Punjabi Chole / Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry)

Punjabi Chole

Chana Masala or Punjabi Chole (Chickpea Curry) is a rock-star amongst North Indian entree dishes. Combined with Bhatura (puffed, fried tortilla-like Indian bread), onion rings, sliced serrano and pickles, Chana Masala would play the perfect song on your dinner table and make your taste buds dance to its tunes. While there are probably as many different ways to prepare Chole as there are towns in India, the Punjabi variant leaves other contenders far behind with its tangy and spicy tastefulness, thick gravy consistency, and appetizingly good looks. And the health benefits of Chickpeas - low in saturated fat & cholesterol but high in fibers and proteins, make Punjabi Chole appealing to all people that love food but want to eat reasonably.

After learning the ropes of preparing this sumptuous dish in the traditional Punjabi way from my mom's kitchen, I spent years re-inventing and re-mastering my mom's original Punjabi recipe till I could create a simpler & healthier recipe without losing the traditional Punjabi flavors. Also, I use oil (and very little of it) for a more healthy preparation, as opposed to the traditional way of using clarified butter (Ghee). Hope your taste buds enjoy the dance :)

Chana Masala


Serves 2-3

1 cup Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans (Chole/Kabuli Chana)
2 tsp tea leaves/2 Tea Bags; (optional - gives dark-brown color to the chickpeas)
1 1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 large Onion, ground to a fine paste
1 tbsp fresh Ginger paste
1/2 tbsp fresh Garlic paste
1 cup fresh Tomato puree
2-3 Green Chillies (such as Serrano); coarsely grounded
3 Cloves
1 Black Cardamom; available in Indian Grocery Stores
2 Bay leaves; available in Indian Grocery Stores
2 one inch Cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tbsp Chana masala; available in Indian Grocery Stores
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (Red Chilli Powder), or to taste
1/2 tbsp Roasted Cumin powder
1 tbsp Pomegranate powder
Salt to taste

    For garnishing:
    1 inch fresh Ginger piece; cut into thin strips
    2 tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro (Coriander) leaves

    How to make Channa Masala

      1. Rinse & soak the Chickpeas in 4 cups of water for at least 6 hours. Rinse & drain in cold water.
      2. In a Pressure Cooker, add the chickpeas, 3 cups of water, 1 tsp of salt & tea leaves/tea bags (tied in a muslin cloth). Cook till chickpeas are soft but still retaining their shape. Once cooked, discard the tea leaves bag but don't throw away the water. Keep aside.
      3. Heat oil in a deep non-stick pan on medium heat. Add bay leaves, black cardamom, cinnamon & cloves. Sauté for 10 seconds.
      4. Add the onion paste & sauté till light brown in color.
      5. Add ginger-garlic paste & sauté for 2 minutes.
      6. Add tomato puree. Sauté till the oil separates.
      7. Add chana masala, cumin powder, cayenne pepper & pomegranate powder. Sauté for 2 minutes.
      8. Add the chicpeas along with their water & the green chillies. Mix well & cook on low heat for 15 minutes or till the gravy is thick.
      9. Lightly mash some of the chickpeas with the back of your spoon/ladle. Adjust salt to your taste.
      10. Transfer it to a bowl. Garnish with cilantro leaves & ginger strips. Serve hot with bhatura, rice or roti.

      Chickpeas may cause indigestion or flatulence (gas), soaking your beans in water for at least 6 hours helps in removing or greatly reducing the gas-producing carbohydrates & sugars. Make sure you thoroughly rinse your beans, in a colander, before and after soaking. However, if you still face indigestion, you may add 1 tsp of Carom seeds (Ajwain) or a pinch of Asafoetida (Heeng) while adding all the whole spices; Carom Seeds & Asafoetida are known for their digestive properties.


            1. Wow..Looks yum..perfect color for the punjabi chole..Thanks for sharing

            2. we always have it served and enjoy with lemon and onion on puffy bread :)

              1. That's the traditional way to have Chole! Some pickle & green chilli is also served on the side along with Chole which adds to the flavor. Happy cooking!

            3. Am all set to try this recipe but don't have chana masala--any suggestions what can I use instead or can I omit it? Please help.

              1. Hi Karishma,

                Just saw your comment, unfortunately Channa Masala is one of the key ingredients that adds zing to the Chole. Since Chana Masala is a medley of spices, it is hard to replace it. However, you may try using 1 1/2 tbsp of Coriander Powder instead, it will not give you the same great taste but it will still taste good. If the chole are less tangy, add 1/2 tsp of Dry mango powder (Amchur powder) as well. Hope this helps!

                Happy Cooking!!!

            4. Hey Nids - I have a tip for chana's/rajma's. For folks (like me) who get gas from these beans; the solution is to boil the beans for about 15-20 mins after you give them a pressure in the cooker. From the boiling, you will see a frothy accumulation in the center of the water which are the gas causing toxins. Throw that water out, rinse and add fresh water and then follow the normal recipe. And voila - no gas!!!

              So my modification is to add step 2.5 which looks like:

              2.5) Add water to beans. Boil for 20 mins; discard water.

              1. Amit, thanks for sharing your tip. Unfortunately, the water contains a lot of the flavors and possibly some of the nutrients of the Chana Masala, so throwing it away will reduce both. The "Tips" section of my recipe offers some ways to avoid indigestion & gas without losing the flavors or nutrients. If followed correctly, it should be adequate to take care of the indigestion & gas problem. However, if those pointers don't work then your tip seems to be a good one to try out, albeit at the expense of losing some flavors & nutrients - sometimes life gives us hard choices, sigh! Happy cooking - Nids

            5. Hmmm not bad. Punjabis are the best....in everythin....from food to cothes....

              1. Awww...thanks for such sweet words, Tasha! You just made my day :) ~ Nids