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Chana Pulao / Pilau – Chickpeas and Rice Pilaf

Chana Pulao / Pilau – Chickpeas and Rice Pilaf

Here’s another super simple and easy Pilau recipe that I love to prepare on a day when I’m just not bothered to go all out – yes I have those days! Another bonus with this particular pilau is it’s a one-pot meal and uses few spices, so this Chana Pilau is a definite winner.

I particularly love this recipe now that I have my little girl to enjoy it with me. Chickpeas seem to delight most children for some reason unknown to me. Whenever I make my Chana Pilau, my daughter will pick out the chickpeas and inform me – ‘Mama, yummy circle’ and then eat her meal right up! And as any mother will know, it is a joy and relief when they eat a hearty meal!

Chana Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice

We always need a handful of recipes to use when we’re having a busy, bad or long day. Whenever I’m having one of those days, I always turn to one-pot rice dinners so I don’t need to make chapattis that night. If you’re anything like me, then Chana Pilau will be an ideal recipe for you!

It 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.

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
  • 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
  • My recipe doesn’t contain any green chilli – this is a personal preference. If you like some spice, feel free to add a few green chillis around the same time you add your chickpeas.

Chana Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice

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!

Other Pilau / Pulao (pilafs) on Fatima Cooks:

Chicken Pilau

Prawn Pilau Biryani

Mattar Pilau

Mutton Pilau

Chana Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice

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!

Chana Pilau - Pakistani Chickpea Pilaf


Enjoy, with love x

EDIT: I have amended the quantity of water used in this recipe to 3 cups of water. Previously, it was vague and not precise and some readers reported trouble getting the quantity right. I have found 3 cups works perfectly with this recipe HOWEVER, if you would like to increase or decrease the amount of water needed, use this formula: Cups of water needed = Cups of rice + 1

Chana Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice

Chana Pulao / Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice

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


  • 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 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
  • oil, as needed
  • water, as needed


  1. In a deep pot, heat the oil and add the sliced onions and cumin seeds. Fry till the onions become golden - about 10 minutes. I managed to burn some of my onions - don't do this!
  2. Add a big splash of water and all the spices. Continue to cook this until the onions soften and the water reduced to about half
  3. Add the rice, chickpeas and 3 cups of water
  4. Cook the rice and chickpeas on high heat, stirring once or twice (but not breaking any rice!) until most of the water has dried out.Chana Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice
  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.Chana Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice
  6. Allow the rice to rest for 10-15 minutes after steaming, then fluff up before serving warm!

Did you make this recipe?

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Chana Pilau / Pulao - Chickpeas and Rice Pilaf


Friday 7th of October 2022

Can you substitute ghee for the oil?


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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