Spicy chickpeas (Kala chana)

Kala Chana is a spicy chickpeas curry with a heady aroma of ajwain and garlic, goes well with chapatis or naan.

Kala Chana was given to me by one of our relatives many years ago. I was told that it is a North Indian dish. The name comes from the dark color that comes by cooking them in garam masala(It does not actually become black, but dark brown depending on garam masala used). I do not have any more details about this dish. This has a unique flavor from ajwain seeds. I used to make it very often as my son loved this garnished with few raw onions. I did not prepare this for many years, after my children moved out for their college. I found it back in one of my diaries while searching something.

Kala Chana is very easy dish to make. Do not substitute or leave out any of the ingredients as this one needs all the ingredients to get the real taste of it. You could adjust the level of spice according to personal preference.

1 cup chickpeas(Kabuli chana)
1/2 tea spn ajwain
1 tea spn chopped garlic
1 tea spn chopped ginger
3/4 tea spn red chilli powder
1 tea spn amchoor powder
1 tea spn garam masala
1/2 tea spn cumin seeds
A pinch turmeric powder

For garnish:
Chopped onion
Chopped green chilli

Soak chickpeas in water for about 5-6 hrs (When they are soaked, they swell up considerably. Depending on the quality, it can become 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups).
Cook chickpeas with ajwain and garlic in pressure cooker till they are cooked.
Heat oil and add cumin seeds, ginger. When they fried a bit, add amchur powder, turmeric, cooked chickpeas. Add garam masala, salt, chilli powder. Slightly mash the chickpeas with a spoon. Cook till the dish becomes dark in color.
While serving, add green chillies and onions on top. Serve with chapathis.

Serves : 3-4
Preparation time : 35mins

Originally posted on Oct 13, 2008. Updated on Aug 9 2020.
I use mixture of Black chana and Kabuli chana to give it the beautiful dark color and texture.

32 thoughts on “Spicy chickpeas (Kala chana)”

  1. Varadpachi, hope you all had a very good trip to these holy places. I too make a very similar way, except the addition of ajwain. Let me try this always loved recipe, exactly as posted by you.

  2. this is a very popular panjabi dish… we make it very often at home… the black comes from the garam masala and also while boiling u can put some dry amla into it…. it gives a fantastic flavour and taste

  3. Hello, looks like a lovely recipe 🙂

    regding the black colour, my friend from north india told me that while soaking the chickpeas, we need to put in approx 1 tsp of tea powder tied in a cloth, alongwith the peas..she also pressure cooks the “potli” alongwith the peas..i tried that and it gave a diffrnt aroma :))

    Shilpa: Rashmi, as far as I know, thats done for chole and it may totally change the taste if you do it for this dish.

  4. I love choley….. this looks yummy, the use of ajwain sue good choice…. and it is so simple and quick…. will definitely try it today itself…..

  5. I love choley….. this looks yummy, the use of ajwain sure good choice…. and it is so simple and quick…. will definitely try it today itself…..

  6. Aunty, the kala chana is looking very good. Less work to do without frying onions and tomatoes like in regular chhole. Love the colour it has got..Hope you had a great trip, heard lot of relatives and family went there for Swamyale Chaturmaas.

  7. Thanks, Varadapacchi for this simple but delicious recipe !!!

    The addition of ajwain definetely takes this dish to a new level.

    I tried this today with a few modifications – fried some onions, jeera, hing, ajwain, garlic\ginger, added diced tomatoes and then added boiled potatoes and kabui chana. Added all other ingredients that you mentioned and then finally squeezed lime juice and aded chopped coriander leaves. It turned out really yummy. Served it with phulkas !!!

    Thanks again for inspiring my evening meals – when I am looking for simple, quick and easy and “ruchkar” recipes !!!

  8. Hi,, Shilpa,

    Do u have a recipe of dink laddoo , a tried one …. I need to make it for my friend she had a baby recently… and these laddoos are good for lactating women…. if u do please post it soon….

  9. hi nusrat,
    i want to share the recipe of dink laddoo which was given to me by a friend.I made it few times ( i gave birth to a baby few months back).
    250 gms dink
    500 gms dry coconut powder
    500 gms kharik(dry dates)
    1 cup ghee
    1 kg jaggery
    1 cup almonds
    Raisins and Cashewnuts(optional)

    1.Cut kharik into small pieces.
    2.Cut almonds into small pieces.
    3.Put 2 tsp ghee in a kadai and roast dink and keep it seperately.
    4.Repeat the same for kharik and coconut powder also.
    5.Add jaggery in a kadai and put 1 cup ghee in it and keep on stirring it on a low flame.
    6.Do it till you a get a thick pak.
    Then add roasted dink,kharik,cocunut powder ,almonds,rasins,cashewnuts to it.
    Mix it and make laddoos when it is hot.
    Approximately you can make 50 to 60 laddoos with this.

    Any suggestions are welcome

  10. This is traditionally called “CHOLLAY” in North India. Goes well with Purees too.

    Shilpa: Nagesh, as far as I know, chollay has onions and tomatoes in it. This one does not.

  11. Varadpachi,

    i tried this yesterday for dinner..it came out very delicious! My hubby and me both enjoyed it..The ajwain used gives a distinct flavour..Thanks for this variation of kabuli chana recipe..

  12. hi
    wat does amchur powder mean?
    Also does ajwain really matter in this dish since we do not get it here in scotland.

    Shilpa: Amchoor is dried mango powder. More details here. Ajwain gives a very unique taste to this dish which makes it very special dish. But if you can’t find it, you can make without it.

    1. Actually, about 1t of dried thyme leaves would be similar to ajwain, as they share the main essential oil of ‘thymol’- ajwain has a unique, “round” flavor however (because of other oils it contains in addition to thymol), but this would be a suitable substitute here.

  13. Dear Varada Aunty,
    Thanks a lot for this recipe. It was DELICIOUS ! But I did not get the black/dark color of the masala. Maybe it was because of the dhane-jeera based garam masala that I used. Anyways it was the best chana masala I ever had !


    Shilpa: Search for chickpea in the searchbox on this site and you will find many recipes.

  15. Hey Shilpa,
    I have been a regular on your blog since a few months and have immensely enjoyed going through your recipes. However, today I happened to notice that the picture posted for this recipe had suddenly changed. I am seeing a picture of something that looks like light colored gravy or perhaps some Tambali instead of the usual kala chana photo. (I am familiar with the original picture for the spicy chickpeas because I have visited the recipe several times before) . Just thought I will let you know.
    Best wishes,
    Alka Kamath

    Shilpa: Thank you so much alka. Recently we did lots of changes to the site and I think few things got changed. I will fix it.

  16. Thanks a lot Shilpa & aunty for this simple but yummy dish.My son loves chanas & liked this variation over the regular chole dish. That’s a great thing for me , as now I can prepare chanas in 10 minute instead of 45 minutes that it takes for chole!

    1. Wonderful recipe! The only thing I did different was to add another 1/2 t of amchur pdr to increase the sourness- but the masala is very-well balanced and delicious! Thanks for sharing- it will become a regular dish for me!

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