Chana Dal with Okra and Coconut Recipe

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Photo by Nassima Rothacker

Although this is an unusual combination of flavors, split chickpeas (chana dal), okra, and fresh coconut work amazingly well together. Chana dal is heavier than other lentils, but here it tastes fresh and light, thanks to the influence of the other ingredients. You’ll find this dish very easy to make. Serve it with chapati or rice. Yield: 4 servings.


  • 9 ounces split chickpeas 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1-3/4 pints boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 4 dried red chiles
  • 4 banana shallots, cut into thin circles
  • 14 ounces okra, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 3-1/2 ounce fresh coconut, very finely chopped


  1. Put the chickpeas in a deep saucepan with 1 teaspoon of the salt, the turmeric, and the boiling water. Cover the pan with a lid and cook over medium-low heat for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and all the water has been absorbed. Set aside.
  2. Heat the ghee in a separate large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, and dried red chilies, and cook for a few seconds, until they begin to sizzle. Stir in the shallots and cook for 2 minutes, or until they begin to soften.
  3. Increase the heat under the saucepan to medium, mix in the okra and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to turn slimy. (Don’t worry about the slime at this point, it’ll disappear during cooking.)
  4. Stir in the remaining salt, along with chili powder, cumin, gram masala, and coconut. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the okra has softened and the slime has disappeared.
  5. Add the cooked chickpeas to the mix, stirring well. Serve immediately.

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Chetna Makan was born in Jabalpur, an ancient city in central India. She has a degree in fashion and worked in Mumbai as a fashion designer before moving to the United Kingdom in 2003. She reached the semifinal of “The Great British Baking Show” in 2014, and her first book, The Cardamom Trail, is a celebration of baking with Indian flavors. She also has a  YouTube channel, Food with Chetna, where she shares her creative flair for food.

This recipe is excerpted from Chetna’s latest book, Chetna’s Healthy Indian (Octopus Publishing, 2019).

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