This tasty chickpea curry, also known as chana masala or chana dal, is popular in northern India where it is often sold by street vendors and eaten with fried bread called bhature.  It is also very good served simply over basmati rice as a vegetarian entrée or as an accompaniment to other Indian dishes.

While I used dried chickpeas cooked in a pressure cooker as is commonly done in India, canned chickpeas work just fine as well. Simply skip the first part of the recipe. If you do not have a pressure cooker and want to start with dried chickpeas allow for double the cooking time.


  • 6 ounces dried chickpeas
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, 1 coarsely chopped and 1 sliced
  • 3 small tomatoes, canned are fine
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic or 1 Tbsp. garlic paste
  • 2 tsp. grated ginger or ginger paste
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. Indian red chili powder or to taste (do not use Mexican-style chili powder)
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • Fresh coriander leaves to garnish


Rinse the chickpeas and put into the pressure cooker along with 4 cups of water. Add 1 bay leaf and a good grind of black pepper. Cook at 15 psi for 45 minutes. Cool and open the pressure cooker according to manufacturer’s instructions and drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the bay leaf.

Place the chopped onions, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger in a food processor or blender and reduce to a smooth paste adding a bit of water if needed. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pan over medium heat. Fry the remaining bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns for about 30 seconds. Add the sliced onion and fry until light golden, about 8 minutes. Add the onion-tomato paste and fry till the oil begins to separate from the paste, another 5 minutes or so. Sprinkle on the coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, and garam masala powders and fry for 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and darkened somewhat. Do not rush this stage of preparation because getting the base well concentrated is the key to a good curry.

Mix in the chickpeas and cooking liquid to cover. If using canned chickpeas discard the liquid in the can and use fresh water.  Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the liquid has thickened. Season with salt to taste.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with Indian breads or rice.


4 responses to “Chole

  1. sabjimata November 8, 2010 at 18:19

    Love chole! Chickpeas are my BFF now that I am pregnant.

  2. scott November 9, 2010 at 20:04

    So what if you want to use Chana dal rather than chick peas? Chick peas are larger than the Chana dal I have. Would you change the amount from 6oz? Would you change the time in the pressure cooker?

    Thank you.

    • Leo Cotnoir November 9, 2010 at 20:21

      The beans I used were actually labeled Kabuli Chana which, as nearly as I can determine, are the same as chickpeas. They were of the Swad brand and from Canada. I also have on hand what are commonly called mudammas or, in French gourganes, that are very similar to chickpeas but a bit darker. Those are also called favas but are very different from the large flat favas also called broad beans. All that said, the beauty of portioning things by weight rather than by volume is that it should not make much difference what size the beans are. As for cooking time I would start with the a bit less time if your beans are small. You can always finish them at atmospheric pressure if they are under done. Don’t forget, though, that canned chickpeas are larger than dry and that dry swell up as they cook. Good luck!

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