Kadala Curry (a.k.a. Kadala Kari) is a delicious and flavorful curry made with black chickpeas, onions, herbs, coconut and a bevy of warming spices. This popular curry is traditionally served with Puttu or Appam for breakfast in Kerala cuisine. Follow along with my step by step photos to learn how to make this comforting gluten-free and vegan curry like a pro!
About Kadala Curry
Kadala is the Malayalam word for “chickpeas,” which are also known as kala chana, desi chana or whole bengal gram. Kari means “curry,” which you might’ve already guessed from context clues.
Chickpeas are a great source of vegetarian protein, as well as fiber and nutrients, making this a healthy curry option. This traditional recipe from Kerala is also naturally vegan and gluten free, making it a lovely meal for sharing with friends and family.
Kadala kari and Puttu (steamed rice and coconut cakes) is one of my favorite breakfast combos, which isn’t surprising given its popularity in the state of Kerala. While this pairing makes for a delicious morning meal, you can also serve kadala curry with rice, chapatis or pooris for lunch or dinner.
This recipe calls for a special Kerala garam masala (garam masala simply means “a warming spice blend or spice mix”). Since this blend is not readily available in all stores, I have made a very small amount of the spice blend that is just enough for this recipe.
As with many Indian recipes, there are many variations of kadala curry, ranging from gravy to a semi-dry version. Some variations use coconut milk, others use fresh or roasted coconut, and still others don’t use coconut at all. This particular recipe has been loosely adapted from the ‘Essential Kerala Cookbook’ by Vijayan Kannampilly.
This spicy kadala curry is also quite versatile; it can be served with puttu, appams, Idiyappam or with steamed rice, chapati or poori depending on what you have on hand and what you prefer.
How to Make Kadala Curry
1. You will first need to rinse and then soak 1 cup black chickpeas in 2 cups of water for 8 to 9 hours (or overnight).
Note: You can also use white chickpeas instead of black chickpeas.
Tip: In a hurry? You can speed up the soaking process by bringing the water to a boil before pouring over the chickpeas. Allow them to soak in the hot water for an hour before draining and proceeding with cooking.
For a super speedy shortcut, you can also opt to use drained and rinsed canned white chickpeas – if you do, simply skip to step 5.
2. Add the soaked black chickpeas to a 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker with ½ teaspoon salt.
3. Add 2.5 cups fresh water.
4. Stir to combine, then pressure cook the chickpeas for approximately 9 to 10 whistles, until they are tender and cooked through. Reserve the stock (a.k.a. aquafaba) and keep it aside.
If you prefer you can choose to cook the chickpeas in a pot on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot adding water as needed.
Make Coconut Paste
5. While the chickpeas are cooking, add ½ cup tightly packed grated coconut in a grinder or blender jar.
6. Add ¼ to ⅓ cup water and grind or blend to a smooth paste. (Add more water if required.) Keep the ground coconut paste aside.
Remember to blend or grind the coconut finely.
Make Kerala-style Garam Masala
7. In a small pan, dry roast the following five spices till fragrant:
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 to 3 single strands of mace
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 pinches of grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder
This is just a light roasting to awaken the oils in the spices; don’t over-do it.
Note: If you prefer to use a pre-packaged spice blend, you are welcome to.
8. Using a small spice grinder, coffee grinder or a mortar & pestle, grind or pound these five spices to a semi fine or fine powder. Keep aside.
Make Kadala Curry
9. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a pan. Coconut oil gives a really good flavor but if you don’t have it on hand then feel free to use any neutral-tasting oil.
10. Add ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds and let them crackle.
11. Add ⅓ cup chopped pearl onions or shallots. Stir and sauté for a minute.
12. Add 1 teaspoon chopped ginger, 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies, and 10 to 12 curry leaves. Sauté till the shallots turn translucent or light golden.
13. Add 1 teaspoon red chili powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder and the entirety of the ground Kerala garam masala.
If you are using packaged Kerala garam masala, then add 1 teaspoon of it.
Tip: I use a full teaspoon of red chili powder in this recipe because we like it spicy! For a milder version, reduce to ½ teaspoon.
Also, tomatoes are not added in this recipe, but you can add 1 finely chopped medium tomato if you like.
14. Stir the masalas very well on low heat and sauté for a minute.
15. Add the ground coconut paste.
16. Stir and mix very well.
17. Sauté stirring often for about 4 to 5 minutes on low heat.
18. Add the cooked black chana (kadala).
19. Stir and mix very well.
Simmer Kadala Curry
20. Add 1 to 1.25 cups liquid – you can use water, chana stock (the water in which the chickpeas were cooked) or a combination of both. Stir to mix.
