Kali Chana {Pindi Chole}

Kali Chana {Pindi Chole}

Kali Chana {Pindi Chole} 681 1027 Eat USA Beans

Kali Chana masala or this hearty, healthy, protein-packed garbanzo bean curry in a dark sauce, is straight out of the Amritsar region of the northern Punjab state in India. The dark and rich sauce and the origin of the dish in Rawalpindi is the reason why Pindi Chana is also known as Kali Chana Masala in many Indian households. And, my mom’s recipe adapted from her Punjabi friend certainly makes it more special.

Recipe courtesy of Chitra Goel (Sophie), blogger at My Dainty Soul Curry.

Easy to cook, explosive flavor and indulgent experience – if you have ever eaten Pindi Chana, you know what I am talking about. For many years, my mom cooked this dish without knowing how to give it that dark hue to the sauce. Thanks to the cookery shows and our Punjabi neighbor, my mom learned the right way to cook this Kali Chana masala just like it’s made in Punjab. Spicy yet not overpowering, and creamy yet not very rich and slightly tangy as it should be. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a perfect Kali Pindi Chana masala

Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are frequent in most Indian kitchens. And, I always prefer using quality beans in my recipes. The US Dry Bean Council is the global leader in producing best-quality, dry beans because of their state-of-the-art harvesting equipment and best handling and production practices. The US Dry Bean Council is known to grow more than 10 bean varieties renowned for their health benefits and nutritional qualities. Many of these beans or “pulses” [a catch-all phrase for legumes] have a significant culture and culinary influence as well, which is why the US Dry Bean Council has a growing interest in ethnic cuisines and why we’re celebrating World Pulses Day!

But in eastern India, where I am from, eating chickpeas was not an everyday affair. We love our chickpea curries, but that’s only for special days. But things changed after I migrated to southern India, and my culinary journey took a deep dive into a melange of city culture that had a fair share of Indian delicacies from all over the country. That’s when I was introduced to the best South Indian food, the delicious West Indian meals, and the very best North Indian Chole-kulcha or soft Indian bread served with this Kali Chana or Pindi Chole curry.

In most Indian metropolitans, food is largely fashioned as a culture rather than a regional thing. Thanks to the melting pot of intermingling cultures and food festivals, major Indian cities boast a diverse foodie scene catering to the needs of every palate. There are unconventional Indo-Chinese street foods and also many authentic Indian dishes just like this chickpea curry or Kali Chana often served with the softest kulcha naan or bhatura.

While most week-days I stayed busy with college work and assignments, Sundays were always special. I have the best memories of enjoying this North Indian chickpea curry with kulcha almost every other weekend. That’s why I took this recipe to my mom in eastern India, and how her endeavor to create the perfect chickpea dish began. And when my mom found the right way to cook this dish, it was the best-ever food experience, and shared with the people I love the most. But that was some 15-years ago. Now that I have a family with North Indian heritage, I often make this Punjabi Kali Chana or Pindi Chole and try to recreate the same food experience that I enjoyed decades ago.

Thanks to my mom, who gallantly passed the recipe without a second thought, I gathered my courage to cook up this curry a few years ago. After a few hits and misses, I finally made the curry that I always enjoyed and have its fondest memories treasured. By participating in this campaign with the US Dry Bean Council for World Pulses Day, I have the opportunity to share my best, family-approved Chickpea curry recipe with you all. I highly recommend you to try this once and you will fall in love.

Kali Chana in bowl
garbanzo beans in Kali Chana

Tips to cook the garbanzo bean the right way:

To create the best Kali Chana masala, you should start with perfectly cooked chickpeas. Not mushy or not al-dente; chickpeas used in this recipe should be perfect. Soft yet holding their shape and perfectly cooked through. How? Well, here are a few tips.

  • Use a pinch of baking soda
  • Add herbs and spices while cooking garbanzo beans
  • Add tea bags while cooking chickpeas (the tannin in tea is acidic and helps to make chickpeas soft)

When cooked in a pressure cooker, chickpeas tend to be softer and flavorful. I use the electric instant pot variety, which makes things easier for me. Pressure cooking saves a lot of time while multi-folding the flavor. You may use your Dutch oven for this, but if you have an option, use a pressure cooker to make this delectable Indian curry.

