Authentic Punjabi Chole Masala Recipe
Punjabi Chole Masala Recipe is an authentic Halwai style chickpeas curry made by simmering cooked chickpeas in a spicy and tangy gravy. Vegetarian and naturally vegan can be ready in just 45 minutes minus the soaking time of chickpeas.
This recipe is inspired by the expertise of traditional Indian sweet shops, known as “halwais“. In today’s post, I will guide you through the step-by-step process of preparing authentic Halwai style Punjabi Chole Masala in your own kitchen.
It was a North Indian wedding when I had the opportunity to taste the delectable Halwai Style Chole Masala. I approached the counter and asked for a plate of chole masala.
As the plate of steaming hot chole masala along with pooris was placed before me, I couldn’t help but admire the rich, reddish-brown color of the gravy. I took my first bite, and the explosion of flavors was simply extraordinary.
The chickpeas were cooked to perfection and the masala coating the chickpeas was thick and velvety. The chole masala was not overly spicy but had a perfect balance of flavors – tangy, spicy, savory, and a subtle hint of sweetness.
Difference between Homestyle and Halwai style Chole Masala?
Both are popular variations of the classic Punjabi dish and have slight differences in their ingredient composition. These differences contribute to variations in flavor and texture.
Homestyle chole masala masala recipe relies on basic spices readily available in most households. Whereas, halwai style recipes often feature a more elaborate combination of spices to create a robust and distinctive flavor. Alongside the basic spices used in home-style Chole, additional spices like kitchen king masala, chat masala, black salt, coconut powder, and kasuri methi, are included. These ingredients lend a unique flavor profile.
Chole Masala is often prepared in large quantities and served during festive occasions and celebrations such as weddings, parties, festivals, and religious gatherings. Some halwais make chole masala without onion and garlic, some make them with onion and garlic depending on regional preferences, religious festivals or occasions.
In North India, this iconic dish is often prepared during festivals, weddings, and other special occasions.
About Punjabi Chole Masala Recipe
My Punjabi Chole Masala recipe is pretty simple. What makes this Punjabi Chole Masala Recipe special? this is a dish that exemplifies the vibrant and robust flavors of Punjabi cuisine.
The complete recipe for Punjabi chole preparation is classified into 4 steps:
1. Soaking chickpeas.
2. Pressure cooking chickpeas.
3. Preparing the chole masala base sauce/gravy.
4. Simmering the cooked chickpeas in the gravy.
The combination of different dry spices creates a symphony of flavors that tantalize the taste buds. The unique spices and other ingredients not only infuse the chickpeas but also create a thick and luscious gravy that coats each chickpea.
The secret flavor in halwai style chole masala is the dry spices. Most of the ingredients are readily available in your kitchen or at your nearest grocery store. Every single ingredient has its significance to make this dish authentic. So I try not to avoid anything.
I have honed my recipe after multiple experiments with different cooking techniques and extensive trial and error. From the soaking and cooking of the chickpeas to the slow simmering of the masala, each step is executed to ensure the best possible outcome.
Halwais (traditional Indian sweet makers) often use various ingredients as thickening agents to achieve the desired consistency in gravies. Here are some common thickening agents used by halwais: boiled potatoes, mawa, curd/yogurt, besan/chickpea flour, or desiccated coconut.
In this recipe, I have used desiccated coconut for thickening the gravy. The result is tender chickpeas in a thick and velvety gravy that is similar to chole masala served at marriages, functions, or parties.
This is the best Punjabi chole masala recipe that can not only be served during weekday lunch or weeknight dinners but also when you have guests or at any vegetarian or vegan meal party or get-together.
Reasons to try
Perfectly balanced taste.
Tried and tested recipe.
Tantalizes the taste buds.
Perfect for weekend breakfast or brunch.
Leftovers taste better the next day.
How to cook chickpeas soft?
There are a few common issues while cooking chickpeas like – taking too long to cook, being hard even after cooking, or with some being soft and others still firm. This can happen if the chickpeas are old or have been stored for a long time. You can achieve perfectly cooked chickpeas by following a simple tip.
Add cooking soda while soaking chickpeas. Adding a small amount of cooking soda to the soaking water helps soften the chickpeas and reduce their cooking time.
After soaking the chickpeas with cooking soda, make sure to rinse them thoroughly before cooking to remove any residual soda.
However, if you prefer to skip the cooking soda, you can cook chickpeas by adjusting the cooking time.
1. Soak and Cook Chickpeas: To ensure tender and well-cooked chickpeas, soak them overnight or for at least 8-10 hours before cooking. This step helps in softening the chickpeas and reducing their cooking time. It also helps in reducing flatulence.
Once soaked, cook them in a pressure cooker or a pot until they are easily mashable between your fingers.
2. Make onion-tomato paste: cook the onions on medium to low flame until they change to light brown color. Add tomatoes only when onions are cooked well.
