Wednesday 12 October 2011

Chhole Masala

This is the best chhole masala I've ever made and eaten :-) Yes, I know that's an extravagant claim to be making, but I can confidently say it because I've been making chhole or chickpeas for a very long time. One of the reasons I've never posted this classic recipe, is because I've never been satisfied with the taste of my usual chhole and despite trying very hard, something always seemed to be missing. And despite trying out every combination of spices, it just didn't taste right.

The best chhole masala I've eaten was made by this Punjabi lady who sells Indian food in the Terrace farmer's market. Yes, you read that right. This is Terrace, British Columbia, Canada we're talking about. I've eaten all sorts of chhole + bhature (a leavened and deep fried bread) everywhere in India, but the yummiest one was made by this lady. Isn't it funny, how sometimes the best Indian food can be made by expats? Maybe its because they truly want a taste of home, wherever they are. So every Saturday in summer she sells it at the market, and every time I am there I go to her stall, buy some and then mutter away because I never can understand why mine doesn't taste like that. Then I get grumpy, bah humbug, because I hate failing at anything. I will try out something ten times if I don't get it right the first. You can just take a look at my kiwi ice cream travails, if you don't believe me.

Farmer's Market Chhole
Farmer's Market Chhole

And then a few weeks ago, I think I cracked it. I make my own spice mixes, but I like to snoop around on the websites for major retailers and kind of check out what spices they have in their mixes. I am not trying to recreate their exact versions, but it gives me an idea of what to expect, and I then personalise those mixes to suit my taste. So anyway, I was on the website of this really big spice exporter, and I noticed that they had a recipe on for chhole masala, or they called it Punjabi chhole. Now I prefer this dark roasted spice version of Punjabi chhole, anyway, but I was intrigued to find that they recommended the use of chaat masala to finish their version of chhole.

Bingo, I thought! That's it, that's the missing element for my chhole. So I very nervously tried out the recipe, with my version of spices, but with the added chaat masala. And finally!! Success! I had built up my expectations so high, that I would have certainly been crushed if this version had not worked, but by jeez, did it ever work. Our whole family loved this version of chhole. It was delicious, and it had almost the exact taste of the chhole from the Terrace farmer's market. I was so happy, I was actually jumping up and down in my kitchen, channeling Dora the Explorer and going 'I did it, I did it, I did it, hurrah' (yes, yes, I am an incurably sad excuse of a person!)

I served these chhole with another classic Indian street snack, aloo tikki, the recipe for which is coming very soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this delectable Indian dish, and as its National Curry Week in the UK, from the 9th to 15th October, so what better dish to celebrate with?

Quick note, did you know I now have a Facebook page for Food, Football and a Baby? Do hop on over and 'Like' me sometime. I even respond to comments and recipe requests... rather promptly, just sayin' like...! Plus there's more pictures and outtakes on the page for you to laugh at.

(Printable Recipe)

1 medium onion, diced fine
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2garlic cloves, crushed
2 hot green chillies chopped
1 cup ripe red tomato puree *see notes
540 ml tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed *see notes
Around ½ cup hot water
1 tablespoon unscented oil

Spice Mix:

½ tablespoon ground coriander
1½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon dried mango powder (amchur)
½ teaspoon (or to taste) hot chilli powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves


½ tablespoon chaat masala (I use MDH brand, Everest is pretty good too or make your own)
Big handful chopped fresh coriander


In a heavy pot, heat the oil, then add the diced onions. Cook, stirring for about 7 - 8 minutes on a medium heat, until the onions soften and just start to colour.

Add the grated ginger, garlic and chopped chillies. Stir.

Add the spice mix to the above mixture, then cook on a gentle heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and about ½ cup of hot water. Add the rinsed chickpeas.

Stir together, then cook on a low heat for about 5 - 20 minutes, until you can no longer feel the rawness of the spices.

Take off the heat, and whisk in the chaat masala and sprinkle over the chopped coriander to serve.

This chhole masala goes well with rice, naan, pulao and aloo tikkis.

  • You can make tomato puree by blanching about 2 large, ripe tomatoes in hot water, then peeling the skins off and seeding them. Blend in a blender till pureed. The amount of puree depends on the size of your tomatoes, so you may have to add one more tomato, if necessary.
  • For convenience, you can substitute 1 cup strained tomatoes, available at Italian stores, or 1 cup plain tomato sauce instead of the fresh pureed tomatoes.
  • This recipe makes a lot of sauce, so you can increase the amount of chickpeas up to 800 ml (2, 400 ml cans) if desired


  1. A spicy, mouthwatering gravy!!!! All i need is some bhaturas to polish this off!!
    Prathima Rao
    Prats Corner

  2. Thanks a lot for this. I've struggled to get the chickpea taste right - or rather to get them to taste like the ones that I can sometimes get at a local farmer's market. They're actually made by the stallholder's granny and she only makes them when she feels like it and tells no-one the recipe. I'd never thought of chaat masala. Thanks for the map, Dora - I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map etc etc.

  3. Sounds delicious, and I will try this recipe. I will do everything in my power to make your next cooking class.

  4. This looks mouthwatering! I love cholay and am always looking for a new recipe. New to your blog and am loving it. Now following you...please check out mine www.chocolateandchillies.blogspot.com

  5. Thanks for that - at last something I can do with the mango powder I bought in a fit of absentmindedness recently! I love your blog.

  6. I've never been a chickpea fan - it's totally a texture thing for me, not the taste. But this made me laugh because I'm so similar... very dogged at figuring things out and I get so silly excited when I finally get it! It's so satisfying. And I'm really craving a good Indian meal. It's been too long :(

  7. Thanks so much for joining my Weekend Wonders blog party last week. It was much appreciated! Hope to see you again soon.

  8. Someone told me it was National Curry Week in the U.K, but I am so distracted that sadly curry will not be a feature on my blog this week :(

    I love chickpeas cooked any way and this recipe is just up my street.

  9. Prathima, thank you. It is delicious, indeed. I wish I made bhature more often, but I don't because of the deep frying.

    Phil, haha :-) But I know what you mean. Indian grandmas can be notoriously secretive about their recipes, and they don't like sharing.

    Cathy, thank you. I think you'll enjoy this dish, and we have another class coming very soon, which I will let you know about. I also offer private lessons, if you care for them instead :-)

    Asiya, I love your blog. Thanks for dropping by mine. I love chole too, which is why I tried so much to get it right.

    Jane, welcome to the blog, and yes, mango powder is definitely an essential in this dish. You could have a look at some of my other Indian recipes, some of them use mango powder.

    Melissa, good luck. I know chickpeas are not to everyone's taste, but you could try the curry base with some other kind of bean too. And yes, I am a very determined (stubborn mule) person.

    MoAT, my pleasure, I enjoy it and I always find something in there I love.

    Shaheen, that's a pity, because I do love your curries. Glad to know you'll like the recipe, its easy enough to put together, but tastes so good.

  10. Michelle,
    I've tried many a ways of cooking chhole...but this one deserves an A+ rating. I must say the cooking process is very simple. I added paprika powder instead of the chilli powder. Loved the colour of the chhole. Never got this colour before.
    Thanks a ton.


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