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Chana Pulao / Pilau – Chickpeas and Rice Pilaf

Chana Pulao / Pilau – Chickpeas and Rice Pilaf

I originally posted this recipe in 2016, when the blog was still in its infancy and didn’t yet have any children.

I am updating this post today in 2023 and now have two children – a 6 year old girl and a 2 year old boy – and this chana pulao is without doubt one of their favourite ways to have rice!

I love to prepare this on a day when I’m just not bothered to go all out. Those Mummy-ed out days.

It’s a simple, one pot crowd pleaser that I know both the kids will wolf down without any battles – and as many mothers will know, those meals are the best meals!

My recipe requires minimal ingredients (just rice, chickpeas, onions and oil) and a small handful of aromatic whole spices which you’ll probably have on hand if you cook Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi food often.

How to cook Chana Pulao

This recipe is just so easy and quick, you’ll see why it’s such a favourite!

Start by heating up some oil in a pot or pan and then add some thinly sliced onions. Fry these over a medium to high heat until they turn golden.

Add in cumin seeds, cloves, black cardamom, cinnamon, salt and green chilli. Fry this for a few more minutes, until the onions turn a darker shade of gold.

Add in chickpeas and water (quantities are listed further down in the recipe card), and once the water comes to a boil, add in some basmati rice that has already been washed and soaks for at least 30 minutes.

Allow everything to cook over a high heat, stirring gently a few times until most of the water has dried out and everything looks like this:

Once you get to this stage, get a tight fitted lid ideally lined with a clean cloth, put the lid onto the rice and turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting. Allow the rice to cook like this (dum) for 10-15 minutes.

Fluff the rice up well before serving.

Tips to make your Chana Pulao delicious!

  • Basmati rice is always my choice of rice when cooking Pulao. However, if you find you struggle with mushy, raw or unevenly cooked basmati rice, you can use sella basmati rice. It’s very difficult to mess up sella rice. I have a useful YouTube video here about how to perfect basmati rice.
  • This recipe calls for tinned chickpeas, but chickpeas cooked from raw taste best. You can use them in this recipe – substitute the same amount of tinned chickpeas for fully cooked chickpeas.
  • My favourite onions for using as the base of a Pulao are red onions. They impart a deeper, sweeter flavour than white onions. They also help with getting the colour of the Pulao darker
  • Which brings me to my next point – I am frequently asked how I get my Pulao to have a better colour. It’s all about the onions! The darker your onions are, the darker your Pulao will be. Think of the onion as a dye for the rice. So red onions fried very well (not burnt of course, just a beautiful dark hue) will result in beautifully coloured rice. 
  • I have loads of information about how to make the best Pulao, regardless of whether it’s a Chana Pulao or a Chicken Pulao here.
  • The original recipe I uploaded in 2016 didn’t contain any green chilli, but I’m updating it in 2023 with the addition of a few whole green chillies. These do not add any spice at all, but rather impart a lovely aroma which I am a huge fan of. My children, including my very spice-averse daughter, have absolutely no issues with it. If you’d like to impart some heat into the rice, I’d recommend chopping the green chillies before adding them.

What should I serve with my Chana Pulao?

Chana Pilau to me has always been one of those rice dishes that is delicious on it’s own and also goes with anything. Serve it alongside any curry, any chutney or even on it’s own with a simple salad, it does so well! I think it goes particularly well with Chicken Bhuna, Aloo Tikki and Aloo Gosht, but there’s not limit to what you can serve it with! Also, a good raita on the side will do wonders!

How to double or triple this recipe

If you’d like to double or triple this recipe, you can double/triple the quantities of all the ingredients without any issue – the only thing that needs to be recalculated is the water.

This is the ratio of water to rice I use for all my Pulaos: Cups of water = cups of rice +1

What this means is: if you have 4 cups of rice, use 5 cups of water. If you have 8 cups of rice, use 9 cups of water. If you have 5.5 cups of rice, use 6.5 cups of water. And so forth. Please note, all cups used in this are standard 250ml measuring cups.

