Chana Masala Recipe (Chole)

Chana Masala Recipe (Chole) Recipe

Chana masala, also known as chole, is my father-in-law's favorite Indian dish. It is a very common dish sold by street vendors in India. Daddy is a vegetarian like Lulu, so the garbanzo bean-based dish is perfect for their diet. Garbanzo beans are full of protein and make a complete dish when paired with a starch such as rice -in the case of this dish- a bhatura. The beans are cooked in thick, spicy tomato-based gravy and finished with amchur, a dried mango powder which lends a sour note to the garbanzo beans.

As I mentioned, chole is traditionally served with bhatura. If you're not familiar with Indian cuisine, bhaturas are deep-fried bread rounds. They are similar to, but slightly larger than puris, which I love. I'll post that recipe soon.


Yields: 8 servings

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (click on the link for the recipe)
1 teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 Serrano green chili peppers
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, freshly ground
1 teaspoon red chili powder, to taste
4 fresh curry leaves
1 small tomato (I used a Roma tomato)
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chickpea flour
¼ teaspoon dried mango powder
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
1-½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)


Using a paring knife, create a 2-inch incision in one of the Serrano peppers and cut the other one into thirds. Set aside.

This step is optional but I find tomato skin unpleasant. Here's a neat method to peel tomatoes. Make a small, shallow criss-cross cut at the bottom of the fresh tomatoes using a breadknife (I use a breadknife because the blade won't bruise the fruit). Fill a small saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Place the tomatoes in the water and wait for at least 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes quickly (I use a large strainer), then transfer to an ice cold bath to stop the cooking process. The skin of the tomatoes will come right off. Finely chop the tomato flesh. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat the canola oil. Cook the onions for about 6-8 minutes until soft and nicely golden. Leaving as much oil as possible in the pan, transfer to a platter. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the chickpea flour with 2 tablespoons of water.

In the same pan, add the ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, ground coriander, whole Serrano pepper and red chili powder. Once the ginger garlic paste is fragrant, add the onions, finely chopped tomato and tomato paste. Cook for about 3-4 minutes over high heat. The mixture should turn into a thick paste. Add the curry leaves, tomato sauce and garam masala. Stir well. Add the garbanzo beans and 1 to 1-½ cups of water; the water should barely cover the garbanzo beans. Bring to a boil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining Serrano pepper, 1-½ teaspoons of salt and the chickpea flour. Lower to a gentle simmer for about 8-10 minutes and keep stirring every now and then so the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Finish with mango powder. Stir well.

Once the water evaporates, check the softness of the beans (add water and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked). The garbanzo beans should be soft when it's gently pressed and crushed between your thumb and index finger. Add little mounds of ghee into the garbanzo beans. Check seasoning. You might want to add some sugar if the dish is a little too sour. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Bon appétit!


Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. You can find it in jars at Indian stores. But if you don't have ghee, you can use butter instead.

Ghee Indian Clarified Butter Picture

For a vegan version, just omit the ghee.

You could cook this dish with dried garbanzo beans but it would take a lot longer. You might want to use  a pressure cooker for a faster cooking time.

For a thicker gravy, I add a little chickpea flour.

For an acidic and tart taste, dried mango powder (also known as amchur) is added to the chole. Amchur is made of finely ground flesh of sun-dried green mangoes. It's an important step toward the end of cooking. You can find the beige-colored powder at any Indian store. If you don't have any, you could replace it with 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice. It adds a unique sour flavor to the dish.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on April 17, 2010.


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