This one-pot Kala Chana recipe is a delicious dish that is sure to impress the whole family on even the busiest of weeknights. With just 30 minutes of active time, this easy black chickpea curry will be on the table and ready for a fuss-free dinner. Learn how to make this traditional Punjabi dish with my easy to follow recipe, step-by-step photos and video!
Table of Contents
What is Kala Chana?
In Hindi, kala means “black,” and chana means “chickpea,” so kala chana translates to “black chickpea.” While this name is a bit of a misnomer – the chickpea skin is actually brown or reddish brown, not black – the name refers to a particular variety of garbanzo bean used in this dish.
Also known as the Indian Black Chickpea, Bengal Gram or Desi Chickpea, kala chana is a variety that is native to the Indian subcontinent (desi means “native” or “country”) and has tougher skin and a darker appearance than other light skinned chana that you may be familiar with.
Black chickpeas are a rich source of plant based protein, making them an excellent ingredient for growing kids, active sports players or people who need a big dose of energy.
NOTE: Due to their high fiber content, black chickpeas need to be cooked thoroughly. Some people may find it difficult to digest these, but I find that the Ayurvedic tradition of including spices-herbs like ginger, cumin, asafetida aids in their digestion.
Kala Chana Curry, then, is a delicious chickpea based curry in a gravy made from simple ingredients. Black chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, garlic and spices make up the bulk of this tasty Punjabi dish.
Why This Recipe Works
This yummy family recipe came to me from my mother-in-law. Her recipes are always simple, easy and delectable. This kala chana curry is no exception, requiring just one pot and 30 minutes of active time to make.
I am particularly fond of the consistency of this kala chana gravy. Because it is so flavorful it can be enjoyed by itself like a soup, or be paired with steamed rice or roti for a more filling meal.
This kala chana recipe can also be adjusted to your taste preferences. We like our curries to be at least moderately spicy, but if you prefer a more mild dish, simply pull back on how much chili you add to the gravy.
While we always use dried chana to make curries (which requires that they soak overnight), you can opt to use canned chickpeas instead if you are short on time. Just note that dried beans will always be less expensive than canned.
How to Make Kala Chana
In the step-by-step guide, I explain making kala chana in a pressure cooker. Do not have a pressure cooker? Not to worry.
I have you sorted as I have listed the methods to make this curry in a pot/pan on a stove top and in an Instant Pot, below the Tips section and in the Notes section of the recipe card.
Soak Black Chickpeas
1. Rinse 1 cup black chickpeas (kala chana) a couple of times in water. Then add 2.5 cups water and soak the kala chana overnight or for 8 to 9 hours.
After the black chickpeas have softened and become tender from the soaking, drain the extra water. Using a strainer, rinse the soaked chickpeas in water for a couple of times and set aside.
Sauté Spices and Aromatics
2. In a 3 litre pressure cooker, add 2 tablespoons oil or ghee (clarified butter).
3. When the oil becomes hot, lower the heat. Add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera). Let them crackle.
4. Once the cumin seeds crackle, then add ½ cup finely chopped onions (about 1 medium-sized onion).
5. Sauté the onions stirring often until they become golden. Sauté onions on a medium-low to medium heat.
6. Lower the heat again. Add 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger, and 1 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies or serrano pepper.
7. Sauté for 10 to 12 seconds or until the raw aroma of the ginger and garlic goes away.
8. Add 1.25 cups finely chopped tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes or 1 large tomato).
9. Sauté them on medium-low heat until the oil starts leaving the sides of the onion-tomato masala and the tomatoes begin to soften. You should see the tomatoes becoming mushy and pulpy.
TIP: Swap fresh tomatoes with tomato puree or canned tomatoes. Crush the canned tomatoes before you add them. For tomato puree, add about ½ cup + 2 tablespoons of it.
10. Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 pinch of asafoetida (hing),1 teaspoon coriander powder and 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder.
NOTE: If you are gluten sensitive, please be sure to purchase a gluten free brand of asafoetida, or simply omit it. Many commercially available brands are processed with wheat.
11. Mix well and sauté for a minute on a low heat.
12. Add the kala chana together with 1.5 cups water.
13. Season with salt as required and mix again.
Pressure Cook Kala Chana
14. Pressure cook kala chana on a medium heat for 10 to 11 minutes or 10 to 12 whistles (or more, if needed), until the kala chana are cooked well and softened. If the black chickpeas are undercooked, pressure cook further for 5 minutes more.
