Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea curry) Recipe

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Punjabi Chana Masala (Choley) popularly known as the Indian Chickpea Curry is a crowd-pleaser. This vegan one-pot curry can be made in an Instant Pot as well as a stovetop Pressure cooker. Get all the deets on how to make this delicious curry at home!

Chana masala served in a white bowl with side of lemon. On the side is a steel plate with pav and some more chana masala served with onions and lime wedges.
Chana masala

Chana masala, widely known as Punjabi Choley is a flavorful, high-protein dish that appeals to both meat-lovers as well as vegans and is perfect for a crowd. Pressure cooked choley is added to an onion-tomato based sauce which has been seasoned with spices. It is then cooked some more till all the flavors have melded in. The end result is pure deliciousness!

This popular North Indian dish can be made either from chana or choley – both different varieties of chickpeas. While choley is the bigger and the lighter colored chickpea, chana is darker in color and half the size of choley. For example, both these recipes –  kaale channe ki kadhi and kadle suran recipe have chana in them whereas chickpeas with tindora (kadle manoli)  has choley as its main ingredient.

How to make chana masala or choley

Chana masala is considered to be cooked to perfection when the chickpeas in this tangy curry not only hold its shape but is also soft enough to melt in your mouth. To achieve this some add baking soda to the chickpeas when it is cooking. If you are someone whose stomach doesn’t react well to baking soda, feel free to skip it as I do.

To make chole, you add soaked, rinsed and pressure cooked chickpeas to an onion-tomato based gravy which has been infused by chana masala powder along with chili powder. Traditionally the curry is slow cooked for hours but for time-crunched folks like us simmering it for 10 minutes should do the trick.

No time to soak chickpeas? Here’s what you can do.

  • Using an Instant Pot – Rinse the chickpeas before adding it to the Instant Pot. For every cup of dried chickpeas add 2 cups of water and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Pressure cook in manual mode for 4 minutes and wait until the “keep warm” timer has reached 10 minutes. Press Cancel and twist the steam release handle on the lid to “venting” position.
  • Without an Instant Pot – Rinse the chickpeas and boil it in a saucepan with twice the amount of water. After the water comes to a boil, turn off heat and cover the saucepan and let the chickpeas to stand in the water for an hour.
  • Use canned chickpeas – make sure to drain off the liquid and thoroughly rinsing it before using.

Step by step chana masala recipe 

  1. Rinse the overnight soaked chickpeas. Pressure cook it in twice the amount of water, along with 2 tea bags and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. If using a traditional pressure cooker, cook till the vent or whistle goes off 4 times or pressure cook for 30 minutes in an Instant Pot under high pressure. Set it aside to cool. When it is safe to open the lid, discard the tea bags. [ Note – using tea bags is optional, it doesn’t impact the taste only gives this chickpea curry a deep brown hue which most folks seem to like.]

    Chickpeas cooked along with teabags
    Choley pressure cooked with tea bags

  2. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat and add bay leaf, black pepper, and cloves and let it fry for around 30 seconds and then add onions. Fry the onions till they turn soft and translucent (approximately 12-15 minutes)
  3. Add ginger and garlic and saute it with the onions for a minute or so.
  4. Add tomatoes and continue frying them till they are soft and mushy, and oil begins to leave the sides of this onion-tomato base.onions and tomato gravy cooked through till it is soft and mushy
  5. Add chole masala, chili powder to this mixture and mix well. Add the cooked chole to it along with the liquid and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Do a taste test and add more salt if required. Serve hot garnished with coriander, onions and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Goes well with bhature or chapatis as well as over rice.

Variations in the Chana Masala recipe

Chana or Choley Masala Substitute I typically use store-bought Choley Masala powder but at times when I have run out, I often substitute it with 1/2 teaspoon mango powder (amchur) + 1/2 teaspoon black salt + 1 teaspoon garam masala.

Using Marinara Sauce In grad school, due to a shortage of time, my roommates and I devised a way of using Ragu or Prego to substitute for the onions and tomatoes gravy. We would saute approximately 2 cups of marinara sauce in 3-4 tablespoons of oil until the tomato-onion gravy started to leave the oil on the sides. We would then proceed to add the pressure cooked chickpeas along with salt, chole masala, and chili powder, then simmered it for 5-10 minutes before serving it over rice.

Other variations –  This variation is from a friend who is a very good cook – Stir about 2 tablespoons of milk in the cooked chana masala curry to give it a creamy touch. Some folks have also used tamarind paste to make chole a little tangier while my nanny used to add a small piece of jaggery to give the dish a sweet and spicy flavor.

There are many, many ways of making choley, and each family has their recipe, and this is mine. Hope you will enjoy it as my family does. Serve it hot with warm rotis, pav or over rice, though the best way to pair it is with Bhatura.

