chole masala – punjabi chickpea curry

Chole masala is one seriously delicious vegetarian chickpea curry. This is a Punjabi jewel. Really, really good. Like no other chana masala I have ever tried.

Chole masala or chana masala?

It’s different. There’s about a million chana masala recipes out there. Some are good. Others are great. But chole masala is truly memorable.

I’m not really sure what the difference is between chole and chana masala. They are both chickpea curries. As far as I can tell chole is the Punjabi word for chana.

Chole masala is the ultimate Indian chickpea curry. Chana masala times 10.

But what matters is that they have come up with a fantastic chickpea curry. Call it chana or chole masala. Doesn’t change the fact that this is a great chickpea curry.

Dipping chapati into Punjabi chole masala

Get the picture yet? I’m saying this is the boss chickpea curry. In my mind anyway. If you came across this dish at a restaurant buffet this is what you would come back for.

I’m not saying you should go to an Indian buffet. Would never say that. Just not a fan. Mediocre Indian food sitting on a steam table. Not good. But if you did. And this was being served…

Punjabi chole masala in a iron bowl from above.

It’s this crazy tomato onion curry. And what makes it special is the spicing. Savoury. Slightly sour. Earthy. A flavour bomb.

Amchoor and anardhana make this special

Two spices used are a bit unusual. They are the ones that make this special. Push it over the top. There’s also some good Indian restaurant technique. Technique is always important. It’s not just the ingredients. It’s what you do with them.

The first is Amchoor. Amchoor is dried mango powder. It’s got this earthy, slightly sour taste going on. Like tamarind but not quite. A great taste.

The other is Anardhana. Big name. But really just pomegranate seeds. Amazing how good pomegranate is in this curry.

Pretty sure this is going to take a trip to your local Indian grocer. Almost nobody has all these ingredients. It’s worth the trip though. Not a waste of time. These same spices are used in lots of Indian cooking. If you like Indian you are going to need them anyway.

Just a great chickpea curry

Chole masala is a great vegetarian entree. Serve it up with an Indian flatbread and a green salad and you have satisfying meal. Seriously. I don’t have even mildly vegetarian tendencies. Look around. This is not a vegan friendly blog. But I like this enough to build a vegetarian menu around it. And I’m happy about it even.

Chole masala is also a spectacular side dish for any Indian meal. Any way you serve it, it’s just good. Make it. Eat it. Enjoy it. It may be the best chickpea curry you ever taste.

Close up of Punjabi chole masala

Punjabi chole masala in an Indian iron dish from the front.
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4.77 from 17 votes

chole masala

Chole masala (or chana masala) is an absolutely delicious Punjabi chickpea curry. It not like any chickpea curry you have ever had
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 473kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen

Ingredients

Chole masala

  • 1 19 oz can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 2 onions finely diced
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil divided
  • 2 green chilies finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes - this is not tomato paste. Think passata...
  • 2 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1/2 cup water maybe a bit more depending on your desired consistency

Whole spices

  • 2-3 kashmiri red chilies
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 2 inch piece cinnamon bark

Ground spices

  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp kasoor methi dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp amchoor powder mango powder - secret ingredient number one
  • 1 tsp anardhana pomegranate seeds - secret ingredient number two
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

Fry the onions

  • Add two tbsp vegetable oil to a frying pan. Surface area in the pan is going to help move this along. 
  • Add the onions and cook over medium heat until the onions are well browned. Stir once in a while. This takes about 15 minutes. Keep going until they are soft and brown. This is important.

Prep your spices

  • This will give you something to do while the onions cook. Put the whole spices in a little bowl. Or toss them on the counter. 
  • Combine all the ground spices (except the pomegranate seeds) in a small bowl.

Make the chole masala

  • Heat 3 Tbsp over medium heat in a second frying pan.
  • Add the whole spices and cook until the oil starts to bubble. This takes about 30 seconds.
  • Add the green chili. Cook for about 30 seconds. Add the garlic ginger paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it stops sputtering, about another minute.
  • Turn the heat to medium low. Add the ground spices and mix to get them well coated in oil. Be careful. You don't want the spices to burn. Cook for about 30-45 seconds to let the spices bloom. This is a great restaurant trick. Instantly removes that nasty raw spice taste.
  • Add the pureed tomato. Bring to a simmer. Mix in the onions. Add the pomegranate seed and chickpeas. Add a half cup of water and bring to simmer. 
  • Cover with whatever cover fits (nobody ever said it has to match) and simmer for about 10 minutes. If the curry seems a bit dry add a little more water. 
  • Garnish with a bit of red onion if you like. Serve with your choice of Indian flatbread. Chapatis, parathas pooris and naan all work really well. 