TIP 1: If there is too much liquid in the gravy, then cook the chana without the lid until some water evaporates. You can also mash a few chana pieces for the gravy to thicken.
TIP 2: On occasions when I have time, I blend a ladle (roughly ¼ cup) of the cooked kala chana with some water to make a medium-thick paste and add it to the gravy. Mix this paste with the curry and simmer for a couple of minutes. This technique makes the curry taste fabulous and is one tip I highly recommend.
15. When you get the desired consistency, sprinkle ½ teaspoon garam masala. Mix well.
16. Add 1 to 2 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (optional) to the Punjabi kala chana curry.
Leftover kala chana curry keeps well in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Before serving, heat the curry in a pan and then serve it with a side of your choice.
Recipe and Ingredient Notes
- Black Chickpeas: Make use of fresh chickpeas that are within their shelf life for the best taste and texture. Older or aged chickpeas will take a longer time to cook and won’t result in a flavorful curry.
- Soaking: Black chickpeas have a tougher skin, so I always suggest to soak them overnight for about 8 hours. Soaking also ensures that the chickpeas are softened and cooked well, which makes them easy to digest.
- Tomatoes: Out of fresh tomatoes? Use canned tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes prior to cooking them. If replacing with tomato puree, add ½ cup + 2 tablespoons of it.
- Spicing: We prefer our kala chana to be moderately spiced. If you prefer a less spicy version, reduce the green chillies and red chilli powder or cayenne pepper.
- Consistency: The consistency of kala chana curry can be changed as you like. For a soupy and slightly thin consistency, add a bit of more water. For a thicker consistency, add less water. Punjabi kala chana has a medium-thin to thin consistency and is not thick.
Instant Pot Kala Chana
- First rinse and soak the black chickpeas for 8 to 9 hours. Kala chana curry is a breeze to make in the Instant Pot. Follow the recipe instructions as is by first sautéing the aromatics, tomatoes and ground spices.
- Add 1.5 cups water and pressure cook on high pressure for 25 to 30 minutes. When the beep sound is heard, after the cooking is complete, give a quick pressure release after 10 to 12 minutes. Finish with garam masala and coriander leaves.
Making Kala Chana in a Pot
- Presoak chickpeas for at least 8 hours before cooking. I suggest to first cook the soaked chickpeas in 2 cups of water or as needed in a medium to large pot or pan on stovetop on medium to medium-high heat.
- Soaked kala chana will take more than an hour to cook in a pot. Cover and cook. Drain all the water from the cooked chickpeas and set aside.
- Sauté the aromatics, spices and tomatoes in a pan or skillet as listed in the step-by-step guide above. Add the cooked kala chana, salt to this sautéed base of onions, tomatoes.
- Add 1 cup water or as needed. Mix well and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes or more until the gravy thickens a bit and the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors of the masala. Lastly add the coriander leaves and garam masala.
Basically there are few kinds of chickpeas. Kala chana (desi chana) is a smaller sized chickpea having a brown husk while white chickpea (kabuli chana) is larger in size having creamish-white husks. There are also chickpea variants which have green husks (hara chana) and dark black husks (a local rare variant).
There are a few ways to achieve this. First, you can simmer the gravy and chickpeas with no lid after the pressure has been released from the pressure cooker. This will help to evaporate some of the excess liquid.
Secondly, you can opt to mash or blend a ladle-full of the chana. Add the mashed chickpeas back to the gravy and simmer on low. This will release some of the starch into the gravy, which should then thicken the sauce.
Finally, you can opt to add a tablespoon or two of roasted besan (or chickpea flour) to the mix, stirring well to combine.
Absolutely. This black chickpea curry should last well in the refrigerator for up to 1 to 2 days.
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
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Kala Chana (Black Chickpea Curry)
- 1 cup black chickpeas (kala chana) – 172 grams
- 2.5 cups water – for soaking
- 2 tablespoons oil or ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ cup finely chopped onions – 63 grams or 1 medium-sized
- 1.25 cups finely chopped tomatoes – 185 grams or 2 medium-sized
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic – 4 to 5 small to medium-sized garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies or serrano pepper or 1 to 2 green chillies
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger or 1 inch ginger
- 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder or ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder (ground coriander)
- 1 pinch asafetida (hing) – optional
- 1.5 cups water or as required
- salt as required
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala or Punjabi garam masala
- 1 to 2 tablespoons choppped coriander leaves – optional
Soaking black chickpeas
- Rinse black chickpeas for a couple of times in water.
