This Punjabi Chana Masala, also known as Chole Masala, is an authentic North Indian style curry made with white chickpeas, freshly powdered spices, onions, tomatoes and herbs. Naturally vegan and packed with healthy minerals, protein and fiber, this delicious vegetarian meal can be ready in just 45 minutes minus the soaking time of chickpeas.
Table of Contents
What is Chana Masala?
Chana Masala is a popular Indian dish of white chickpeas in a spicy and tangy gravy. In North India, this dish is called ‘chole masala,’ or simply ‘chole’. No matter what you call it, this is a tasty vegetarian curry dish that you should definitely try making yourself!
Chana is the Hindi word and chole is the Punjabi word for chickpeas. In Hindi, the word masala means a mixture of spices. When the word masala shows up in a dish – like this Chana Masala or Paneer Butter Masala, for example – it specifically refers to a spiced gravy.
There are many variations of chickpea curries made in Indian cuisine, but I like this Punjabi chana recipe that I have shared here the most. It tastes like the chole you get in the streets of Delhi and Punjab! Few more deliciousous variations you can try are:
About This Chole Masala Recipe
This recipe was originally inspired and adapted from Anita’s blog and posted in 2009. I can’t believe it has been 12 years since the original posting!!!
Over the years, I have continued to perfect the recipe, making changes in proportions as well as ingredients. The result is this chole masala recipe, which has a good balance of spiciness, taste and flavor. In the process, I also updated the pictures in the post and added a video making it even easier for you to follow along with me. Hooray!
This easy, lip-smacking Punjabi chana masala is one of the most tried and tested recipes on the blog. It has been made innumerable times by me as well as by many readers.
This chana masala recipe reminds me of Chole Bhature, which is our favorite street food. Chole Bhature is a popular Punjabi dish where chana masala is served with a fried leavened puffed bread known as Bhatura (or plural bhature).
When living in Delhi and Gurgaon, we would get awesome chole bhature in many places. While I don’t live in those cities anymore, I still get strong cravings for street style chole bhature, and this recipe for chana masala hits the spot!
It tastes exactly like the North Indian street-side chole curry, minus the heat. We prefer our foods on the tamer side of the Scoville index, so I’ve made a milder masala gravy. However, if you prefer spicier food, simply increase the quantity of red chili powder, green chillies and garam masala powder to get the flavor just right for your palate.
The Importance of Soaking Chickpeas
When you make any chickpea or Rajma (Kidney Bean Curry), it is always better to soak the beans or chickpeas overnight (or for at least 8 hours), which makes it easier to cook the legumes. Soaking beans or chickpeas also reduces the phytic acid, which is the element that causes bloating and flatulence.
Pro Tip: If you have forgotten to soak the chickpeas, you can speed up the process by adding them to a bowl of hot boiled water. Cover and soak for 1 to 2 hours.
In a pinch, you can also opt to use canned chickpeas instead. This will reduce the amount of cooking you have to do, but the trade-off is that you don’t get the opportunity to season the chickpeas with amla (Indian gooseberry) or tea bags.
Ingredients & Substitutes
- Dried Amla (Dried Indian Gooseberry) and Dry Pomegranate Seeds: The dried amla gives a dark color to the chole, along with a light tang. The pomegranate seeds give a sour taste. Find these ingredients at Indian specialty food stores or online at amazon.com.
- If you cannot find these ingredients, add dry mango powder (amchur powder) towards the end. In the absence of amchur powder, you can also squeeze some lime or lemon juice towards the end to mimic the tanginess of amla and pomegranate seeds.
- You can also use a black tea bag to achieve the darker color that amla imparts. If you are not fussy about the dark color, then just cook the chickpeas in water with some salt or opt for canned chickpeas.
- Chana Masala Spices: what contributes to the flavors and aroma of this dish are the freshly ground chole masala spices. The whole spices are roasted until they get extra browned and are later ground.
- If possible, I always recommend making your own masala spice mixes from scratch. Whole spices are preferable to pre-ground spices, as they retain more of their naturally occurring oils. By making our own chana masala spice mix, we not only have control over the spiciness of the dish, but also the depth and quality of flavor.
How to make Chana Masala
This simple chole masala can be broken down into three easy steps.
1. Soaking and Cooking Chickpeas
1. Rinse 1 cup dried white chickpeas (a.k.a. chana or chole) in fresh water a couple of times. Then soak them overnight or for 8 to 9 hours in 3 cups of water.
Keep in mind to add enough water to take into account that the chickpeas increase in size during soaking.
After they have soaked, later drain all the water and again rinse the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for a couple of times.
2. Traditionally dried amla (Indian gooseberries) are added to impart a dark color to the chickpeas. Amla also gives a faint sourness to the stock. If you do not have dried amla, you can opt to add 1 black tea bag.
If you do not care about the dark color, then you can also just cook the chickpeas with salt and water, or opt to use drained canned chickpeas instead.
3. In a 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker, add the chickpeas along with 2 to 3 dried amla pieces or 1 black tea bag. Add 2.5 to 3 cups of water.
NOTE: Taj tea bags work very well.
