.

Sudeshna says:

The colors are so brilliant, would love to have it as an entry for the Holi event in my blog.
I never used panch phoron in cholar dal, I always do it with jeera. Will try panch phoron the next time I make it.

Meeta says:

Dal has always been special comfort food. My brother and I used to laugh at my mum when her cure to everything was a good dal! But now i totally agree. Whenever I miss them i make a good dal. Yours looks gorgeous!

dassana says:

stunning pics of dal. i love the way you frame and compose your pics.

Someone once told me. . . “If you love what you do, you are not working.” That got stuck in my mind all these years and the same with food blogging. I treat it as fun activity or hobby but never a job because if I do . . . I am working for free. I don’t think anyone likes to work for free unless it’s for charity. But you don’t need to worry about any of these because I think you are a “natural.” You have the natural ability to see and to create all of these delicious food arts that amaze everyone including me, Kankana.

kale says:

i totally relate to what you said about blogging. it doesn’t mean you don’t love it or don’t have fun to admit that it can also be hard.
but i am happy you do it, because you make it look easy.

Pia says:

Kankana, I could flip through a book of your photography for hours and not get bored. You fill your blog with such beauty, really.

Eva says:

That sounds delicious! I’ve never heard of Indian five spice before but now I am quite intrigued!

Kiran says:

I think we can all relate to the blogging issues. It’s never easy. But my philosophy about blogging is similar to Ray — take it as something you love doing, and it’ll never equate to “work” 🙂

This recipe has “comfort” written all over it!

Fabulous pictures to accompany one of my favourite Bengali dals. Surprised that you haven’t mentioned Cholar Dal and Luchi! I love Cholar Dal with Pulao or Luchi or ‘Karaishutir kochuri’!