3.5/5 rating (22 votes)

Black Chana Masala

Kala Chana

  • Heat Medium
  • Serves 4
  • Prep 20 mins
  • Marinade 1 day
  • Cook 40 mins
Black Chana Masala

Wholesome and nutritious kala chana masala is warming and a great vegan dish.

Hari says

Black Chana Masala is a dish made with black chickpeas (also known as black gram or kala chana). I always go for the dried variety (but you can get them tinned from Indian grocery stores). Kala Chana are dark brown in colour and have a very rough outer texture and are known to be packed full of nutrients. They can be cooked with onions, tomatoes and a few simple spices for a great curry or roasted as snacks, boiled or steamed and added to salads or to stews.

These chickpeas are known as Indian chickpeas and are different to the more widely consumed white chickpeas. They are heartier and have much more of an earthy flavour and what is so special is that they are known for their health benefits. Very high in fibre, packed full of protein, a great source of vitamin B6, C, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin as well as minerals including manganese, phosphorus, iron and copper. My mum will still cook kala chana just for the nutritious gravy the dish produces if she is feeling like she needs a boost. Not only is the gravy packed with all these nutrients it is also very easy to digest. In fact as a child I can remember my mum soaking pieces of roti in the gravy to give to my elderly grandma as it's an easy to digest meal that would give her all the nutrients she needed.

Now, it's also important to recognise these do require some cooking. Firstly, these dried chickpeas are hard and have a tough outer coating so they benefit from soaking (minimum of 6 hours but overnight is best). This allows the skin to soften so you are able to digest them more effectively.

Secondly, I would always recommend cooking these in a pressure cooker. It basically eases the long laborious task of softening and infusing flavour into a much easier and simpler process.

Thirdly, these chickpeas have a slightly harder texture even when they are cooked they won't go as soft as white chickpeas.

I like to have these in a fairly liquidy gravy but if you prefer a thicker sauce thats fine too - you just need to cook them for slightly longer and simmer with the lid off once they are cooked through. and either is fine.

Here's my recipe.

  • Ingredients
  • Method
  • 175g dried black chickpeas (400g tin cooked chickpeas)
  • 2 tbsp oil/ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, finely minced
  • 5cm piece ginger, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1–2 green chilis, minced
  • 200g chopped tomatoes tinned/fresh
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Handful coriander chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon


If using dried chickpeas

  1. Wash the dried black chickpeas and soak in 1.5L of water overnight or in boiling water for a minimum 6 hours.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and rinse in fresh water.
  3. Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add cumin seeds. When they become aromatic add the finely chopped onions.
  4. Saute until they are golden brown then add garlic and stir for a minute or two.
  5. Pour in the tomatoes then add in the ginger and chillies. Mix together until the tomatoes start to break down and the masala thickens a little. 
  6. Stir in the salt, chilli powder, turmeric, kasoori methi, coriander powder and mix well.
  7. Once the tomatoes have broken down a little, the spices and onions have melted together to create a thick paste add the black chickpeas and 750ml water.
  8. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook under high pressure for 30 minutes. If you are doing this on the stove top in a regular pan this will take about 2 hours to cook.
  9. After 30 minutes, let the pressure release before opening. Check the chana is cooked and tender – these do stay a little harder than white chickpeas.
  10. Bring to a simmer and if you want more of a gravy you can add water and let it simmer for a while.
  11. Once you are happy with the consistency add the garam masala and fresh coriander. I like to squeeze in some lemon juice too before serving.

If using tinned chickpeas

  1. Drain 1 or 2 tins of black chickpeas at stage 7 as above and add about 300ml of water and put the lid on the pressure cooker.
  2. Cook for 10 minutes on low pressure then follow the recipe as above.


Served with

Kala chana masala is great with soft fluffy roti's

This goes well with

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