Kadala Curry is a delicious classic dish from Kerala Cuisine. A popular black chickpeas dish that is usually served with puttu, appam, dosa and idiyappam (string hoppers) as a hearty breakfast. Made with black chickpeas immersed in a spicy gravy and flavored with coconut, this dish packs flavor in every bite. The protein-rich kadala curry is equal parts healthy, tasty and easy to prepare. Include this versatile dish as a side to accompany your main meals or serve as a side with cooked grains like red rice, quinoa or millets.
The dish stores well for a couple of days and is a tasty choice for a make ahead dinner.
About Kadala Curry
Kadala is a Malayali word for Chickpeas. So kadala curry is a curried dish of black chickpeas where they are simmered with onions, ground and whole spices, coconut paste or coconut milk and curry leaves.
A typical South Indian tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves adds a punch to this kadala curry. Coconut oil gives the dish its unique flavor.
While most people associate Kerala cuisine with appam and stew or the Onam sadya, it has a lot of delicious savory foods, curries and sweet offerings too.
Black chickpea curry has moved from the confines of the Malayalee home kitchen to gain popularity among cooks who love regional foods. Although this dish resembles the North Indian kala chana curry, there is a key difference.
The use of fresh coconut, curry leaves, coconut oil and the spice blend makes this all unique and different from the North Indian dish.
You’ll find many variations of this kadala curry. Each family has a different way of making this. While the regular version consists of a thinner gravy, others prefer a semi-dry curry or a thickened gravy. All these depend on the ingredients and the method used to cook the dish.
This recipe will give a super aromatic, delicious and healthy kadala curry that you are sure going to turn back to time and again. It is easy to make and can be cooked in a pressure cooker or instant pot with minimum effort.
To make the kadala curry, I pressure cook the black chick peas along with onions, tomatoes and spices which enhances the flavor of the dish. While they cook, I make the spiced coconut paste ready which I add it to the pot, once the pressure drops.
The kadala curry is then simmered and lastly tempered. This final tempering is what is going to make your dish the best infusing all of the best flavors from coconut oil, curry leaves, shallots and mustard.
How to make Kadala Curry (Stepwise Photos)
1. Rinse and soak 1 cup of black chickpeas or kadala in 3 cups of water for at least 6-8 hours, preferably overnight. Drain the water, rinse well and set aside.
I have made this in the instant pot but have included the instructions for stovetop pressure cooker as well.
2. Pour 1 tablespoon oil to a pressure cooker or steel insert of the Instant pot with the saute button on. Add 1 medium onion sliced (about ½ to ¾ cup) and 1 slit green chili. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until transparent.
3. Add ¾ tablespoon of minced ginger (or ½ tbsp paste) and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic (or ½ tbsp paste) and saute for 1-2 minutes more.
4. Now add 1 medium tomato chopped. You may skip it as well.
5. Add 1 tablespoon of coriander powder, ¾ to 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of turmeric.
6. Stir well to combine and saute for 2-3 minutes until the spice flavors blend in with the tomatoes. Do not burn.
7. Add the soaked and rinsed kadala.
8. Pour 2 cups of water into the pot and deglaze well so the food don’t get stuck and burn at the bottom.
9. Close the pressure cooker with the lid.
Stovetop Pressure Cooker: Reduce heat to medium and pressure cook until you hear 10 whistles. I use a pressure pan for this. If using a small cooker then you may reduce to 8 whistles.
Instant pot: Position the steam release handle to sealing. Press PRESSURE COOK and set the timer for 35 minutes.
Make coconut paste
You may skip this step of grinding process and use 1 to 1 ¼ teaspoon of Kerala garam masala to ½ cup of coconut milk. Stir well and set aside until needed.
10. Add the following spices to a small pan and dry roast for a minute:
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon of black pepper
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
11. Add 1 sprig of curry leaves roast for another 2 mins.
12. Add ½ cup of freshly grated coconut and dry roast for 5 minutes, stirring continuously until light golden. Ensure it doesn’t burn. Once the coconut begins to release oil, turn off. If you want you may roast this further on a low heat until golden. But this step takes another 12 to 15 mins.
