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Kala Chana – Black Chickpea Curry

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This kala chana curry is a popular dish from Kerala.

While I was researching for my book ‘The Curry Guy Veggie’, I travelled to Kerala in southern India and came back with so many delicious vegetarian curries. This kala chana curry, or black chickpea curry is one of my favourites.

It’s so good plain Basmati rice or any rice really. You might also like to serve it with naans and/or chapatis

Kala chana - black chickpea curry

What is Kala Chana?

‘Kala’ is the Hindi word for ‘black’ and ‘chana’ means ‘chickpea’. So Kala chana is a black chickpea curry. The chickpeas are actually black but rather and dark brown but the name refers to the variety of chickpeas used in this curry. 

Black chickpeas are native to the Indian Subcontinent and are popular all over India. You probably won’t find them at your local supermarket but you will easily find them at Asian shops and online. Kala chana does look a lot like the light coloured chickpeas you see everywhere but they have a tougher skin and are of course darker in appearance.

About this kala chana recipe

My first experience with kala chana was in the Punjab in northern India. There, different spicing was used and it was so good.

This recipe, however is a Keralan recipe. The spicing and curry leaves really bring out the natural flavour of the kala chana. You are going to love this!

Is kala chana good for you?

This is health food in a bowl and it doesn’t even taste like the healthy option. If you are a meat lover like me, I can assure you that you won’t miss the meat!

Kala chana is very high in fibre, more so than the lighter variety. Because of the high fibre content, some people find them difficult to digest when not cooked correctly.

The cumin and ginger in this recipe aid with digestion as does the long cooking time which is important for best results. You want those chickpeas to be so tender you can crush them between your fingers.

Make this chana curry recipe your own

My family like a lot of liquid in this chana curry so that naan bread or paratha can be dipped in and absorb all of the delicious sauce. If you like a thicker sauce just let it boil down for a little longer, the beans will thicken the chana curry quickly. 

You can cook that gravy down to your preferred consistency. 

If you like, you could use this recipe as a guide and adjust the spicing too. Add more or less chilli powder for example. As you’re doing the cooking, the final flavour and spiciness is in your hands. 

Can you purchase pre-cooked kala chana?

Yes! The advantage of cooking your own chana is that you have all the cooking liquid to add to the curry for additional flavour. This does take extra time though.

If you purchase tinned (canned) kala chana, it’s ready to add to your curry. This will reduce the cooking time by at least 30 minutes and you can make the kala chana curry in one pot!

Working ahead

Like most curries, kala chana curry will actually get better if kept in the fridge for a day or two before serving. The flavours will develop as it sits.

So you can prepare this curry 1 or 2 days early if more convenient and you will love the results.

If you are using dried chana, you can soak and then cook it a couple of days before preparing the curry.

Can this curry be frozen?

Yes. You can cook it and freeze it for up to 6 months. This is great if you have any leftovers.

What else can you serve with kala chana?

India is famous for its delicious vegetarian recipes. You could just serve this curry with rice and it would be a great meal. 

If you would like to make this into a feast, I can highly recommend making black eyed pea currysaag aloo, and onion rice or pilau rice to go with it.

Step by step photos


Making Kala Channa Curry

Tempering the spices and curry leaves.

Making Kala Channa Curry

Add the onions, chillies and dry spices.

Making Kala Masala

Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and sizzle for about 30 seconds.

Making Kala Masala Curry

Stir in the chopped tomatoes.

Making kala channa

Add the cooked black chana.

Making kala channa curry

Stir in the thick coconut milk.

Kala channa curry

Allow to reduce down until you have a thick curry. You could cook it down to taste. A runnier sauce is ok too.

Kala Channa Curry

Lots of different textures and delicious flavours in this chana curry!

Yield: 4 - 6

Kala Channa Curry

Kala chana - black chickpea curry
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes


  • 200g (1 cup) kala chana soaked in 625ml (2.5 cups) water overnight
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • ½ teaspoon asafoetida
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 medium size onion,
  • 2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 to 2 green chillies
  • 2 medium tomatoes or 1 large tomato - diced
  • 200g thick coconut milk
  • salt as required
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon coriander leaves


  1. Pour the soaked chickpeas along with the soaking water and bicarbonate of soda into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat for about 30 minutes or until tender. Set aside.
  2. Now heat the oil/ghee over high heat in a large frying pan. When visibly hot, add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, reduce the heat to medium and stir in the curry leaves. When these become fragrant, stir in the asafetida, cumin, coriander powder, chilli powder and turmeric. Allow to sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the chopped onions and fry for five minutes or until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and the chillies. Stir to combine and then add the diced tomatoes. Bring this all to a simmer and then stir in the coconut milk and the cooked chickpeas with the water.
  4. Allow to simmer until you are happy with the consistency. Season with salt to taste. To serve, sprinkle with the garam masala and coriander leaves to garnish.

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