Chole Recipe (Punjabi Chole Masala)
Apr 24, 2023
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Punjabi Chole Masala is one of the most popular vegetarian curry dishes in India. It is a chickpea curry cooked with onions, tomatoes and lots of spices. Chole is one of those core curries in northern India without which no party or wedding festivities is complete. I remember whenever we would call someone over for lunch or dinner, mom would almost always make chole (or rajma or dal makhani).
Chole is often enjoyed with bhatura (a deep fried bread). Chole bhature and chole chawal aka chole with rice is a very popular food combination and you would often find roadside carts selling plates of chole chawal in Delhi and around.
What is Chole?
Chole refers to an Indian chickpeas curry, especially popular in northern parts of India. Chole is made with soaking chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) overnight and then cooking them with onions, tomatoes and spices to make this really flavorful curry. There are many ways in which you can make chole, and there’s no really right or wrong way of making them.
Some people make chole without tomatoes, some make them without onions. Some people use basic spices in their chole while others use “chole masala” which is a special blend of spices. No two houses in India will probably have the same recipe for chole. I know they were made differently in my house compared to how they were made in my husband’s house. But the base of the dish remains the same.
My husband loves chole, well that’s a given since he is a Punjabi. So after I got married I really tried to master making Punjabi Chole and after lots of trials and errors, I think I found the perfect recipe. Now, my husband feels that I make the best chole, maybe he’s just biased but at least that makes me pretty confident about this recipe. I can guarantee that if you love a good Punjabi style Chole Masala, you are going to love this recipe!
Raw Chickpeas: to make authentic Punjabi chole, you need to start with raw chickpeas. Sure, you can make the recipe with canned chickpeas but it won’t have the same texture. I highly recommend using raw chickpeas and then soaking them overnight before using in the recipe.
Spices (whole & ground): this chole masala recipe uses a lot of ground as well as whole spices like bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin etc. There is also a special blend of spices known as “chole masala or chana masala powder” that is used in this recipe. You can find this spice mix at Indian grocery stores or I have shared a quick recipe to make it at home below.
Ginger garlic paste: you can use either homemade ginger garlic paste or store bought. Homemade is recommended for maximum flavor.
Tomatoes & onions: these make the base of this chole masala. The onions need to be very finely chopped or grated for this recipe and the tomatoes need to be pureed.
Black tea bags: you might notice an unusual ingredient in the form of black tea bags in this recipe. The tea bags are used only to give chole a dark color, they add nothing to the taste. You can skip them if you don’t care about the color of the chole. You can even use dried amla (gooseberry) to get this dark color.
How to Make Chole – Step by Step Instructions
1- Soak raw chickpeas overnight in enough water to cover them. I soaked 2 cups of raw chickpeas and in the morning I had around 5 cups of it. Drain the water in which the chickpeas were soaked.
2- Transfer the chickpeas to a stovetop pressure cooker and add the following:
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 4 to 5 whole black peppercorns
- 2 black tea bags (these are added to give chole a darker color, skip if you don’t care about the color).
3- Add around 5 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt.
4- Stir and close the lid of the pressure cooker. Pressure cook at high heat for 1 to 2 whistles. After that, lower the heat to medium and let the chickpeas cook for another 10 to 12 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally.
5-.Remove the cooker from heat and allow it to cool down. Once the steam is gone, open the cooker and check the chickpeas. You should be able to press them easily with your fingers. If not, close the cooker and cook for 2 more whistles. Remove the tea bags from the cooker and also remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick using a pair of tongs. Set this aside and start working on the masala.
6- Heat a pot or kadai on medium heat. Once hot, add 1 to 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of oil to it. Then add 2 whole cloves and 3/4 cup grated onions to the pot.
7- Fry the onions until the raw smell goes away and they are light golden brown in color, this takes around 7 to 8 minutes.
8- Add 2 teaspoons of ginger garlic paste and cook for 2 minutes until the raw smell goes away.
9- Now, add 2 & 1/2 cups of tomato puree (from 4 medium tomatoes/around 435 grams) and stir.