Well-cooked onion tomato paste creates a luscious and velvety texture gravy.
3. Use more tomatoes compared to onion: tomatoes add a natural tanginess to the dish and also help thicken the gravy or sauce in the curry.
4. Roast the spices well: Roasting the dry spices helps to release their oils and intensify their flavors.
5. Adjust the quantity of spices: Adjust the quantity of spices and green chilies according to your spice tolerance. It is best to taste and adjust the seasonings throughout the cooking process.
6. Use desiccated coconut: adding coconut powder to the curry during the cooking process thickens the gravy and enhances its taste.
If you do not have coconut powder or want to skip it, you can mash a few chickpeas at step 10. When the chickpeas are mashed, they release their starch which helps to thicken the curry sauce.
7. Simmer for flavors to develop: After adding the cooked chole, allow to simmer the curry on low heat for at least 15-20 minutes. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a rich and well-infused dish. The longer the simmer, the more the flavors will develop.
8. Use of amla, tea bag, or tea decoction: If you fancy a dark color chole, you can add any one of the three options to the pot while the chickpeas are cooking.
Chickpeas (chole/kabuli chana): Chickpeas are the main ingredient in this dish.
Oil: I have used vegetable oil in this recipe.
Base gravy: onion, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and green chilies.
Dry spices: turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, kitchen king masala, desiccated coconut, chole/chana masala, kasuri methi, chat masala, black salt, asafoetida, carom seeds, and salt.
Herbs: coriander leaves.
How to make Punjabi Chole Masala (step-by-step)
Step 1: Soaking chickpeas
1. Rinse 1 cup dried chickpeas thoroughly. Add 3 cups of water and 1/4 tsp of cooking soda (baking soda) to the soaking water. Mix well. Soak overnight or for at least 8-10 hours.
Wash thoroughly before and after soaking. Make sure to use a large enough bowl and enough water.
2. After they have soaked and doubled in size, drain all the water and again rinse the soaked chickpeas in fresh water a couple of times.
Step 2. Pressure cooking chickpeas
3. In a 3-liter stovetop pressure cooker, add the chickpeas along with 3 cups of water. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles or until the chickpeas are cooked well and softened enough that you can mash them with a spoon.
For me, it took 4 whistles on medium flame. The cooking time will depend on the quality and freshness of the chickpeas.
4. Allow the pressure to release naturally. Take a spoon and carefully pick up a few chickpeas from the pressure cooker. Gently press between your fingers or bite into them.
If the chickpeas are cooked properly, they should be easy to mash and should be soft and tender throughout.
If the chickpeas are still firm or have a hard texture in the center, they need some more cooking time. Pressure cook until they reach the desired tenderness.
Step 3. Preparing the chole masala base sauce/gravy
5. Heat oil in a pan over medium flame. Once the oil is hot, add 1/2 tsp cumin and saute until they crackle.
Ensure the oil is hot.
6. Add the 2 medium onions finely chopped. Sauté over medium flame stirring often till the onions soften and turn light brown.
7. Add 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste and saute until the raw aroma goes away.
8. Then add the spice mix we made with all of the powdered spices.
1 tbsp Desiccated coconut (coconut powder)
1/2 tbsp Coriander powder
2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
1-2 tsp Red chili powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Kitchen king masala or garam masala
1 tsp Chat masala
1/2 tsp Black salt
1 tbsp Kasuri methi
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
1-2 tsp Chole masala powder (or chana masala)
Salt to taste
Give a good stir, add little water, and cook until the oil separates.
9. Add the tomato puree (grind 3 medium size tomatoes) and sauté stirring often until the moisture reduces and the oil starts to leave the sides of the onion-tomato mixture.
To fasten the cooking process, cover the pan and simmer on low flame. Do stir occasionally.
Step 4. Simmering the cooked chickpeas in the gravy
10. Add the cooked chickpeas. Mix well and saute for 2 minutes.
11. Add 1.5 cups of water and give a good mix. Taste test for spice and seasoning, add if needed.
12. Once the gravy comes to a rolling boil, cover the lid and simmer on low flame for 15-20 minutes or until the gravy thickens and reaches a desired consistency.
If time permits, simmer the curry for 30 minutes. It not only allows the spices to infuse the gravy but also helps thicken the sauce and create a smoother texture.
13. Open the lid and add chopped coriander leaves. Give a final mix.
Coriander leaves add a burst of freshness to the dish. So, do not skip it.
14. Punjabi Chole Masala is ready. Serve it hot or warm with your choice of flatbread or rice.
Here are some serving suggestions to complement this flavorful dish:
1. Bhatura: serve Punjabi chole masala with bhatura, which is a deep-fried bread made with all-purpose flour (maida). Another popular choice is to serve with Puri, which is deep-fried bread made with whole wheat flour, puffed Indian bread.
2. Indian flatbread: accompany the curry with roti, phulka, plain paratha, lacha paratha, naan, tandori roti, or rumali roti.
