Chana and Split Moong Dal with Pepper Flakes

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I love the combination of these two lentils. Cooked together, they not only complement one another in taste, they also become incredibly creamy. The pepper flakes add just enough pizazz that you’ll be left wanting more than one bowl!

NotesSlow cooker size: 3½ quart (3.32 L)

To make this dish in a 5-quart (4.74-L) slow cooker, double all ingredients except water (use 10 cups [2.37 L] water). Cook on high for 6 hours. A double recipe makes 15 cups (3.55 L).

You can make any slow cooker dish in a heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven. Just reduce the amount of water used by ½ to 1 cup and use a very low flame. You’ll have to experiment with exact water and cooking times, and of course, you’ll have to stay home to tend to the stove.

Split Gram (Chana Dal):

Chana dal is the split and skinned version of the black chickpea. It looks like and is often confused with split peas and the split version of toor dal, so label containers well. This split lentil or bean is used often in South Indian dishes and spice blends.

Turmeric Powder (Haldi):

lf there is one spice my family cannot do without, it’s turmeric. Derived from a root, like ginger, it grows in the ground and is washed, peeled, dried, and ground into the bright yellow-orange powder you likely know. A staple in Indian cooking and religious ceremonies (brides are washed in turmeric as part of their prewedding beauty regimen), this magic powder is a natural antibacterial agent. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is currently being studied for its ability to combat serious diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. My girls know to ask for a little turmeric when they cut themselves. We gargle with it when we have sore throats, and we layer it in fresh Indian breads when we have colds. Its uses are endless and amazing, but don’t get it near your clothes. The yellow stains will last forever! (I still have stains on my favorite outfit from my cousin Vikram’s wedding.) At some specialty Indian grocers, you can find turmeric fresh, whole, and in yellow and white forms. Grab it, peel it, and grate it into your favorite salads.

Green Lentils, Green Gram (Moong, Mung):

Probably one of the more commonly known lentils in the West, these small green counterparts to the black lentil are easy to find and just as easy to cook. The split and skinned version (yellow mung) is one of the fastest-cooking lentils on the planet. I can whip it up for my kids in 20 minutes flat.

8 cups (1.90 L)

Cooking Time5 min

Cooking Time - Text300

Cooking Methodslow cooking



Total Timehalf-day

One Pot MealYes

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentcrock pot


Taste and Texturehot & spicy, savory, spiced

Type of Dishhot soup, soup


  • 1 cup (192 g) split gram (chana dal), picked over and washed (see Notes)
  • 1 cup (192 g) dried split green lentils with skin (moong dal), picked over and washed (see Notes)
  • ½ medium yellow or red onion, peeled and diced (½ cup [75 g])
  • 1 (1-inch [2.5-cm]) piece ginger root, peeled and grated or minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated or minced
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled and diced (1 cup [160 g])
  • 1-3 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, divided
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder (see Notes)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
  • 6 cups (1.42 L) water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro


  1. Put the split gram, green lentils, onion, ginger root, garlic, tomato, chiles, 1 tablespoon of the cumin, turmeric, salt, red chile powder, and water in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 5 hours. (See Notes for details on making this dish without a slow cooker.)

  2. Near the end of the cooking time, heat the oil in a shallow pan over medium-high heat.

  3. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin.

  4. Once it is sizzling, add the red pepper flakes. Cook for another 30 seconds at the most. If you cook it too long, the flakes will get too hard.

  5. Add this mixture, along with the cilantro, to the lentils.

  6. Serve this alone as a soup or with brown or white basmati rice, toti, or naan.


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