Kala chana recipe – black chickpeas cooked with onions, tomatoes and spices. Kala chana are the desi variety of chickpeas that are brown to black in color. These are used widely in Indian cuisine to make curries, stew and even stir fry dishes. This post shares the details on how to prepare and cook kala chana in a pot, pressure cooker & Instant pot.
Most Indian households cook kala chana often since they are healthy, protein-packed, fiber rich and taste delicious.
How is it made?
The preparation of kala chana recipe starts with rinsing and soaking them overnight in lots of water. Then they are rinsed and cooked with water until tender.
Meanwhile a spicy onion and tomato base is prepared similar to any other Indian dish. Then the cooked kala chana is added to this and further simmered until they absorb all the flavors of spices.
If you have an Instant pot, then you can cut short the process and avoid precooking the kala chana separately. Instead just make the onion tomato masala and add the soaked black chickpeas. Pressure cook on high for 40 minutes. Alternately you can also use the bean chilli mode.
Tips to make kala chana
Soaking is important: Black chickpeas have an harder skin when compared to the other legumes. Most of this is the fiber content which can easily make you feel bloated if they are not properly soaked.
Soaking them overnight is highly recommended to avoid tummy problems. This not only reduces the cook time but also improves their taste & texture.
I always stock some presoaked kala chana in my fridge. So it is easier for me to make a curry, salad or chaat instantly.
Why precook kala chana: If you are using a pot or a stove-top pressure cooker, then it is very important to precook them in water first. Later add them to the onion tomato masala. Black chickpeas will not cook well when they are cooked with acidic ingredients like tomatoes or salt.
So always cook them well in plain water until tender. This will ensure they are cooked completely.
I do not use a lot of whole spices in this recipe. I just use cumin. You may add 1 bay leaf, 2 green cardamoms, 2 cloves and 1 inch cinnamon stick to the tempering along with cumin.
I use this homemade garam masala. But you can also use kitchen king masala if you have.
Lastly I have this little tip of pouring some ghee over the hot kala chana before serving. This totally elevates the flavor and taste of the dish.
I fine processed the onions and pureed the tomatoes. So the gravy is thicker in consistency.
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup kala chana black or brown chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons oil or ghee
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 cup onions (1 large) fine chopped or processed
- 1 green chilli chopped (optional)
- 1½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste (or ¾ inch ginger, 3 garlic cloves minced)
- ¾ to 1 cup tomatoes chopped or pureed (2 to 3) (I used ¾ cup)
- ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala
- 1½ teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves
- 1 small lemon for serving
How to make the recipe
- Add kala chana to a large bowl and rinse them at least thrice. Soak them overnight to 12 hours in 5 to 6 cups of water.
- Once soaked drain the water and rinse them well.
Stovetop kala chana
- Pour 1½ cups of fresh water to the kala chana.
- Pressure cook them on a medium flame for 6 whistles. After cooking for 6 whistles if they are still under cooked, then pressure cook for 2 to 3 more whistles. If cooking in a regular pot, cook them until tender adding more water as and when needed.
- Meanwhile heat oil in another pot.
- Add cumin. When they sizzle, add onions and saute until they turn light golden.
- Next add ginger garlic and saute until a nice aroma comes out.
- Add tomato puree and cook for a while until it turns thick.
- Next stir in the spice powders – turmeric, red chilli powder, garam masala, coriander powder and salt. Saute well until the mixture smells good and begins to leave the sides of the pan.
- When the kala chana is tender & cooked, add them to the pan along with the leftover stock / water.
- Stir and pour more water as needed to make a gravy. Adjust salt if needed.
- Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the gravy turns a bit thicker.
Instant pot kala chana
- Press saute button. When the IP displays hot, pour oil to the inner pot of the IP.
- Add cumin and let them sizzle. Stir in the onions and salt. Saute until they turn light golden.
- Saute ginger garlic for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, salt and all the spice powders. Saute until the mix turns slightly thick and aromatic for 2 mins.
- Pour 2 cups water and deglaze the pot by scrubbing the bottom with a wooden spatula. This releases any bits of food stuck & prevents a burn sign.
- Then add the drained kala chana and give a good stir. Press CANCEL button.
- Secure the IP with lid and position the steam release handle to sealing.
- Press PRESSURE COOK button (high) and set the timer to 40 mins. Or you can also use the bean chilli mode and set the timer to 40 mins.
- When the IP is done cooking, it will beep. Allow the pressure to release naturally for atleast 15 mins.
- If the curry looks runny, evaporate the excess water on saute mode. I did not do it. Add some ghee & garnish kala chana with coriander leaves. Sprinkle some lemon juice and serve with rice or roti.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
- Adding a pinch of soda-bi-carbonate will help the kala chana cook faster. However the stock tastes different when added to the gravy. So discard the stock and add fresh water if using soda.
- Do not add under cooked kala chana to the curry. Ensure they are cooked well then add them to the curry.
- You can also add some coconut milk towards the end.
- Curry leaves or bay leaf can be used along with cumin.
- A pinch of hing or asafoetida can be added just before adding the onions.
- 1/2 tsp Amchur powder and 1 tsp kasuri methi can also be added just before turning off the heat.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
If you are new to cooking, follow my detailed step by step photo instructions for best results.