10- Cover the pot and cook the tomatoes for around 15 minutes on medium-low heat, stir every 2 to 3 minutes in between. This step in my opinion is very important. The tomatoes need to be cooked really well until the raw smell goes away completely. So have patience and let them cook for around 15 minutes.
11- Once the tomatoes are cooked, add the spices:
- 3 teaspoons chole masala
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (use Kashmiri red chili powder for less heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
- and 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste, remember we already added 1 teaspoon salt while boiling the chickpeas).
12- Stir and cook the spices for 1 to 2 minutes.
13- Add the boiled chickpeas (along with the water in which they were boiled) to the pan now and stir until the chickpeas are well combined with the rest of the masala. Add an extra 1/2 cup water and then cover the pan and let it simmer on medium-low heat for around 30 minutes. Simmering on how heat is what will give this chole so much flavor!
The gravy will thicken after 30 minutes so add water accordingly. I do not like thin gravy with chole but if you do, add more water than what is mentioned in the recipe. Mash some of the chickpeas with the back of the ladle/spatula while they are simmering.
14- After 30 minutes the gravy, chickpeas and all the spices would have mixed well together. We can now do the tempering. Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a small pan. Once hot, add ginger juliennes (from 1-inch ginger) to it. Fry until the juliennes are golden brown in color but do not burn them.
15- Add to the chole curry, mix and switch off the flame.
16- Lastly, add 1/4 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 tablespoon crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Stir everything, garnish the chole with more cilantro if you like and serve hot.
Serve with bhatura (it’s the best) roti, tandoori roti or plain rice. You can also serve it with any grain of choice like quinoa, couscous etc. As I mentioned above, chole-bhature and chole-chawal (chole & plain rice) are very popular combinations in North India and it’s hard to beat these combos! If you would ask my husband, he would say that chole should be eaten only with bhatura or rice and nothing else.
How to Make Chole in Instant Pot
To make this recipe in the instant pot, soak chickpeas overnight and then pressure cook with whole spices, salt and black tea bags for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Do the step of making the masala on the stovetop for that deep chole flavor.
You can do everything in one-pot too, in which case you will cook the masala first, then add the soaked chickpeas to the pot and pressure cook for 30 to 35 minutes. I like the convenience of one-pot cooking but for a nice Punjabi style chole, do make the masala separately and let the chole simmer on low heat. Trust me, it makes a difference.
Homemade Chole Masala Powder/Chana Masala Powder
This Punjabi chole recipe uses a special blend of spices known as chole masala or chana masala. It might be confusing since the name of the spice blend and the dish is the same!
You can find this spice blend easily at Indian grocery stores however if you can’t find it or want to make it at home, here’s a quick recipe for homemade chole masala powder.
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon dried pomegranate seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
- 2 black cardamoms
- 8 cloves
- 3-4 dried red chilies
- 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
Dry roast all the whole spices (except ginger powder) in a pan on medium heat until the spices are fragrant and become light golden in color, around 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and let the spices cool down. Then transfer the toasted spices to a spice grinder and also add the ground ginger. Grind until the spices are powdered and well combined. Store this masala in an airtight container and use as needed.
- Use good quality and fresh ingredients: using quality spices make a difference to the taste of the final product. I also recommend using homemade ginger garlic paste for maximum flavor.
- Cook the tomatoes for the time mentioned: I know it might sound like a lot (15 minutes) but do cook the tomatoes for the amount of time mentioned in the recipe. It is important for the flavor of the chole.
- Simmer on low for 30 minutes: after the spices, chickpeas and the masala have mixed well together, lower the flame and let the chole simmer for 30 minutes. This helps deepen the flavor. You absolutely should not skip this step. Your chole will taste even better the next day!
- Mash some of the chickpeas as the chole simmers: using the back of your spatula, mash some of the chickpeas while the chole are simmering. This thickens the chole and also adds to the flavor and texture of the curry.
Frequently Asked Questions
The black tea bags that are added only give the chole a nice dark and deep color. They have no impact on the taste whatsoever. If you don’t want to use tea bags for color, you can also use dried amla (Indian gooseberry).
The two are often used interchangeably, however chole usually refers to Punjabi style chickpea curry and it’s a term more popular in northern parts of India while chana masala is more of generic term for any spiced chickpea curry.