4. Season with ½ teaspoon salt. Stir very well.
5. Pressure cook the chickpeas for 12 to 15 whistles on medium heat. The chickpeas should be cooked well and softened enough that you can mash them with a spoon.
If you do not have a pressure cooker, then cook the chickpeas in a pot on the stovetop with plenty of water. Depending on the quality and freshness of chickpeas, it can take up to 1 to 2 hours for the stovetop pan method.
2. Making Chole Masala Spice Powder
6. Meanwhile, add all the whole spices for the chole masala to a pan or skillet. Begin to roast them on a low heat. The spices used for masala are the following:
- 2 black cardamoms
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 3 to 4 peppercorns
- 2 cloves
- 1 medium tej patta (Indian bay leaf) or 2 small tej patta
- ¼ teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon dry pomegranate seeds (if you do not have these seeds, then omit adding them at this step and add dry mango powder or lemon juice later as mentioned in the steps below. In the recipe video, dry mango powder is added.)
- 1 to 2 dry red chilies (preferably broken and seeds removed)
7. Stir often and roast the spices until they get extra browned, but not yet burnt. Don’t stop even after they become fragrant, as they need to get more browned than usual.
8. The extra browned and roasted spices are pictured below.
9. Let these roasted spices cool and then grind or powder them finely in a coffee grinder or in a dry grinder.
10. By now the chickpeas are cooked (pictured below). You will see a darker brown shade in the white chickpeas. Remove the amla pieces or the tea bag from the stock and discard them.
3. Making Chana Masala Gravy
11. Heat 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan or kadai (wok). Add ½ teaspoon ginger-garlic paste and sauté for some seconds or until their raw aroma goes away. You can use any neutral tasting oil.
12. Then add ⅓ cup finely chopped onions. Sauté stirring often till the onions soften and turn translucent or light brown.
13. Add ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes.
14. Sauté the tomatoes stirring often until they soften and the oil starts to leave the sides of the onion-tomato mixture.
15. Reduce the heat. Then add all of the powdered spices that we made, together with ½ teaspoon red chili powder and ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder.
At this point, you can also add ¼ teaspoon garam masala – which is optional though.
16. Mix very well. Then add 2 to 3 slit green chilies to the onion-tomato masala mixture.
17. Add the cooked and drained chickpeas. Reserve the stock.
18. Stir and mix very well.
19. Season with salt as per requirement. Mix again. Keep the addition of salt in check as salt is also there in the stock.
20. Add about 1 to 1.25 cups of reserved stock or water. Stir well.
21. For a thinner gravy, cover and simmer on low to medium heat. You can also cook chickpeas without the lid, causing the gravy to thicken and reduce.
Mash some chickpeas with the spoon to thicken the gravy. If you prefer an even thicker gravy, add less water or mash more chickpeas to release the starches.
You can keep the consistency you prefer. At home, we prefer chole recipe with a bit of gravy.
22. If you have not added dry pomegranate seeds while roasting the spices, then you need to add amchur powder (dry mango powder) now.
About 1 teaspoon amchur powder is enough. However, you can add less or more of it as per your taste. Stir the gravy very well.
If you do not have dry mango powder, then add ½ to 1 teaspoon lemon juice or according to your taste.
23. The chana masala is ready to be served.
24. Garnish with chopped onions and cilantro (coriander leaves). Serve the Punjabi chole with fried Indian bread like bhatura or poori, together with a side of sliced onions, ginger julienne and lime or lemon wedges. Yum!
As I mentioned earlier, I prefer my chana masala served with a poori or roti. Some great options are: tandoori roti, phulka, kulcha, bhatura or naan. Add some sliced onions and fresh lime or lemon and you have the perfect Indian meal!
If you are avoiding gluten, this chole masala also tastes good with plain steamed Basmati or jeera rice.
Sure! Any leftovers can be frozen for up to a week or refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. However, I always recommend eating any lentils or beans on the same day. Otherwise, it can give digestion-related issues with Vatta dosha according to Ayurveda. To reheat, allow to defrost in the refrigerator overnight and either use the stovetop/pot method or microwave it in intervals.
Chana is the Hindi word for chickpeas, while tikka is the Hindi word for “chunks.” Chana masala is therefore a chickpea-based curry dish, while there are many kinds of tikka masala recipes out there that use vegetables, paneer or meat in a curry sauce.
You can try, but masala made with freshly roasted and ground spices has a different flavor and taste than the ones made with pre-ground spices. I highly recommend trying to make your own – it really only takes about 10 minutes, and the flavor is so superior that you won’t mind!
If you are using pre-made chole masala spices, start with 2 to 3 tablespoons.
