top of page

Sign up for emails on super healthy, delicious plant-based recipes, cooking tips, events, announcements & the latest on plant-based nutritional research.

Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC


Chana Dal Cauliflower Soup

The other day I discovered a bag of chana dal in the pantry and the image of a thick, creamy soup began to take shape in my mind. Chana dal, also known as gram dal or Bengal dal, are a split, hulled variety of Indian chickpeas, smaller than its Mediterranean cousin and delightfully sweet and nutty. I picked up a beautiful golden cauliflower and a couple of bunches of bright spinach from my greengrocer that morning, and this South Asian-inspired soup was born. Thick and creamy like a good split pea soup, with heady aromas from intoxicating Indian seasonings, this soup is both luxurious, soothing, and exciting. Find everything you need in a local South Asian grocery or online.  Enjoy a cup for an appetizer or big bowlfuls for supper.


Prep 30 minutes          

Cooking 1½ hours to precook the dal, plus 45 minutes for the soup

Serves 8-12



2 pounds chana dal, rinsed

2 Indian bay leaves


Spice Blend

2 Indian bay leaves

1 large sprig of fresh curry leaves, about 10 leaves

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds

¼ teaspoon ajwain (carom) seeds

⅛ teaspoon white peppercorns



This recipe makes a lot of soup so unless you feed it to a crowd, you’ll likely serve it at more than one sitting. You can certainly freeze it.  The soup thickens as it cools, so when you reheat it, you may need to add broth. I find the liveliness of the soup becomes muted over time, so each time you reheat it, remember to taste and correct the seasonings to wake it back up.



1 quart no-sodium vegetable broth, heated

4 large shallots or 1 large onion, cut in a medium dice

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1-inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

2 small green Thai chilis or 1 serrano chili, minced

1 large cauliflower, yellow or white, cut into bite-sized florets

¼ cup tomato paste

¼ teaspoon ground cayenne powder or to taste

1 pound baby spinach

1 tablespoon amchur (ground green mango powder)

3 to 4 tablespoons shiro (mild, white) miso paste, or to taste


Garnish Ideas

Paprika or cayenne if you like more heat, finely diced tomato, finely diced scallion or shallots, small cilantro leaves



Cook the Dal

  • Add the rinsed dal to a soup pot and cover with water by 1 to 2 inches. Toss in 2 large Indian bay leaves. Boil for a few minutes. Then extinguish heat, cover, and steep for 30 minutes to rehydrate the dal. They will sink below the surface.
  • Drain the pot. Refill with fresh water, covering the dal and Indian bay leaves by 1 inch of water. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and allow to cook slowly until the dal is very, very tender. The dal is ready, upon stirring, some of the dal has broken down in about 1 ½ hours.  Check periodically and add water if needed as the dal cooks.
  • Use an immersion blender to purée the dal. Cover the pot.


Spice Blend

  • Head a small skillet on low for 3 minutes. Add the Indian bay and curry leaves and roast for a minute or until they are dry and crisp. Transfer them to a plate. Reheat the skillet and when it is hot, add the black mustard, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and ajwain seeds, and the white peppercorns, stirring constantly. Poise your nose over the pan and as soon as it becomes fragrant, remove the spices and pour onto a cool plate, about 30 seconds. Roasting spices dry in the pan can burn them very easily, turning them bitter which would ruin the soup. So take care not to over roast them.
  • Combine the roasted spices with the curry and bay leaves and add them to a coffee blender. Grind them, in batches if necessary, into a fine, greenish powder.
  • Measure a tablespoon of the ground spice blend for now for the soup, and keep it handy as you may need more when you taste the finished soup and correct the seasonings. Transfer the rest to a tight-lidded spice jar and store it in a cool, dark cupboard.


Cook the Soup

  • Pour the vegetable broth in a separate pot and maintain it, covered, at a very low simmer.
  • Heat a large stainless soup pot with a heavy bottom on medium-low for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shallots or onions, lower the heat, cover the pot, and sweat them for a few minutes until they soften and release their liquid.
  • Add a tablespoon of the ground spice blend together with the minced garlic, ginger, and green chili, stirring. If the mix is dry, add a spoonful or two of the hot broth. 
  • Cook for a minute and then add the cauliflower florets with enough of the hot broth to almost cover the cauliflower. Cover and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, just until the cauliflower is cooked but still firm and intact.
  • Stir in the blended dal, stirring, adding broth if necessary to create a creamy consistency.  Cook for 5 minutes on a gentle simmer, stirring to prevent it from sticking.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and cayenne to taste. And after a minute, stir in the torn or baby spinach.
  • Finally, add 2 teaspoons of amchur which will lend tanginess to the soup.
  • Dissolve 3 tablespoons of the miso in a few tablespoons of the hot soup. Then add it back to the pot and stir it well to flavor the soup. Taste and correct seasonings to suit your tastes, adding more amchur for its sourness, cayenne for heat, the spice blend if it is too faint, or more miso. You should perceive a symphony of flavors though none should dominate.
  • Serve the soup hot in warmed bowls. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne, and a spoonful of diced tomato and scallion/shallot/onion for a delightful meal.


Chana Dal Cauliflower Soup

    Cathy's Card
    bottom of page