Recipe for channa dal and red chilli chutney (without coconut)

The ubiquitous chutney a necessary accompaniment to every South Indian breakfast has different variations. This simple recipe for channa dal and red chilli chutney is flavourful and balances the otherwise bland main dishes.

Chutney is usually a great accompaniment to any dish – the sweet, spicy, tangy flavours add a zing to the food and perk up a bland dish. I love a kachcha aam, hara dhanya, hari mirchi & pudina chutney with a plate of steaming hot dal-chawal – it is soul food - earthy and light and yet delicious and filling.

Southern Indian cuisine is known for its chutneys. The varieties of chutneys served with everyday food, in all the Southern states, amazes me. Breakfast dishes, especially in hotels, are typically served with a variety of chutneys and sambhar. The use of coconut in Southern cuisine, particularly in chutneys is predominant, but there are a few chutneys that are made without it.

This morning, I made upma for breakfast and served it with roasted channa dal chutney. It is an easy-peasy recipe that is ready in a matter of minutes and it tastes lovely. The sharp flavours of the chutney complement a typical southern breakfast of idli, dosa, pongal, uttapam and upma. Try this chutney the next time you serve a South Indian breakfast.

Roasted channa dal chutney (without coconut)

Ingredients for the chutney


The ingredients are divided into two groups. One to make the chutney with and the other for the tempering.

Group 1 - ingredients for the chutney

  • 1 cup roasted channa dal (bhunna channa without the skin)
  • 18-20 pods of garlic (I like the garlicky flavour, you can reduce the number of pods)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tsp tamarind pulp or a lemon size piece of tamarind
  • 10-12 dry red chillies (adjust the number depending on how hot you want the chutney to be)
  • ½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup water

Group 2 - ingredients for the tempering

  • 1 tbsp. Oil (preferably sesame oil)
  • ½ tsp cumin/zeera or mustard seeds
  • Asafoetida/hing (a healthy pinch – optional)

Method for making the chutney

Soak the red chillies in water to soften them, preferably overnight or in warm water for about 10 minutes, before using them to make the chutney. Soaking the chillies makes them soft and easy to grind into a fine paste.

Dunk all the ingredients listed in the first group into a grinder jar and blend the ingredients into a nice homogeneous paste. Keep the consistency thick, do not add too much water as that would make the chutney runny, and you do not want that. Transfer the ground mixture into a serving bowl.

Getting the tempering ready

Tempering or tadka is also easy to prepare. Heat the oil in a frying pan or tadka pan, add the asafoetida and cumin or mustard seeds, as per your liking. When the seeds begin to splutter tip the hot oil along with the seeds over the chutney.

You can also add whole red chillies and curry leaves to the tempering. That is it, the chutney is ready to be served with dosa, idli or upma.

The channa dal chutney does not spoil easily and stays good, for a couple of days, refrigerated.

Know your food

  • Channa dal, like most legumes, pulses and lentils is a good source of plant protein. It has a low hypoglycemic index and is an excellent food for diabetic patients. It is also rich in minerals like calcium and zinc and vitamins, particularly folate (vitamin B9)
  • Garlic, has a strong pungent smell and sharp taste which many find offensive, but garlic is loaded with health benefits. Studies reveal that consuming garlic can lower elevated cholesterol levels and bring down high blood pressure. It is also known to prevent certain types of cancer. Garlic can fight diseases because of its antibacterial and antiviral properties. It keeps cholesterol under control and keeps the arteries from clogging. The best way to have garlic is to cut, chopped or crushed because it interacts with air and releases sulphur compounds which are good for you
  • Cumin seeds or jeera add a nice flavour to the dishes it is used in, and it is good for digestion. It is also a good source of iron and rich in plant compounds with antioxidant properties. Research shows that regular consumption of cumin seeds is beneficial in lowering blood sugar levels as well as lowering LDL levels and improving HDL levels
  • Onions are a good source of potassium and vitamins B and C. It is also low in calories and high in antioxidants. It controls blood sugar levels, has cancer-fighting compounds and is good for the heart, and it has antibacterial properties
  • Tamarind provides minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorus. It is also a good source of B vitamins particularly thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. You also get small amounts of vitamin C and K from it, as well as some selenium, copper and folate
  • Dry red chillies, are also rich in certain vitamins like vitamin A, B6, C and K. They also provide potassium and copper. Additionally, they are an excellent source of antioxidants that provide a number of health benefits

You see, this rather simple chutney made from very few ingredients actually packs quite a nutritional punch.


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