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Chana Masala | Punjabi Chole Recipe
For pressure cooking white chickpeas
- 1 cup dried white chickpeas (garbanzo beans, kabuli chana or safed chole) – 200 grams
- 3 cups water – for soaking chickpeas
- 2.5 to 3 cups water – for pressure cooking the chickpeas
- 2 to 3 dried amla or Indian gooseberry or 1 black tea bag, optional
- ½ teaspoon salt or add as required
Ingredients for gravy
- ⅓ cup finely chopped onions or 1 medium-sized
- ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes or 1 medium-sized
- ½ teaspoon Ginger-Garlic Paste or 2 to 3 small garlic cloves + ½ inch ginger, crushed to a paste in a mortar-pestle
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder – optional
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon amchur powder (dry mango powder), optional and only to be added when you do not have dry pomegranate seeds
- 2 to 3 green chilies – slit
- 1 to 1.25 cups water or the stock in which the chickpeas were cooked
- 1.5 to 2 tablespoons oil
- salt as required
Spices for chana masala powder
- 2 black cardamoms
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 3 to 4 black peppercorns
- 2 cloves
- 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf) – medium sized
- ¼ teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon dry pomegranate seeds
- 1 to 2 kashmiri dry red chilies
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- ½ to 1 inch ginger – julienne
- 1 medium onion sliced or chopped
- 1 medium tomato sliced or chopped
- 1 lemon or lime, sliced or quartered
Soaking and cooking white chickpeas
- Rinse the chickpeas a couple of times in fresh water. Then soak them in water overnight or for 8 to 9 hours. Add enough amount of water as the chickpeas increase in size after soaking it. Later drain the water and again rinse the soaked chickpeas with fresh water.
- To give a dark color to the chickpeas, traditionally dried amla (Indian gooseberries) are added. These also give a faint sourness to the stock. If you do not have dried amla, then add 1 black tea bag.
- In a 3-litre stovetop pressure cooker add the chickpeas along with the 3 to 4 dried amla pieces or 1 black tea bag. Taj tea bags work very well. Then add water.
- Season with salt and pressure cook the chickpeas for 12 to 15 whistles on medium heat. The chickpeas should be cooked well and softened. The chickpeas should be soft when you mash it with a spoon or eat it. The chickpeas should not give you a bite when you eat it.
Dry roasting spices
- In a pan, take all the whole spices for the "chole masala powder" mentioned above and on a low heat begin to roast them.
- Stir often and roast the spices till they get extra browned. Don’t burn them. You have to go beyond a point roasting them even after they become fragrant and they get more browned than what is the norm usually.
- Let these roasted spices cool and then grind or powder them finely in a coffee grinder or in a dry grinder.
- By now the chana will be cooked. You will see a darker brown shade in the safed (white chana). Remove the amla pieces which would have softened by now or the tea bag from the stock.
Making chana masala
- Heat oil in a pan or kadai. Add ginger-garlic paste and saute for few seconds or till their raw aroma goes away.
- Then add chopped onions and saute stirring often till the onions turn translucent or light brown.
- Add tomatoes and saute stirring often till they soften and the oil starts to leave the sides of the onion and tomato mixture.
- Lower the heat and then add all of the powdered chole masala that we ground, together with the red chili powder, turmeric powder and garam masala powder (optional).
- Stir and mix the dry ground spices and then add slit green chilies
- Add the cooked chickpeas. Mix well.
- Add salt according to taste. Then add about 1 to 1.25 cups of the stock in which the chickpeas was cooked. You can also add water instead.
- Stir and cover the pan with a lid.
Cooking chole masala
- Simmer on a low to medium heat. You can also cook the chana masala without the lid.
- The gravy will thicken and reduce. Mash a few chickpeas as this helps in thickening the gravy.
- Simmer till you get the consistency you prefer. The consistency of this curry is not thin, but medium consistency or semi-dry. For thick or semi-dry consistency add less water.
- If you have not added dry pomegranate seeds while roasting the spices, then you need to add amchur powder (dry mango powder) now. Mix and stir well.
- Serve the Punjabi chana masala with kulcha, bhatura, poori, roti, naan, bread with a side of sliced onions, tomatoes and lemon or lime wedges.
- While serving garnish with coriander leaves and ginger julienne.
- This Chole Masala also tastes good with steamed rice or jeera rice or saffron rice.
- For dried chickpeas ensure that they are fresh and within their shelf period. Old or aged chickpeas will take a lot of time to cook and also don’t taste good.
- If you don’t have dry mango powder (amchur) or dried pomegranate seeds then add lime or lemon juice towards the end once the dish is complete.
- You can also use 3 cups of canned chickpeas and add them once the tomatoes and ground spices are sautéed well.
- You can skip making the chana masala powder from scratch and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of packaged chana masala powder instead.
Cooking Chickpeas In Pan or Pot:
- You have to take enough water in the pot while cooking the chickpeas. It takes a lot of time though. For 1.5 to 2 cups of soaked & drained chickpeas, you can take about 4 to 5 cups of water.
- Adding a pinch of baking soda in the water along with salt, also helps in the cooking process and the chickpeas become really soft when cooked.
- You can add about 1 teaspoon of salt while cooking the chickpeas. A little less salt is also alright. I usually add less salt.
- Cover the pot and cook the chickpeas. If the water starts to become frothy, then remove the lid and cook chickpeas for some minutes. Remove the scum if there is any while cooking the chickpeas.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Chana Masala Recipe Post from the blog archives first published in August 2009 has been republished and updated on 22 July 2021.