This Punjabi chole recipe, also known as chole masala, is a traditional North Indian dish featuring soft and tender chickpeas bathed in a rich, dark, and complex gravy. Infused with aromatic spices, this vegan dish pairs well with rice, poori, or roti.
What is Punjabi chole?
Punjabi chole is one of the most popular dishes in Northern India, with almost everyone having their own unique recipe spin. Chole, Punjabi for chickpeas, are first cooked with spices like cinnamon and amla or black tea bags.
They are then added to a gravy of tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies, and masala (a spice blend), creating a fragrant and delicious curry. Not only is this dish easy to make, but it’s full of protein, fiber, and micronutrients. Try making a batch for a healthy weeknight dinner!
Punjabi chole vs chana masala
Punjabi chole and chana masala are very similar dishes, each with subtle differences:
- Chole: From Punjab, dark brown gravy, and slightly tangy in flavor. Has a characteristic masala and incorporates fewer tomatoes.
- Chana: Red-orange, tomato-rich gravy, utilizing turmeric and red chili powder.
Note: Chana is the Hindi name for chickpea, whereas chole is the Punjabi word for chickpea.
Do I need to soak chickpeas?
It’s always best to soak dry chickpeas for several hours or overnight before cooking them. This not only removes phytic acid, which can cause bloating, but it also greatly reduces cooking time.
If you forget to soak them, I have a “quick-soak” option in the recipe. Just add them in a bowl of boiling hot water, and cover them for 1-2 hours.
Is Punjabi chole vegan?
Punjabi chole is naturally plant-based, meaning it’s suitable for anyone following a vegan diet. The only thing to consider if you’re ordering it at a restaurant is the use of ghee in the cooking process. However, many recipes just use oil, including this one!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Dry chickpeas: The best flavor and texture comes from pressure-cooking dry chickpeas, so try not to replace them with canned chickpeas if you can! They are also sold under other names like chole, chana, garbanzo beans, or gram.
- Black tea: Instead of amla (dried Indian gooseberry), I cook the chickpeas with a black tea bag to provide a deep, rich color. Use any regular black tea like Assam, Ceylon, English Breakfast, etc.
- Spices: Besides the cinnamon stick, the rest of the spices are optional (but infuse a delicious flavor). I like to add black cardamom pods, green cardamom pods, star anise, and whole cloves. Just do your best with the spices you have on hand!
- Avocado oil: I tend to reach for avocado oil, but you can use coconut oil, vegan ghee, or any other cooking oil you prefer.
- Spices: The combination I use is anise seeds, cumin seeds, bay leaf, fenugreek leaves, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, red chili powder, black salt (Kala Namak), regular salt, curry powder, and coriander. If you don’t have access to all of the spices, don’t worry! Just make sure to include cumin, garam masala, turmeric, and red chili powder.
- Onion: To impart savory, hearty flavors, both white and yellow onion work for this chole masala.
- Tomatoes: For a bright, zesty, and juicy element, use fresh Roma tomatoes. I prefer this variety since they contain the least amount of water. You can also use canned diced tomatoes if you’re in a pinch, but make sure to drain them.
- Chilis: I add serranos for my fresh green chili component, although regular green chilis work great as well. I also add dried red chilis, but you can omit them if you are sensitive to spice.
- Garlic & ginger: Use garlic and ginger paste, or mince them both from fresh.
- Tomato paste: For a slightly tangy, umami-rich element, I like to add a spoonful of tomato paste. If you don’t have tomato paste, use a squeeze of lemon or lime for tartness.
- Jaggery: Made from unrefined cane juice, jaggery is very similar to brown sugar. It’s rich, molasses-like, and complex. If you don’t have access, jaggery can easily be replaced with an equivalent amount of brown sugar.
- Cilantro: I love to garnish my chole recipe with fresh cilantro leaves for a touch of color.
- Step 1: Thoroughly wash and drain the dry chickpeas, then soak them in 4 cups of boiling hot water for 2 hours. Alternatively, soak them in room temperature water overnight.
- Step 2: Transfer the liquid and chickpeas to an Instant Pot along with a cinnamon stick, black cardamon, green cardamom, star anise, cloves, and a black tea bag. Pressure cook them on high for 30 minutes.
- Step 3: Heat a little avocado oil in a skillet over medium, then toast the anise seeds and cumin seeds until fragrant. Don’t go far as this only takes about 30 seconds.
- Step 4: Add onions, serrano peppers, dried red chilis, and the bay leaf, continuing to cook until the onions are translucent. Toss in the garlic and ginger and cook for another few seconds.
- Step 5: Next, add the tomatoes, turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala, cumin powder, black salt (Kala Namak), coriander powder, and 2 tablespoons of water to avoid the spices from burning. Lastly, add the tomato paste and brown sugar.
