Dal Chawal is a simple, hearty comfort food for millions of Indians worldwide. It is such a common food some version of it will be cooked just about anywhere in India. It’s just one of those foods that is part of the culture.
Dal Chawal is the ideal pot-in-pot food for the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. By using the pot-in-pot method, you can cook both the rice and dal at the same time with one pressure cooker. My grandma used to do this nearly every day with her pressure cooker, if not twice daily, and it easily adapts to the Instant Pot.
About the Recipe
I am using a very simple masoor dal, with just cumin and a little hing (asafoetida) added. You can swap any dal recipe you would like. Make sure to follow the cooking time for the dal and let the rice take care of itself.
I like to make this with a fast-cooking dal, like masoor or moong, so my rice is not overly mushy. But the mushy rice of other recipes is something many people would prefer. When you eventually mash your dal into your rice as you eat it, the textures and flavors meld together.
Basmati Rice – A luxurious rice. We’re using the Instant Pot to cook it here, see this recipe for a stovetop version.
Masoor Dal – use any dal you like. I prefer masoor because it cooks fast and the rice will remain fluffy.
Ghee – we traditionally add ghee to rice and dal for flavor, and also it helps with the separation of the grains of rice.
Hing – skip it if you don’t have it, or throw in a little garlic or onion in its place.
I’m using a very simple combination of spices to keep this recipe simple. You can use any recipe for dal you want; get as complex as you desire.
Serving Dal Chawal
“Dal Bhat Shaak Rotli”
In Gujarati, we say “Dal Bhat Shaak Rotli,” a meal of dal, rice (“bhat”), rotli, and a shaak. It is a simple, standard lunch or dinner in a Gujarati household. The shaak is usually a seasonal vegetable. The dal can be anything from traditional Gujarati dal, to latchko dal, or simple moong dal. And the rice is nothing fancy since it’s for home eating, it’s made the most convenient way, but always with a dollop of ghee.
Whether eating dal bhat or dal bhat shaak rotli, it would typically be served with some yogurt or pickle, to add tanginess, and something crunchy on the side, like papadi or papad. The contrast in textures helps complete the meal.
- Trivet: make sure your trivet is tall enough that your rice pot is not submerged. I tried this with the trivet that came with the Instant Pot, which tilted my rice container, causing half of my rice to cook properly, and the other half didn’t cook all the way. Additionally, the dal was submerged in the rice, which messed up the cooking.
- Ensure you have at least double the amount of water as dal, though I recommend a 3:1 ratio.
- Put the dal in the main Instant Pot insert and the rice in the pot-in-pot. The dal has more water, so this will help avoid getting the “burn” error from the Instant Pot.
- Use a different dal recipe: you can use just about any dal recipe you’d like. Adjust cooking times for the dal and let the rice be overcooked if necessary.
- Add Garlic and onions, cilantro, or some vegetables like spinach, carrot, peanuts, drumsticks, cilantro, potato, or eggplant.
Dal Chawal : Pot in Pot Rice and Dal
For the Rice
- 1 ½ cups rice
- 2 cups water use more for softer rice
- 1 tsp ghee
- Salt to taste
For the Dal
- ¾ cup masoor dal or dal of choice
- 1 Tbsp ghee or oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ⅛ tsp hing optional
- ½ tsp salt to taste
- Lemon juice
- 2 ½ cups water
For the Rice
- Rinse the rice until the water runs clear, at least 3 times.
- Add the rice and water to a pot that will fit inside the Instant Pot.
- Add salt and ghee. Cover and set aside.
For the Dal
- Rinse the dal.
- Heat oil on saute mode of Instant Pot. Add cumin and hing. Let it sizzle for about 10 seconds, then add turmeric powder.
- Add rinsed dal, salt, and water.
- Insert a trivet to raise the rice pot above the dal. The rice pot should not be touching the water.
- Cover and cook on High Pressure for 6 minutes, followed by a natural pressure release for 15 minutes.
- Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.