Traditional pressure cooking vs Instant Pot cooking – Which one is better?

I have cooked using a traditional pressure cooker for years before I bought the Instant Pot. Now that I own the Instant Pot, I have been leveraging the Instant Pot to slow cook chana masala curry for an hour at a low setting to give it a Dhaba style feel (Dhaba = streetside stalls in India where the food is cooked on slow fire and simmered for hours to bring out the most tantalizing and unique flavors).

 

Chana masala served with a side of pav, onions and sprinkled with lime juice

If you are not familiar with Instant Pot, here are a few articles that might help
Instant Pot pressure cooker review – Do you really need one?
All you need to know about your Instant Pot 

Looking for more curry recipes? Check out these popular ones from the blog – 

  1. Dal fry – This recipe for Dal Fry is very close to my heart because it comes from my mom’s kitchen. This is my humble attempt to recreate the hearty and lip-smacking dal my mom makes at home. 
  2. Butter chickenThis authentic and 30-minute Indian Butter chicken recipe is so easy and delicious that I guarantee that once you make it at home, it will soon be part of your weekly dinner menu.
  3. Restaurant-Style Dal Makhani – You’ve got to try this creamy and delicious Punjabi lentil curry that graces the menus of Indian restaurants worldwide. Learn how to replicate the flavors of this traditionally slow-cooked curry quickly in an Instant Pot. 
  4. Tadka dal – One pot recipes are the best! That’s why you’ll love this Tadka dal (tempered dal) recipe – make it in an Instant Pot or a pressure cooker – and you’ll have your meal ready in no time.

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Chana masala served with a side of pav, onions and sprinkled with lime juice

Channa Masala Recipe

4.67 from 3 votes
Punjabi Chana Masala (Choley) popularly known as the Indian Chickpea Curry in the US is a robustly flavored curry that can be quickly put together when cooked in a traditional pressure cooker or an Instant Pot.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 6
Diet : Nut-free, Vegan
Course : Main Course
Method: Pressure cooker, Stovetop
Cuisine : Indian

Ingredients
 
 

Instructions
 

Pressure Cooker Method

  • Soak the chickpeas overnight in 5 cups of water and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.
  • Rinse chickpeas before pressure cooking it in 4 cups of water, along with 2 tea bags and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt (if using a traditional pressure cooker till the vent or whistle goes off 4 times.) Set it aside to cool. When it is safe to open the lid, discard the tea bags.
  • Heat oil in a wok over medium heat and add bay leaf, black pepper, and cloves and let it fry for around 30 seconds and then add onions. Fry the onions till they turn soft and translucent (approximately 12-15 minutes)
  • Add ginger and garlic and saute it with the onions for a minute or so.
  • Add tomatoes and continue frying them till they are soft and mushy, and oil begins to leave the sides of this onion-tomato base.
  • Add chole masala, chili powder, and green chilies to this mixture and mix well. Add the cooked chole along with the water it was cooked in. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Do a taste test and add more salt if required. Serve hot garnished with coriander, onions and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Goes well with bhature or chapatis as well as over rice.

Instant Pot Method

  • Soak the chickpeas overnight in 5 cups of water and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.
  • Rinse chickpeas before pressure cooking it in 4 cups of water, along with 2 tea bags and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt for 30 minutes in an Instant Pot under high pressure. Set it aside to cool. When it is safe to open the lid, discard the tea bags.
  • Transfer the cooked chole to another vessel. Rinse and wipe dry the Instant Pot.
  • Add oil to the steel insert of the Instant Pot and press the Saute function. Press the Adjust button to move the selection to "low" and wait till the display reads "Hot."
  • Add bay leaf, black pepper, and cloves and let it fry for around 30 seconds and then add onions. Fry the onions till they turn soft and translucent (approximately 12-15 minutes).
  • Add ginger and garlic and saute it with the onions for a minute or so.
  • Add tomatoes and continue frying them till they are soft and mushy, and oil begins to leave the sides of this onion - tomato base.
  • Add chole masala, chili powder, and green chilies to this mixture and mix well.
  • Add the cooked chickpeas along with the liquid it was cooked in. Select the Saute button and set it to low. Let the chana masala curry simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add more salt if needed.
  • Serve hot garnished with coriander, onions and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Goes well with bhature or chapatis as well as over rice.

Notes

To save time, you could start with step 3 ie. make the onion-tomato gravy in the Instant Pot and then add the soaked chickpeas to it. Mix it well and pressure cook it for 30 minutes. Though it is the faster approach, I have noticed it yields inconsistent results and sometimes the chickpeas are not cooked through.

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Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Serving: 1bowlCalories: 211kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 6gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 66mgPotassium: 428mgFiber: 6gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 735IUVitamin C: 16.4mgCalcium: 50mgIron: 2mg

Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

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Keyword : Best, Punjabi, restaurant style

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