13. Cool and add to a grinder. Grind until smooth without adding water. Later pour half cup water and make a smooth fine paste.
Prepare the kadala curry
14. When the pressure in the cooker drops, open the lid and check whether the kadala have cooked well and is soft. Add the coconut paste (or the spiced coconut milk). Mix well to combine.
15. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the kadala curry reaches a consistency you prefer. Taste and adjust seasoning including salt. If cooking in Instant pot, Press saute button and cook.
Make the tempering
Now make the tempering. You can skip this step if desired, but tempering does add great flavor to the kadala curry.
16. Add 1½ tablespoons of coconut oil to a small pan and heat on a medium flame. Add ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds, 2 dried red chilli and curry leaves to the hot oil.
17. When the seeds start sputtering, quickly add 3 sliced shallots. Fry them stirring continuously until deep golden but not burnt. Remember the fried onions in biryani and ghee rice, you are going to fry these the same way and not any longer.
18. Be careful not to burn the onions or you’ll have to start afresh. Pour this immediately to the kadala curry and cover the pot.
Serve kadala curry with puttu, idiyappam, red rice, poori, chapati, millets or quinoa.
- A lot of Malayalee cooks add onions and tomatoes raw while cooking the kadala. I prefer to saute the onions before pressure cooking as some kind of onions don’t impart a good flavor by directly pressure cooking.
- You can also pressure cook the kadala separately first and then add them to the sauteed onion tomato mixture. But this recipe works really well cooking them together and in fact tastes the best.
- A lot of people make traditional kadala curry without tomatoes. If you want you may skip.
- Since this recipe uses less onions and tomatoes, it does not work well if you skip coconut. Use it in some form either the coconut paste or the coconut milk.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup kadala (black chickpeas)
- 2 cups water to cook (reduce to 1 ½ if using coconut milk)
- 1 medium onion (about ½ to ¾ cup sliced onions)
- 1 medium tomato (optional)
- 1 green chilli slit (optional)
- ¾ tablespoon ginger (paste or chopped)
- 1 tablespoon garlic (paste or chopped)
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon oil
To roast and grind (or ½ cup coconut milk and 1 to 1 ¼ teaspoon garam masala)
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ cup fresh coconut (loosely measured)
- 3 cardamoms
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cloves
- 2 inch cinnamon
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (2 to 3 pinches)
- ½ cup water to grind
- 1½ tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 to 2 dried red chilli
- 3 shallots sliced (Or replace with 1 small onion, 3 tbsps sliced)
- 1 spring curry leaves
- Rinse and soak kadala/chickpeas overnight. Later drain the water and rinse them well before cooking.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil to a pressure cooker or pot. Heat it.
- Saute onions and green chilies slightly until transparent. Add ginger garlic and saute for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, turmeric, coriander powder and red chilli powder. Mix and saute for a few minutes.
- Add soaked kadala and pour 2 cups water. Pressure cook for 10 whistles on a medium heat, until kadala is soft cooked.
- While the kadala cooks, on a low heat, dry roast cardamoms, fennel seeds, pepper, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, until they begin to smell good.
- Add the curry leaves and coconut. Increase the flame to medium and roast all of this until for 5 mins, stirring continuously. If you want you can also roast this until golden without burning.
- Cool and grind to as smooth as possible. Pour half cup water and blend to a very smooth paste. If required you may add 1 to 2 tbsps more water.
- When the pressure drops, check if the kadala is cooked well. They must be soft cooked.
- Add the coconut paste. Mix well. Stir and continue to cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the curry reaches a desired consistency. Taste test and adjust salt.
- Pour 1 ½ tbsps oil to a small pan. When it is hot add mustard seeds and 1 broken red chilli. As soon as they splutter add curry leaves and sliced shallots.
- Stir fry until the onions turn golden and aromatic. Pour this directly over the hot kadala curry and cover it.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
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I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
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