For a thicker consistency in the curry add less water. For a thin consistency you can increase the water a bit, but make sure not to dilute the flavors by adding too much of water.
21. Season with salt and stir the curry again. Remember to start with less salt – you can always add more, but you can’t take it away!
22. Let the curry come to a boil on medium heat.
23. Simmer the curry till all the flavors of the kadala curry are well blended. You will also see some oil specks floating on top.
To thicken the curry you can also mash some of the black chickpeas with the back of a spoon.
Any leftover stays good for about 1 day in the fridge in an air tight container. While reheating add a splash of water if the curry has thickened too much. Reheat in a pan or a small pot.
Yep! Kadala curry will keep in the refrigerator for up to a day. To reheat, simmer gently on the stove adding water as needed if the curry has thickened.
While black chickpeas are traditionally used for making Kadala Curry, you can make substitutions based on what you have available.
I recommend using chana (white chickpeas) or rajma (red kidney beans) or black eyed beans if you can’t get your hands on black chickpeas.
Mace and nutmeg come from the same tree, so you can substitute about 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg instead.
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Kadala Curry | Kadala Kari
For cooking the chickpeas
- 1 cup black chickpeas – 172 grams (kala chana or desi chana or whole bengal gram or kadala)
- 2 cups water for soaking black chickpeas
- 2.5 cups water for pressure cooking
For kerala garam masala
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 to 3 thin strands of mace
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 3 cloves
- 3 pinches grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg powder
For coconut paste
- ½ cup fresh grated coconut – tightly packed
- ¼ to ⅓ cup water for grinding or blending coconut
Other ingredients for kadala curry
- ⅓ cup chopped shallots or pearl onions (sambar onions)
- 1 inch ginger chopped, about 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
- 1 or 2 green chilies chopped, about 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies or serrano pepper
- 10 to 12 curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder – for less spicy taste add ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder (ground coriander)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder (ground black pepper)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 to 1.25 cups water or stock in which the black chickpeas are cooked
- salt as required
Pressure cooking chickpeas: (Check notes on cooking chickpeas in a pot/pan)
- First rinse and then soak the black chickpeas in 2 cups water for 8 to 9 hours or overnight. You can also use white chickpeas instead of black chickpeas.
- Take the black chickpeas in a 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker. Add fresh water and salt.
- Stir and pressure cook the chickpeas for 9 to 10 whistles or till they are tender and cooked through on medium heat.
Preparing coconut paste
- Meanwhile when the chickpeas are cooking, take the grated coconut in a grinder or blender jar. Add water and grind or blend to a smooth paste.
- Keep the ground coconut paste aside.
Preparing kerala garam masala
- In a small pan, dry roast the following spices till aromatic – fennel seeds, mace strands, cinnamon, cloves and grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder. Just a light roasting. Don't over do.
- In a small grinder or coffee grinder or a mortar pestle, grind or pound these five spices to a semi fine or fine powder. Keep aside.
Making kadala curry
- Heat coconut oil in a pan.
- Add mustard seeds and let them crackle.
- Add chopped shallots. Stir and saute for a minute.
- Then add ginger, chopped green chilies, curry leaves and saute till the shallots turn translucent or a light brown.
- Then add red chili powder, coriander powder, black pepper powder and the ground kerala garam masala. If you already have kerala garam masala, then just add 1 teaspoon of it. Note that 1 teaspoon of red chili powder, makes this curry spicy. So reduce to ½ teaspoon for a less spicy curry.
- Stir the ground spices very well and saute for a minute on low heat.
- Then add the ground coconut paste.
- Stir and mix very well.
- Saute for 4 to 5 minutes on a low heat.
- Then add the cooked black chickpeas or kadala. Stir very well.
- Then add 1 to 1.25 cups water or according to the consistency you prefer. Again stir and mix very well.
- Season with the required amount of salt and stir kadala curry again.
- Let the curry come to a boil on medium heat and the gravy reduces a bit. The flavors and chickpeas should also be well blended. When the curry is done and cooked well, you will see some oil specks on the top layer of the curry.
- Serve Kadala Curry hot with puttu or appams or steamed rice. While serving, you can garnish with some chopped coriander leaves if you like.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Kadala Curry post from the archives first published in January 2015 has been republished on 28 September 2021 and updated on 20 July 2022.