Punjabi chole masala or chana masala is one of the most popular curry dishes from India. In fact in north India no wedding or party is complete until you have chole masala on the menu. I remember whenever we would call someone over for lunch or dinner, mom would almost always make chole.
So what actually is chole masala? In this recipe, chickpeas are cooked with onions, tomatoes and lots of spices. A special blend of spices called “chole powder/masala” is easily available at every Indian store. One can make chole masala powder at home too by dry roasting ingredients like cumin, cloves, coriander, peppercorn, cardamom etc. But I usually get the masala from the store, saves me time and also tastes good.
My husband loves chole, well that’s 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 have now found the perfect recipe. Hubby feels that I make the best chole, maybe he’s just biased but at least that make me pretty confident about this recipe ; -)
You will notice that I added 2 tea bags while cooking chickpeas in the pressure cooker, that’s because the tea bags help in giving chole a dark brown/black color. I added only 2, but for a deeper darker brown color, you can add more tea bags. And before you start wondering, let me assure you that the tea bags do not hamper the taste of chickpeas in any way.
To pressure cook
Chickpeas/Chole: 2 cups + 2 tbsp
Black peppercorn: 4-5
Bay leaves: 2
Cinnamon sticks: 2
Tea bags: 2
Salt: to taste
Water: 5 cups
For the chole
Onion: 3/4 cup, grated or pureed [from 2 small onions]
Tomatoes: 2.5 cups puree [from 4 medium tomatoes]
Ginger-garlic paste: 2 teaspoon
Chole Masala: 3 teaspoon
Cumin powder: 3/4 teaspoon
Paprika powder: 1/2 teaspoon
Red chili powder: 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
Salt: to taste
Ghee [clarified butter]: 1 tablespoon
Ginger: 1 inch, cut into julienne
Dried fenugreek leaves [kasuri methi]: 1/2 tbsp, crushed
Coriander leaves: 2 tablespoon, chopped
Garam masala: 1/4 teaspoon
Soak the chickpeas overnight in enough water to cover them. I soaked a little more than 2 cups and in the morning I had around 5.5 cups of it! Drain the water in which you had soaked the chickpeas.
1. In a pressure cooker add the soaked and drained chickpeas, around 5 cups water, 2 tea bags, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon stick and some salt. Pressure cook at high flame till you get 1-2 whistles. After that lower the flame to medium and let the chickpeas cook for another 10-12 minutes. 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.
Here, you can also remove the bay leaves, cinnamon stick etc. from the chickpeas if you don’t want them in the curry.
2. In a wok, heat 2 tsp of oil. Once hot, add cloves and grated onions. Fry the onions till the raw smell goes away and they are light golden brown in color.
3. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook for 3-4 minutes till the smell of ginger-garlic goes away.
4. Now add the tomato puree , stir and let it cook for 12-15 minutes on medium-low flame. Cover the pan to prevent splash all around. This step in my opinion is very important. The tomatoes need to be cooked really well till the raw smell goes away completely. So have patience and let them cook for around 15 minutes.
5. Add the chole masala, red chilli powder, paprika powder, cumin powder, salt and mix for a 1-2 minutes.
6. Drain the the chickpeas and add them to the tomato-onion mixture, stir till all the chickpeas are coated with spices, around 2 minutes. Do not throw away the water once you have drained the chickpeas. We will add the same water in the gravy.
7. Add water, cover the pan and let it simmer at medium-low flame for around 30 minutes. 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.
After 30 minutes the gravy, chickpeas and all the spices would have mixed well together. We can now do the tempering.
8. To temper, heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a pan and the ginger julienne to it.
9. Fry till the juliennes are golden brown in color but do not burn them. Add to the chole curry, mix and switch off the flame.
Sprinkle some garam masala, kasuri methi and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Serve with roti, paratha or plain rice. Chole-chawal (chole & plain rice) is a very popular combination in North India.
Punjabi Chole - Chickpeas Curry
To pressure cook
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoons raw chickpeas
- 5-6 green cardamom pods
- 4-5 black peppercorn
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tea bags
- salt, to taste
- 5 cups water
For the chole masala
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3-4 cloves
- 3/4 cup pureed onion , from 2 small onions
- 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
- 2.5 cups pureed tomatoes , from 4 medium tomatoes
- 3 teaspoons chole masala
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika powder
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
- salt, 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 chopped cilantro
Soak the chickpeas overnight in enough water to cover them. In the morning, drain the water.
In a pressure cooker add the soaked and drained chickpeas, 2 tea bags, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, salt and 4 to 5 cups water. Pressure cook at high flame till you get 1-2 whistles. After that lower the flame to medium and let the chickpeas cook for another 10-12 minutes.
In a wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add cloves and grated onions. Fry the onions till the raw smell goes away and they are light golden brown in color.
- Add ginger-garlic paste and cook for 3-4 minutes till the smell of ginger-garlic goes away.
- Now add the tomato puree , stir and let it cook for 12-15 minutes on medium-low flame. Cover the pan to prevent the splash all around.
Add the chole masala, red chilli powder, paprika powder, cumin powder, salt and mix for a 1-2 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas next and stir will all the chickpeas are coated with the spices, around 2 minutes.
Add water (which was used for boiling the chickpeas), cover the pan and let it simmer at medium-low flame for around 30 minutes. The gravy will thicken after 30 minutes so add water accordingly.
- To temper, heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a pan and the ginger julienne to it.
- Fry till the juliennes are golden brown in color but do not burn them. Add to the chole curry, mix and switch off the flame.
- Sprinkle some garam masala, kasuri methi and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
- Serve with roti, paratha or plain rice.
- 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.