Chole

published Mar 29, 2022
Chole Recipe

With a base of caramelized onions, spices, and a touch of tomato paste, chole is a transformative way of using up a can of chickpeas.

Serves4

Prep15 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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Indian chickpea curry (Chole) in a  white bowl with lime wedges on the side
Credit: Shilpa Uskokovic

Chole, or chana masala, is a spiced chickpea curry from India. With a base of caramelized onions, spices, and a touch of tomato paste, chole is a transformative way of using up a can of plain ol’ chickpeas. This simplified version uses commonly available ground spices and is a flavorful and economical meal, great all by itself with rice or flatbread or as part of a larger spread of dishes. Chole is naturally vegan and gluten-free and a great dish to add to your meal-prep or batch-cooking plan because it keeps well for a few days in the fridge and can also be frozen.

Blending the spice paste may seem like a tedious step, especially on a weeknight, but it really helps break down the onion, ginger, and garlic and open up the flavor of the spices in a bolder way. If you really can’t stand to do it, simply grate the ginger and garlic with a Microplane before adding it in the recipe so it melts away as it cooks (the onions remain thinly sliced) and skip the blending. 

Chole usually gets its characteristic twang from amchur or dried green mango powder, but lime juice steps in as a worthy and more accessible substitute. Serve the chole with extra lime wedges for squeezing over the top. I also like a bowl of thinly sliced raw onions (soaked in iced water for 15 minutes to neutralize its pungency) on the side to scatter over my serving of chole for a bright, fresh crunch.

How to Serve Chole

  • My favorite way to eat chole is scooped up in a piece of warm flatbread such as naan or roti, preferably homemade and dripping with ghee or butter. 
  • Chole is also good with steamed basmati or jasmine rice
  • Spoon chole over split, buttered, and toasted buns (such as Martin’s potato buns) for a vegetarian take on sloppy Joes. Bonus points if you have a spicy cilantro chutney to drizzle over the top. 
Credit: Shilpa Uskokovic

Main Ingredients in Chole

  • Chickpeas are the hero of any good chole or chana masala. Cooking your own from dried is great, but because the sauce is so flavorful good-quality canned chickpeas work quite excellently here. Try to avoid low-sodium or unsalted versions because they won’t be as flavorful.
  • Spices are important for a good, well-balanced end result so don’t compromise here! Seek out fresh spices from a reputable source. I like Burlap & Barrel.  

Chole Recipe

With a base of caramelized onions, spices, and a touch of tomato paste, chole is a transformative way of using up a can of chickpeas.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    large yellow onion

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable, canola, or grapseed oil

  • 4 large cloves

    garlic

  • 1 (1-inch) piece

    ginger

  • 2 (about 15-ounce) cans

    chickpeas

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1 3/4 cups

    plus 2 tablespoons water, divided, plus more as needed

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon

    garam masala

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cayenne

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 3 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 1/4 cup

    loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems (optional)

  • 1/2

    medium lime, plus more as needed

  • Steamed rice or warm flatbreads, for serving

Instructions

  1. Thinly slice 1 large yellow onion.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and light golden brown, reducing the heat as needed if the onions start to burn, 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, thinly slice 4 large garlic cloves. Peel 1-inch ginger and coarsely chop (about 1 heaped tablespoon). Drain and rinse 2 (15-ounce) chickpeas.

  3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, ginger, 3/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt, 2 of the tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently, until the spices are toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. (Add another splash of water to the pot if it starts to scorch.)

  4. Increase the heat to medium. Add 1/4 cup of the water and 3 tablespoons tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste darkens in color, about 4 minutes.

  5. Transfer the mixture to a blender (a personal size blender works great here). Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups water and blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot. Add the chickpeas and remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and stir to combine. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are soft and flavorful, and the liquid has thickened, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, coarsely chop 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems if using. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 medium lime until you have 1 tablespoon.

  6. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the lime juice and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt and lime juice as needed. Garnish with the cilantro. Serve with steamed rice or warm flatbreads.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.