Chana Kala (Black Chickpea Curry)

Kala Chana on a plate with cilantro.
NOTE: I lost the original image file and the curry pictured was made instead with regular chickpeas, and in the pressure cooker, so they broke down a bit more. Black chickpeas are (unsurprisingly) darker, and will remain intact when cooked on the stovetop.

This recipe is for black chickpeas, aka black chana or kala chana, which you can find in any Indian grocery store, and many bulk stores.

Kala chana have thicker skins than regular chickpeas, and don’t get quite as soft.

I like that they maintain their structure and flavour in the curry, however, regular chickpeas (dried or canned) can be used in this recipe and are equally delicious. I have made it at least a dozen times with convenient canned garbanzos.

Vij’s Black Chickpea Curry

This particular recipe is so well loved that it has become barely legible from it’s dwelling in Vij’s cookbook, Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine. Vikram Vij is a something of a legend in this neck of the woods – he is the chef at a self-named Indian restaurant, which has a huge following in Vancouver.

His dishes use authentic Indian techniques and ingredients to create an exciting, original take on the cuisine. Absolutely everything I have made from his cookbook has been exceptional, especially this black chana recipe.

How to cook kala chana

Dried kala chana are usually soaked prior to cooking. The quick way to do it is to bring the beans to a rolling boil for 2 minutes in a generous amount of water, then turn off the heat and allow them to soak for 1 hour, covered.

You can alternatively soak them overnight at room temperature. Either way, you want to discard the soaking water and start fresh for cooking.

A lot of the indigestible carbohydrate (that which makes beans… erm… musical…) is leached out in the soaking water, so for the digestive comfort of your diners, you definitely want to get rid of it.

Kala chana recipe ingredients

This curry is not hot, but start with less cayenne if you like things very mild.

The nutty flavour of the chickpeas is deliciously complemented by the richness of butter and slow cooked onions, and the aroma of toasty cumin and warm garam masala.

What to serve with this kana chala recipe

Serve kana chala with this soft, wonderful homemade butter naan, or simple boiled basmati rice.

Kala Chana on a plate with chapati.

Kala Chana Recipe (Black Chickpea Curry)

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 6
Side Dish


  • 1 cup dried black or regular chickpeas or 1-15ounce can
  • ½ cup ghee I use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp cumin seeds not ground
  • 2 medium onions 1 pound, chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic about 6 large cloves
  • 1 large juicy tomato finely chopped (or about 1 cup of canned, diced tomatoes)
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • ½ tbsp mango powder I omitted this because I didn’t have it on hand. Use it if you can find it, but it is delicious without it otherwise
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup water (if using canned chickpeas only)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro


  • If using dried chickpeas, rinse in a colander then soak overnight or with the 1 hour quick soak method outlined above. Place soaked, drained chickpeas in 9 cups of salted water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid and drain.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate large pot, heat ghee (or butter/oil) on medium high for 1 minute. Add cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 30 seconds. Add onions and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, then add jalapeno pepper, garam masala, mango powder, turmeric, fenugreek, salt and cayenne. Reduce heat to medium and cook until oil glistens on top (about 5-8 minutes). Stir in reseved chickpea water or 1 cup fresh water if using canned chickpeas.
  • Add boiled, drained chickpeas (or canned chickpeas, drained). Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cilantro.


Calories: 292kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 8gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 401mgPotassium: 408mgFiber: 7gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 258IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 3mg

Last Updated on February 28, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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3 years ago

5 stars
Loved this recipe! I’ve tried many different chana masala recipes (and curries in general), and this is hands down the top curry recipe I’ve stumbled across. Using ghee as a base augmented the spices, and the addition of the jalapeno added a bit of a buzz to each taste without being overly hot.

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