Skip to Content

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

Yield: 5

Chana Pulao / Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice

Chana Pilau - Pakistani Chickpeas and Rice
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!
Enjoyed this recipe? Check out even more Pakistani recipes by clicking here!

Chana Pilau / Pulao - Chickpeas and Rice Pilaf


Sunday 10th of October 2021

Hi Fatima, thank you for the lovely receipe. Your rice is brown , but mine didn’t turn like yours , it was very light in colour. How can I make it brownish .


Friday 5th of November 2021

Thank you so much! If your rice is light, it could be that you aren't darkening your onions enough, or it could be that there aren't enough onions. The onions are like a dye for the rice. You can check out my 'how to make the best pilau rice' guide, that has lots of detail on it

Syeda Fatima

Saturday 22nd of May 2021

Today I decided to make this with dried kabuli Chana. Still thinking how many cups I would need, because I don't have a can of chickpeas at home. I'm going to double this recipe for a picnic tomorrow


Thursday 22nd of April 2021

Have just discovered your website, what a gem! An easy and delicious recipe, love that you use photographs too. Thanks for sharing!


Friday 5th of November 2021

Thank you so much, Selina!


Sunday 18th of April 2021

Do you drain the chickpeas, or add the liquid to the pot too?


Friday 5th of November 2021

Drain for sure!

Fatema Madari

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

Assalamu alaykum I was wondering after reading your lamb pilauf recipe if you could use the potli for this recipe. I would have to make lamb curry alongside but for colour and flavour.... I prefer it on its own with yoghurt raita so just for extra flavour. Please advise

Skip to Recipe