Friday, June 03, 2005

Chole or Punjabi channa

Chole is a Punjabi way of cooking chickpeas. It is served with yeast bread called kulcha or with puffed, fried bread called batura. Kulche-chole combo is a popular street food in Delhi. Chole made this way is tangy, slightly sweet and spicy, all at once. This is also the way mom makes chickpeas. The recipe was copied diligently from an old carton of channa masala powder, by a true foodie i.e. me a decade ago (gawd, I'm old). Chole should be thick enough to coat the spoon but not soupy. Perhaps this is why it is easy to eat them standing on street corners. The spices I have used are traditional punjabi ones. If you plan on making channa a lot, you can buy a special channa masala blend that has all the sweet, tart flavor needed for chole. As with other Indian recipes, each household has its own recipe and here is mine evolved from a carton of channa masala blend:

1 large onion, minced (sweet onions like maui, or red onions, or white ones are preferable to standard yellow ones)
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 earl grey tea bag (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 8oz can diced tomatoes or 4 large tomatoes, finely chopped tomatoes
1 inch Chopped ginger
2-3 cloves garlic
2-3 green chilies
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 T channa masala powder or garam masala powder
1 tsp Turmeric Pwd
1 tsp red Chili powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp pomegranate seeds or 1 tsp ground mango powder (this is not required if you use channa masala powder, or squeeze lemon juice before serving)
Salt to taste
Oil to fry

For Garnish
Chopped Coriander leaves-2 tbspns
Finely sliced Onion rings from 2 Onions
Lemon wedges

Cook channa in heavily salted water along with bay leaves and tea bag. The tea bag infuses a smoky flavor to the chickpeas and also darkens them a little. You can leave them out if you want. Cook until chickpeas are tender. If I am using canned chickpeas, I add the tea bag while simmering the sauce.

cooked chickpeas

Grind a handful of the boiled channa with Ginger, ½ of the minced onions, green chilies, garlic, turmeric, red chili powder and Pomegranate seeds to a smooth paste.

Heat 2 tbsp oil and add cumin seeds and splutter. Add remaining onions, fry till onions are golden brown. Add the ground masala, ground coriander and ground cumin & fry on medium flame till you longer smell raw onions and garlic, about 5 minutes or may be more in a non-stick pan.
ground paste

Add chopped tomatoes, salt, sugar and tamarind paste– mix well and cook till tomatoes are well blended with the masala. Simmer sauce for 5 minutes until sauce thickens and is a good orange.


Add the cooked channa, garam masala & a little water, if the sauce is too thick. Mix well & cook 5 min more till sauce thickens and coats the chickpeas. Add chopped cilantro and serve with lemon wedges along with rotis or naans.


  1. Mika - this looks so good! What do you use to grind the channa, ginger, onion, etc. into a paste? I'm guessing this is too thick to use a blender, do you use a food processor?

  2. Cathy- I use a food processor. You can use the small jar of the blender too. It does not matter if the paste is a little watery. It just means more sauteeing...

  3. Mika, I also add pureed chickpeas to thicken the sauce. My recipe is from a Punjabi neighbour.Good buffet dish.

  4. This is the yummiest looking chole I've seen yet... and I've seen a lot. I love the stuff.

    A tip for making ginger-garlic paste... just grate it in the smallest holes of your grater. This works very well for small quantities.

  5. You have a very good blog

    I have written a small article on Chole Kulche on my blog

    I have linked to your blog also.

  6. Hi Mika, I tried your recipe and it turned out great. I've added a link to it on my blog. Thanks for the wondeful recipe!