Nutrition

Serving: 2servings | Calories: 473kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Sodium: 2178mg | Potassium: 974mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 2375IU | Vitamin C: 95.3mg | Calcium: 131mg | Iron: 5.5mg

43 thoughts on “chole masala – punjabi chickpea curry”

  1. for those of us making the effort with dried chickpeas (which apparently have more flavour), it’s hard enough that you use imperial 😂, but also you measure as ‘1 19 oz CAN chickpeas drained and rinsed’ … how am I supposed to know how many chickpeas that is in actual weight, given that a normal can will be mostly water? Love your content btw.

    Reply
    • 19 ounces is a measurement of volume. A can is pretty much filled with chickpeas with the voids filled with water so I would guess 2 cups three ounces of cooked chickpeas. I’ve also added a metric conversion button to the recipe to help.

  2. 5 stars
    Great recipe as written. Delicious. Reminds me of version I had in Bangalore, though that was finished with julienned ginger. I’ve come up with my own version using the restaurant base. Any change you’ll be publishing a hotel version?

    Reply
    • I hadn’t thought of that. I have hotel dal makhani and rajma on the list right now. I do love dal though so…

  3. Hello Romain, I made this last week and it is now one of my favourites in my rotation of dishes, but I feel a bit embarassed to ask, should I have removed the cloves and cardamoms before completing the dish, as when I dived into it I was greeted by the hard bits of clove and the cardamoms both of which I am not a huge fan of except for using in the prep. Maybe I should have gone to culinary school, Lol

    Reply
    • Not a culinary school thing I don’t think:-). I don’t like that explosion of cardamom either but I’ve learned how to avoid biting down on it somehow. Certainly if you want to avoid surprises then pull them out before serving.

  4. 5 stars
    I used your guidance on spices to use what I had on hand, and it was spectacular!

    Not having pomegranate seeds available, I’m wondering what the flavor profile is? Some of them can be hard as pebbles in the fresh fruit, others quite edible. It’s been so long since I’ve had them, I forget what they taste like (the seeds, that is).

    Anyway, it got me thinking about drizzling a fine thread of some pomegranate molasses or even balsalmic glaze over the top of the finished dish – which was delish. Of course it further acidifies what the amchoor already brought, but with a lovely sweet note that mellows out the chili heat.

    BTW, I spent a month in Bangladesh for work 16 or so years back, split btw Dhaka and Chittagong. It was quite the adventure, as this was when the opposition party leader and others were assassinated, and when we finally ventured out for a shopping adventure, a small bomb blast occurred on an opposite corner of the strip mall we were in. Only to return to our brand new 8-story local hotel in Dhaka, which we found engulfed in flames, but it was said to be from a welding accident. The owner gave us a big bottle of Jimmy Walker for the inconvenience of having to evacuate. Like everywhere, if you’re well connected, the rules don’t necessarily apply. [For readers who don’t know, alcohol is forbidden in Bangladesh – except on the blackmarket, that is.]

    Reply
    • Fun story indeed. And quite the adventure. The glaze idea sounds good. Thank you for that.

      It’s never easy to describe tastes. Anardhana is kind of sweet, kind of sour and kind of amplifies/complements amchoor. I know that isn’t particularly clear or insightful but it is the best I can come up with.

    • 5 stars
      Thanks so much for all the time and effort you put into your site – really exceptional flavor-intense recipes, interesting techniques that are new to me, a dash of humor, great photos, helpful comments — really well done all around. What a blessing you’re sharing with all who enter. Don’t ever give up!

    • Thanks for taking the time leave this comment. Always appreciated! I’m delighted to hear you are enjoying the blog. I won’t give up. Don’t worry about that.

  5. Looks really good but i think i messed things up haha!
    Mine turned out red and watery. I did add some extra fresh tomato to make it healthier, and i didnt use the mango powder and pomegranate seeds as i ran out of them. What else good have gone wrong? what makes yours so brown and pasty? I think i cooked the onions long enough!

    Reply
    • Only two things I can think of (besides adding moisture via tomato). Your onions are smaller than mine or your passata is much thinner than mine. I’m worried about too dry so too wet is a bit of a puzzle. You used measuring cups or adapted the recipe to work with whatever you use to measure liquids (1 cup = 237ml)?