Other Pilau / Pulao (pilafs) on Fatima Cooks:

Chicken Pilau

Prawn Pilau Biryani

Mattar Pilau

Mutton Pilau

A note on adding yogurt and tomatoes to Pulao

Some people like adding yogurt and tomatoes to their pulao. I actually feel really strongly about not adding both those in! I personally find I really don’t like tomatoes in pulao. Yogurt seems to go fine for me, however my main qualm with these add-ons is that is bulks up the liquid that the rice needs to absorb and makes it more heavy and the rice not as fluffy.

Another issue I have but this is purely a personal issue ha! I’m huge on sticking to traditional methods and ways when it comes to Pakistani food. A traditional Pulao does not contain tomatoes and yogurt. We may develop a personal preference or liking for those add-ons and that’s completely fine! But I always like my Pulaos without the bulk-up.

Simply put, there’s no need to add tomatoes or yogurt!

Enjoy, with love x

Chana Pulao / Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice

Chana Pulao / Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice

Yield: 5
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 4-5 tbsp oil or ghee
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp salt, or to taste
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 whole black cardamoms
  • 1 medium stick cinnamon
  • 2-3 whole green chilies, optional
  • 1.5 to 2 tins chickpeas (about 375 to 500g drained weight)
  • 2 cups basmati rice, washed soaked for 30 minutes


  1. In a deep pot, heat the oil and add the sliced onions. Fry till the onions become golden - about 10 minutes.
  2. Add all the spices, salt and green chillies if using. Fry these for a few more minutes, untl the onions become a dark gold
  3. Add the rice, chickpeas and 3 cups of water
  4. Cook the rice and chickpeas on high heat, gently stirring once or twice (but not breaking any rice!) until most of the water has dried out
  5. Once the water has dried out, secure a tight fitting lid onto the pot and turn the heat down to the lowest setting, to steam for 10-15 minutes. You can wrap the lid in a clean tablecloth so it absorbs more steam, leading to slightly fluffier and less mushier rice.
  6. Fluff up the rice using a slotted spoon or a fork immediately after steaming, even if you do not intend to serve it immediately


You can use between 1.5 to 2 tins of chickpeas depending on your personal preference in this recipe.

The green chillies in this recipe are added whole and do not infuse heat into the recipe, they are more for fragrance. If you'd like your pilau to have some heat/spice then I would recommend chopping the green chillies before adding them

Did you make this recipe?

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Friday 7th of October 2022

Can you substitute ghee for the oil?


Tuesday 7th of March 2023



Wednesday 13th of April 2022

Hi, Thank you soo much for this amazing recipie. Its the first time I have made this. I have had it when others have made it but this recipie is far better than any other and its quick. I made this during Ramadan. May Allah reward you for sharing these recipies and helping others.


Monday 25th of April 2022

Thank you so so much, Cediqua. Ameen!


Wednesday 30th of March 2022

Hi, in the measurements you state 'cups', do you mean the American measurements or to use a tea cup or mug?


Wednesday 13th of April 2022

@yaz, Hi Yaz, I use the stack of measuring cups that I use for all recipies. These are standard measurements in UK. I bought mine from the £1 shop. US may have it at the dollar store. Or simply use a medium size mug instead for the rice and water. Use the same mug to measure the rice and water so the ratios remain accurate.


Thursday 31st of March 2022

Hi! Generally speaking most recipes online will be referring to standard American cup sizes (250mls) because that is standardised. Hope that helps!


Wednesday 23rd of February 2022

This was my first-ever attempt at making Pulao (My husband typically makes it great), and it turned out so beautifully!! Pike others who have commented here, this is a nostalgic comfort food for me and love that it can be so easy to make. So appreciate the step-by step guide with pictures!!


Sunday 6th of March 2022

I'm so happy, Henna! So glad you enjoyed it <3 <3


Sunday 2nd of January 2022

When I was a child we had the best neighbours and the mother of the house used to make me this rice regularly. She was so kind and used to know how much I loved it. We moved away, lost touch and I have tried for years to crack it and never got the taste as I remember it. This is it! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!


Wednesday 12th of January 2022

Omg, I am so so happy to hear that!! Thank YOU for sharing this, it's made me so happy!

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