- In a large enough bowl, take 2.5 cups water and soak the black chickpeas or kala chana in it overnight or for 8 to 9 hours.
- Drain the water. Using a colander or strainer, rinse the soaked chickpeas in water for a couple of times and set aside.
Making kala chana
- In a 3 litre pressure cooker, add 2 tablespoon oil or ghee. Reduce the heat to a low.
- Add cumin seeds. Let them crackle and then add finely chopped onions.
- Sauté onions till they become light golden on a medium-low to medium heat. Again reduce the heat to a low.
- Add finely chopped garlic, green chilli, ginger and sauté for 10 to 12 seconds or until the raw aroma of garlic and ginger goes away.
- Add finely chopped tomatoes and sauté them on a medium-low heat until the oil starts leaving from the sides of the onion-tomato masala. The tomatoes should soften and become pulpy.
- Swap fresh tomatoes with tomato puree or canned tomatoes. Crush the canned tomatoes before you add them. For tomato puree, add about ½ cup + 2 tablespoons of it.
- Add turmeric powder, asafoetida, coriander powder, kashmiri red chili powder and sauté for a minute on low heat.
- Then add the soaked black chickpeas and water. Season with salt and mix well.
- Pressure cook chana on a medium heat for 10 to 11 minutes or 10 to 12 whistles until the chickpeas are cooked tender and softened well. If they have a hard center or are undercooked, pressure cook further for 5 minutes.
- Lastly sprinkle the curry with garam masala and coriander leaves. If you like, garnish punjabi kala chana gravy with coriander leaves.
- Serve the black chickpeas gravy with steamed rice, roti.
- Store any leftover kala chana in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. While serving, reheat the curry in a pan and serve with a side of your choice.
Recipe and Ingredient Notes
- Black Chickpeas: Remember to use fresh chickpeas that are under their shelf period for a flavorsome curry. Chickpeas that are old take more time to cook.
- Soaking: I recommend to soak black chickpeas overnight or for about 8 hours as the have a tougher skin. Chickpeas that are soaked well enough, cook properly making them easy to digest.
- Consistency: Change the kala chana curry consistency as per your liking. Add some water for a soupy consistency. To make a thick consistency, include less water. Generally Punjabi kala chana has a medium-thin to thin consistency and is not thick.
- Thicker curry: To make a thicker gravy, simmer the curry and chickpeas with no lid after the pressure has been released from the pressure cooker. This will help to evaporate some of the excess liquid. Secondly, choose to mash or blend a ladle-full of the chana with some water. Add the mashed chickpeas back to the gravy and simmer on low heat for a few minutes. This will release some of the starch into the gravy, which should then thicken the sauce. Thirdly, you can add a tablespoon or two of roasted besan (or chickpea flour) to the mix, stirring well to combine.
- Spicing: If you prefer a less spicy version, lower the quantity of green chillies and red chilli powder or cayenne pepper.
Instant Pot Kala Chana
- Follow the recipe instructions as is by first sautéing the aromatics, tomatoes and ground spices in the Instant Pot steel insert, using the sauté function.
- Add 1.5 cups water, salt and pressure cook on high pressure for 25 to 30 minutes.
- After the cooking is complete, when you hear the beep sound, wait for 10 to 12 minutes and then give a quick pressure release. Lastly add garam masala and coriander leaves to the curry.
Cooking in a Pot
- First soak the chana in water for 8 to 9 hours or overnight. To make the curry in a pot, first cook the kala chana with 2 cups of water or as needed in a medium to large pot or pan on stovetop on medium to medium-high heat. Soaked kala chana will take more than an hour to cook in a pot. Cover and cook.
- Then sauté aromatics, spices and tomatoes in a pan or skillet. Add the cooked kala chana and salt. Add 1 cup water or as required.
- Mix and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes or more until the gravy thickens a bit and the kala chana has absorbed the flavors of the masala. Lastly add the coriander leaves and garam masala.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This kala chana post from the blog archives (January 2014) has been republished and updated on 23 August 2021.