3. Rice: serve with steamed basmati rice or jeera (cumin) rice.
Do not forget to serve some salad (onion, tomato, cucumber) or pickled onions and some lemon wedges on the sides.
If you have leftover chole masala, store it in an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to 3-4 days. Before serving, reheat in a pan over the stovetop or in a microwave.
If you want to store the curry for a longer period, consider freezing it for up to 2-3 months. Place the cooled curry in a freezer-safe container or zip-lock bag. I will recommend dividing the chole masala into smaller portions before freezing. This allows you to thaw only the amount you need for each serving,
To thaw frozen curry, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight. Once thawed, reheat the curry on the stovetop or in the microwave until it is heated through. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating.
1. Aloo Chole: It is a delightful variation that includes potatoes. Add cubes of potatoes at step 10 and follow the rest of the recipe.
2. Paneer Chole: This variation combines the goodness of paneer (Indian cottage cheese). Add cubes of paneer and simmer on low flame for 5 minutes.
3. No Onion-Garlic Chole: If you prefer a no-onion-garlic Punjabi chole masala version, skip the onions and garlic. Instead, grind ginger and green chilies along with tomatoes. The rest of the recipe remains the same.
More Related Recipes
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Authentic Punjabi Chole Masala Recipe
- 1 cup Dried Chickpeas (chole or kabuli chana)
- 3-4 tbsp Oil
- 1/2 tsp Cumin
- 2 medium Onion (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp Ginger-garlic paste
- 3 medium Tomatoes (puree)
- 2-3 numbers Green chilies
- 2-3 tbsp Coriander leaves
Special Spice Mix
- 1 tbsp Dessiccated coconut (coconut powder)
- 1/2 tbsp Coriander powder
- 2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1-2 tsp Red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Kitchen king masala (or garam masala)
- 1 tsp Chat masala
- 1/2 tsp Black salt
- 1 tbsp Kasuri methi
- 1/4 tsp Asafoetida
- 1-2 tsp Chole masala powder (or chana masala)
- Salt to taste
- Rinse 1 cup of dried chickpeas thoroughly. Add 3 cups of water and 1/4 tsp of cooking soda (baking soda) to the soaking water. Mix well. Soak overnight or for at least 8-10 hours.
- After they have soaked and doubled in size, drain all the water and again rinse the soaked chickpeas in fresh water a couple of times.
Pressure cooking chickpeas
- In a 3-litre stovetop pressure cooker, add the chickpeas along with 3 cups of water. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles or until the chickpeas are cooked well and softened enough that you can mash them with a spoon.
- Allow the pressure to release naturally. Take a spoon and carefully pick up a few chickpeas from the pressure cooker. Gently press between your fingers or bite into them.
- If the chickpeas are cooked properly, they should be easy to mash and should be soft and tender throughout.
- If the chickpeas are still firm or have a hard texture in the center, they need some more cooking time. Pressure cook until they reach the desired tenderness.
Preparing the chole masala base sauce/gravy
- Heat oil in a pan over medium flame. Once the oil is hot, add cumin and saute until they crackle.
- Add the finely chopped onions. Sauté over medium flame stirring often till the onions soften and turn light brown.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute until the raw aroma goes away.
- Then add the spice mix we made with all of the powdered spices. Give a good stir, add little water, and cook until the oil separates.
- Add the tomato puree and sauté stirring often until the moisture reduces and the oil starts to leave the sides of the onion-tomato mixture.
Simmering the cooked chickpeas in the gravy
- Add the cooked chickpeas. Mix well and saute for 2 minutes.
- Add 1.5 cups of water and give a good mix. Taste test for spice and seasoning, add if needed.
- Once the gravy comes to a rolling boil, cover the lid and simmer on low flame for 15-20 minutes or until the gravy thickens and reaches the desired consistency.
- Open the lid and add chopped coriander leaves. Give a final mix.
- Punjabi Chole Masala is ready. Serve it hot or warm with your choice of flatbread or rice.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I use canned chickpeas instead of dried chickpeas?
Yes, you can use canned chickpeas. Make sure to rinse them thoroughly before using them.
2. How long does it take to cook the chickpeas in a pressure cooker?
It usually takes about 4-5 whistles or approximately 15-20 minutes for the chickpeas to cook in a pressure cooker.
3. Can I make Punjabi Chole Masala less spicy?
Yes, you can adjust the spice level according to your preference. Reduce the amount of red chili powder, garam masala, and kitchen king masala, or omit green chilies to make it milder.
4. What can I serve with Punjabi Chole Masala?
Punjabi Chole Masala pairs well with Indian bread like Bhatura, Naan, or Roti. It can also be enjoyed with steamed rice or jeera rice.
5. Can I make the chole masala ahead of time?
Yes, you can make the chole masala ahead of time and refrigerate it for a day or two. This allows the flavors to develop further, resulting in a more delicious dish. Reheat it gently before serving.
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