It usually takes several hours to prepare authentic Punjabi Chole, but with my instant pot recipe, you can have delicious masala coated chickpeas on your plate in no time.
What is Chana Masala?
Chana Masala, also known as Chole (pronounced Cho-lay), is a Punjabi dish where chickpeas are cooked in a spicy, flavorful onion-tomato gravy. But not too much gravy. It’s popular Indian street food with rich, complex flavors.
Spices are everything when it comes to making Punjabi Chole. I have tested this recipe many times to perfect my spice combination, and I know you will love it. There are two spices in particular that make this dish: dried mango powder (amchur), which adds tanginess, and roasted cumin powder, which adds depth and aroma to the dish.
If you’ve never heard of amchur powder, it’s made from unripe green mangoes, and it has a tart and slightly fruity flavor. Roasted cumin powder is highly aromatic and has a flavor that is far more intense than regular cumin. When a recipe calls for roasted cumin powder, please please please do not substitute it with regular cumin because you will definitely miss out, and the recipe will not taste the way it should. You can buy roasted cumin powder either on amazon or at an Indian store, but it’s also really easy to make – see my note at the bottom of the recipe!
This has been one of my favorite dishes – since childhood. Back in the day, most of my friends would beg their parents to take them to Pizza Hut or McD’s, or other fast-food restaurants. Not me. When I was younger, I would beg my parents to pick me up some chole bhature (chickpea curry and fried doughy bread) from a nearby casual Indian restaurant. Ask any north Indian, and they’ll tell you all about Chole Bhature – because it is so. darn. good. Especially when it’s served with sliced raw onion and spicy Indian pickles (achar). If I was ever on that “best thing I ever ate” show, I think my “thing” would be chole bhature.
If you are gluten-free, you can eat this by itself or serve it with my Instant Pot Perfect Basmati Rice or my 3-ingredient Paleo Naan. But just wait. One of these days, I will come up with a gluten-free recipe for bhatura.
When it came to testing the recipes for my cookbook – let me tell you, it was a family affair. I had to make sure I got approval from everyone, especially my Punjabi father. He is my biggest supporter and also my biggest food critic – especially when it comes to making good Indian food. Like many Indian parents, he has very high standards. I would make a recipe, have him taste it and give me notes, then remake the dish – over and over again.
Here’s a picture of my sweet dad helping me “style” my chana masala for a photoshoot. This dish (along with the rest of my book) is “dad-approved,” which is just about the best recommendation one can get.
Do I need to soak dried chickpeas overnight? What if I forget?
You either need to soak the dried chickpeas overnight OR do a quick soak. The amount of water listed in my recipe is what’s needed for soaked chickpeas. Dried chickpeas absorb a lot of water, so if you don’t soak them in advance, the proportion of chickpeas to water will not be correct. Also, I believe that soaking legumes helps them to be more easily digested.
Did you forget to soak the dried chickpeas overnight? You can easily do a quick soak by covering the dried chickpeas with an inch of water and pressure cooking them for 10 minutes with a natural release. Then dump out the water, rinse the chickpeas well and follow the chana masala directions from there.
How to Make Chana Masala
(for the full recipe, see the recipe card below 😋)
Get those onions a little brown and you’ll be on your way to flavor town!
Add some garlic and ginger and tomatoes too.
Gather spices and dump them in. Add chickpeas and water, and then it’s time to cook! And wait (netflix/chill) until the chana masala is done.
What is the difference between Chana Masala and Tikka Masala?
Both of these dishes are popular and you’ll find them on Indian restaurant menus but they are totally different! Chana masala is a spiced chickpea dish. Tikka masala is a dish made with chicken. You can see my recipe for slow cooker chicken tikka masala or you can try a new dish I made up called chicken tikka masala rice (which is basically chicken tikka masala biryani).
How can I thicken chana masala?
If you want a thicker curry you can mash the chickpeas up a bit to thicken the sauce, or you can press the saute button at the end to boil off liquid.
Can I use canned chickpeas?
I haven’t tested this recipe using canned chickpeas, but I’m sure it can be done. You’d need to adjust the amount of water in the recipe as canned chickpeas won’t soak up much water. You can also try my recipe for tawa chole which is similar and calls for canned chickpeas (or cooked chickpeas).
Can we freeze chana masala?
Yes! You can keep chana masala in the fridge for a couple of days, and freeze it for a couple of months.
- 2 cups water
- Cilantro leaves and red onion garnish
- Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Press the sauté button. Add the oil and allow it to heat it up for a minute. Add the onion and bay leaf and stir-fry for 6-7 minutes, or until the onion begins to brown.
- Add the garlic, ginger, stir, then add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until they break down.
- Add the spices, stir, then add the chickpeas and water.
- Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 35 minutes at high pressure.
- Naturally release pressure.
- Discard the black cardamom and the bay leaf, garnish with red onion and chopped cilantro.
Like this recipe? You can find all of my Indian Instant Pot Recipes right here on the blog!