Yes, you may. In that case, you would not need to not do the step of pressure cooking the chickpeas. Start by making the masala and go from there. Chole made from raw chickpeas however have much better texture.
This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in March 2014.
Chole Recipe (Punjabi Chole Masala)
To pressure cook
- 2 cups chickpeas raw, to be soaked overnight
- 2 bay leaves
- 5-6 green cardamom pods
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 4-5 black peppercorn
- 2 black tea bags for dark color of chole
- 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- 5 cups water
For the chole masala
- 1 – 1 & 1/2 tablespoons oil use any oil of choice
- 2 whole cloves
- 3/4 cup grated onions or very finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
- 2 & 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes from 4 medium tomatoes
- 3 teaspoons chole masala homemade (recipe above) or store-bought
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder or to taste, use Kashmiri red chili powder for less heat
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika powder
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 salt adjust to taste
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1 inch ginger cut into julienne
- 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 tablespoon crushed kasuri methi also known as dried fenugreek leaves
- 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
- Soak 2 cups of raw chickpeas overnight (or for a minimum of 8 hours) in enough water to cover them. In the morning you should have around 5 cups of chickpeas (they increase in size overnight as they soak). Drain the water in which the chickpeas were soaked.
- Then transfer the chickpeas to a stovetop pressure cooker and add the whole spices- bay leaves, green cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and black peppercorns. Also add 2 black tea bags (for color), 5 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Close the cooker and cook at high heat for 1 to 2 whistles. Then lower the heat to medium and let the chickpeas cook for another 10 minutes or so. Then remove the cooker from heat and let the pressure release naturally. If using an Instant pot, cook on high pressure for 20 minutes and let the pressure release naturally.
- Once the pressure comes off, remove the tea bags and bay leaves using a pair of tongs. The tea bags are used for color only and don't have an impact on the taste of chole. Set this aside.
- Heat 1 to 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a large kadai or pot on medium heat. Add 2 whole cloves and grated onions to the pot. Cook the onions until the raw smell goes away and they are light golden brown in color, this takes around 7 to 8 minutes.
- Then add the ginger garlic paste and cook until the raw smell goes away, around 2 minutes.
- Now, add the tomato puree and stir. Cover the pot and cook the tomatoes for around 15 minutes on medium-low heat, stir every 2 to 3 minutes in between. This step of cooking the tomatoes is important.
- Once the tomatoes are done, add the spices- chole masala, red chili powder, paprika, cumin powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir and cook the spices for a minute or two.
- Then add the boiled chickpeas, (along with the water in which they were boiled) to the pot and stir until the chickpeas are well combined with the masala. Add an extra 1/2 cup water here and then cover the pan and let the chole simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Simmering on how heat is what will give this chole so much flavor! Mash some of the chickpeas with the back of your spatula while they are simmering.The gravy will thicken after 30 minutes, so if you prefer more gravy in your chole, add more water than what is mentioned in the recipe.
- Then for the final step, heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a small pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the ginger juliennes and fry until the juliennes are golden brown in color but do not burn them. Add the ginger juliennes to the chole, stir and switch off the heat.
- Add garam masala, kasuri methi and chopped cilantro and serve the chole hot with rice, bhatura, parathas and more!
- Skip the ghee in the tempering to make this vegan.
- To cut short the process of soaking chickpeas overnight, use canned chickpeas which are easily available at grocery stores. The canned ones can be prepared immediately and do not need to be soaked overnight.
- Adjust the amount of red chili powder in the recipe to taste.
- Patience is something you will need while cooking chole or any such Indian curry. Of course, I can make it in a quicker way by adding everything in the pressure cooker. But if you let the tomatoes and onions cook really well and then simmer the chickpeas with the spices for a longer time, the taste would be much much better.
- I like to keep the chole masala gravy on the thicker side, for a thinner gravy add more water.
- Chole masala actually tastes the best 1 day after you make it because the spices are then better incorporated into the chickpeas.
- Chole freeze well. Let the curry come down to room temperature, store in an airtight container and freeze.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.