Kali Chana cooking garbanzo beans

The base of the curry sauce is again – tomato and onions. To make it rich, just like a restaurant version, I include fried onions. Don’t sweat to make it on your own. This is easily available in most Indian grocery stores. You cannot omit the spice mix – coriander, cumin, garam masala, cayenne pepper and turmeric. Pomegranate seeds powder is used traditionally in this recipe. Just add equal parts of pomegranate seeds and roasted cumin and grind them to a coarse powder. While I am always tempted to add some extras here, I know this is the perfect concoction for a flavorful Kali Chana.

Speaking of this curry, just like any other Indian curry delicacies, it tastes best with roti, naan or rice. But pair it with my bullet naan or some homemade kulcha and you will have the best-ever homemade, and absolutely decadent Indian meal ever. Another side dish that beautifully pairs with my kali chana is this Indian Lemon Rice.

Since my plant-based journey began last January, pulses and beans have become an essential part of my diet. Surprisingly, beans supply a huge amount of plant protein and fibers and are heart-healthy. Garbanzo beans, in particular, have tremendous nutritional benefits. Eating beans can help you in many ways, including managing your sugar levels, improved energy, and even help prevent certain cancers. Beans are good for people and even for the planet as these powerful superfoods play a critical role in sustainable food production. Want to learn more? Here is an informative article on the health benefits of beans by the US Dry Bean Council.

I am so happy to share this ethnic Indian Kali Chana Curry recipe for this year’s World Pulses Day Campaign. World Pulses Day is a great platform to learn the nutritional benefits of pulses and legumes as part of sustainable food production. While beans and pulses are nutritious and delicious, one should know how to cook them perfectly. Here are two how-to guides that you may find helpful.

When cooked the right way, beans and pulses are easy on the stomach. In fact, we Indians usually follow these three rules to cook our beans for better digestion.

  • Add a pinch of asafoetida while cooking
  • Always soak beans before cooking
  • Adding baking soda and turmeric to your legumes while cooking
Kali Chana making curry
Kali Chana spices

Recipe of Kali Chana or Pindi Chole:


1 tbsp avocado oil, 1 cup onion – ginger – garlic paste – 1/4 yellow or red onions + 4 cloves garlic, 2 tomatoes pureed, 1/4 cup tomato paste, minced + 1-inch ginger +1/2 cup fried onions, 2 tbsp spice mix (1 tsp garam masala+1 tbsp ground coriander + 1/2 tsp ground cayenne or hot chili powder+1/2 tsp turmeric + 1 tsp home-made curry powder, ½ tsp dried pomegranate seeds powder, 1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt to taste, 3 cups cooked chickpeas, cooked with 1/2 tsp mustard oil+1/2 cup chopped tomatoes + 2 whole cloves+1 bay leaf+1 black cardamom and 1 tsp of Pomegranate seeds powder, 1-1/2 tsp kasoori methi, optional, Cilantro to garnish


Pressure cook beans:

  • Wash and soak 1 cup of garbanzo beans overnight before cooking.
  • In an electric pressure cooker’s inner pot, add chickpeas and add enough water to cover the beans.
  • Now add all the ingredients listed with 3 cups of cooked beans.
  • Add a pinch of turmeric and two black tea bags.
  • Cover and seal the vent, and pressure cook for 20-minutes al-dente beans and 30-minutes for soft and not-mushy beans.
  • After the natural pressure release, set the beans aside.

Cook the masala:

  • You can use your instant pot or a pan to cook the masala for the curry.
  • Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat and add the avocado oil. If using an instant pot, set it on the sauté mode and proceed to the next step.
  • Add avocado once the pot is hot. In a few minutes, add the onion-ginger-garlic paste with a pinch of salt and cook for about 5-6 minutes.
  • Once the onion is cooked and turned into a brownish color, add half of the homemade chana masala spice mix and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir constantly so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the tomato purée over the cooked onions and spice mixture. After a while, add the tomato paste and cover, bring to a simmer.

Make Curry:

  • Now add chickpeas and change the mode to pressure cook and set for 10-minutes or pressure cooking. If using the stovetop to cook, add chickpeas, a cup of water, and stir well. Cover and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  • After the instant pot beeps, wait for 10-minutes and release pressure. Open the lid and mix in some fresh cilantro and kasoori methi. For the stovetop method, turn off the heat and garnish. Adjust the salt according to taste.
  • Serve with your choice of side dish.
Kali Chana recipe instructions
Kali Chana masala
Kali Chana served with pita chips