- Step 6: Once the chickpeas are done, discard the tea bag and add the rest of the chickpea content into the skillet, including the liquid and whole spices. You can remove the whole spices if you prefer, but they will continue infusing flavors. Add the fenugreek leaves and season the mixture with salt to taste. Stir everything together until it is well combined.
- Step 7: Cook the curry on high until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on low to thicken the gravy (about 15 to 20 minutes). You can use a potato masher to roughly mash some of the chickpeas, which will help thicken the gravy even more.
- Step 8: Garnish your chole recipe with fresh cilantro leaves and a side of lemon wedges.
What to serve with chole masala
For a well-balanced meal, serve this chole recipe with a side of basmati or jeera rice. You might also enjoy it with a side of poori or roti to scoop it up. This curry also pairs well with recipes like naan, bhatura, and kulcha.
For a flavor intense dish, serve chole masala curry dish as samosa chaat (a recipe packed with bold and beautiful flavors)
Storage & Reheating
Punjabi chole makes a great dish for meal prep, weeknight dinners, or healthy lunches. Follow these tips to ensure it stays fresh all week long:
- Fridge: Transfer to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Freezer: Once cooled, add chole to a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months. If you have meal-prep containers, it helps to portion them out into serving sizes for quick and easy meals.
- Reheating: Thaw each meal-sized portion overnight in the fridge. Then, cook it in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warm.
Yes, you can absolutely grind your own whole spices for this chole recipe. First, toast them in a dry skillet, then grind them in a coffee or spice grinder. They will be much more intense this way, so you may need to reduce the overall amount added to the recipe.
Yes, you can use canned chickpeas in this chole recipe. However, fresh chickpeas make a huge difference in overall flavor, texture, and consistency. Since they make up the bulk of the recipe, I suggest cooking them from dried.
If you enjoyed the flavors of this Punjabi chole, try some more vibrant and bold dishes like these:
- Samosa Chaat: Crispy samosas are served over spice-infused chole masala, then layered with toppings packed with bold and beautiful flavors.
- Masala Puri: Crispy puri is covered with ragda curry, then topped with fresh vegetables, chutneys, and crunchy sev.
- Aloo palak: A quick and easy Indian dish made from potatoes and spinach.
- Moong masoor dal: Yellow and red lentil soup filled with fragrant spices.
- Vietnamese pizza: Rice paper pizza stacked with Just Egg, green onions, and jackfruit.
- Chow-fun noodles: A Cantonese-inspired dish made with fresh vegetables, seasoned tofu, and wide rice noodles.
Punjabli Chole Recipe (Chickpea Curry)
- 1 cup raw chickpea or grabanzo beans
- 5 cups water
- 1 whole black tea bag
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 2 whole black cardamoms optional
- 2 whole green cardamoms optional
- 1 whole star anise optional
- 2 whole cloves optional
- 1 cup onions diced
- 1 cup tomatoes diced
- 2 tablespoon serrano peppers minced
- 3 whole dried red chilis optional
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste or minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste or minced
- 1 teaspoon anise seeds optional
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds optional
- 1 whole bay leaf optional
- 1 ½ tablespoon avocado oil or any cooking oil you prefer
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder
- 2 teaspoon black salt (Kala Namak) optional
- ¼ teaspoon curry powder optional
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder optional
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar or jaggery
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves crushed
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt or per taste
- 2 tablespoon water or add more for thinner consistency
- cilantro leaves chopped
- Properly wash and drain chickpeas. Soak the chickpeas in 4 cups of boiling hot water for 2 hours. Cover the bowl of chickpeas when soaking. Note: you can soak the chickpeas overnight (up to 8 hours) as well. Overnight does not require hot water, lukewarm will do.
- Transfer liquid and chickpeas an instant pot along with a cinnamon stick, black cardamons, green cardamoms, stair anise, cloves and black tea bag. Set instant pot on pressure cook, high for 30 minutes (you can also use pressure cooker at 6 whistles).Note: Do you best with the spices you have on hand; most essential is cinnamon stick for taste and black tea for color.
- In a wok or deep skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add anise seeds and cumin seeds. Cook till fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add onions, serrano peppers, dried red chilis and bay leaf. Cook till onions are translucent.
- Toss in the garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Stir in the following in order: tomatoes, turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala, cumin powder, black salt (Kala Namak), coriander powder, and 2 tbs of water to avoid the spices from burning. Then add the tomato paste and brown sugar. Note: Again, if you don't have access to all spices, just pay attention to the bolded ones.
- Once the instant pot is ready to unlock and open, then remove the tea bag and add the rest of the chickpea content into the tempering mixture including the liquid and whole spices (you can remove the whole spices, if you prefer). Add salt and dry fenugreek leaves and stir well till everything is mixed together.
- Cook on high till it starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on low flame for 15 to 20 minutes till gravy gets thicker. Stir occasionally. You can use a potato masher to mildly mash some of the chickpeas to help thicken the gravy more.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with a side of lemon wedge.