  6. 5 stars
    I can’t believe how good this is! I made it + the palak paneer for my family last night and we all agreed that it was the best Indian food we had ever tasted. Thank you so much for these recipes! I am going to make everything on this site.

    Reply
  7. 4 stars
    As a big fan of your recipes, this one fell a little short for me, although I think it was my bad. I used canned tomato purée, which made the dish super tomato-y, to the detriment of the other flavors, I felt. Should I have blitzed tomatoes in a food processor, or was I on the right track?

    Reply
    • Sad to hear that.

      Tomato puree, where I am is passata or the like. Literally pureed tomatoes. Like an unflavoured tomato sauce. You may have hit on a brand of canned tomatoes that is more intense but I can’t imagine it is that far off what I am using. Unless you used canned tomato paste instead of puree. That would really not be good.

      In any case I am sorry to hear this one didn’t work out for you. If you did use tomato paste I would like to hear back so others don’t fall into the same trap.

    • Update – I had made a couple of mistakes when I first made this. Using canned tomato purée was the big one, using puréed canned tomatoes (see the difference?) made all the difference. I also used ground anardhana instead of whole seeds. How much difference that made I’ll never know.

    • I try to be as clear as possible but I don’t always get it as bulletproof as I would like. Delighted you figured it out. As far as ground anadhana – I don’t know either as I’ve never cooked with them.

  8. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, I just recently discovered on your blog and I’m so impressed! Just tried this recipe to better understand the difference between chana masala & Punjabi chole. It was absolutely delightful. Even my kids devoured it. Thank you so much and I look forward to following along!

    Reply
    • Thank you! I am delighted you found me and even happier to hear your kids devoured the chole.

      I’ve just discovered your blog as well. Very nice indeed!

  9. 5 stars
    I only recently discovered this site and man, everything I’ve made from it has just been dope as hell – including this.

    I doubled the recipe because I like leftovers, and was too impatient to wait the two days it would have taken to have anardhana shipped to me, so I substituted a teaspoon of tamarind paste. Probably not traditional but I am hopeful that it served a similar function.

    The onions took more like 40 minutes to properly brown for me, but that’s OK – that meant there was lots of time to prep everything else while they cooked!

    Thanks Romain! Your site is awesome. I’m going to tell all my friends about it.

    Reply
    • Delighted you found me and I’m super happy to hear you are enjoying the recipes. Tamarind is a little different but it sounds delicious!

    • Hi Romain, you arr a spectacular chef and I have made many of your recipes based on this website. I have a quick question about this recipe. You say 1 tsp of pomegranate seeds. Are the the fresh, juicy seeds that you get from a fresh pomegranate or do you mean dried seeds like cumin seeds?

    • Thank you. Very kind and I’m delighted you are enjoying the recipes.

      I mean something in between that you get at an Indian grocer. Ask them for anardhana. They will sort you out.

  10. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, this is the second receipe of yours that I tried out and second success! Love the flavors, love the trick of cooking the spices in oil, and love my new spice-acquaintances like black cardamom. Will be cooking your recipes as often as the family allows (which will be often judging from today’s cleaned plates). Thanks again!

    Reply
    • If they cleaned their plates it is going well! Delighted to hear you are enjoying the recipes. At least your son didn’t eat all of it this time:-).

    • I would go around 1.75 times of all the spices except the kashmiri chili powder which I would double. Salt I would go 1.5 and then add to taste. If it winds up too mild tasting then you could bump it up next time.

      Really I can’t tell you exactly without trying it myself. Broad rules of thumb are just that. Educated guesses…

    • Thank you for the fast reply, I wasn’t sure what to do so I cracked one open slightly. I made this dish while waiting for the Indian restaurant curry base to finish it’s eternal simmering…I love your website.

    • Cracked open a bit is fine as well. I don’t always respond that fast. You caught me at my computer:-).

      Thank you for the kind words about glebekitchen!

    • I really don’t know. Sorry. I’ve never cooked with ground pomegranate. I imagine it’s more concentrated in flavour so be careful about quantities if you try it.

  11. 5 stars
    Romain, Lawrence K made this for us a few days ago and we thought it was the best Channa Masala we have ever had. Went out to Silk Roads in Ottawa and picked up some Amchoor and Anardhana powder and made a triple recipe tonight. Still fantastic. Thank you for this gem. In the recipe, you don’t mention the size of can of chickpeas, so I just winged it using a big batch of chickpeas I cooked in the Instant Pot. It turns out, the amount is not so critical.

    Reply

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