Channa/Chole Masala

I grew up in Chennai, India, and am probably someone that would affectionately be referred to as “Thayiru Saadam” (curd rice). Having been brought up in true TamBram style (Tamil Brahmin for those who don’t do “street speak”), North Indian dishes were a novelty to me in my young years and one I yearned for and craved. The cooking style of North Indian food, the ingredients, the methods all so different from South Indian cuisine – its like learning the alphabet backwards!

Our neighbours growing up were “Marwadis” so I’d pop around on a few occasions, simply to watch the girls cook. I had been fascinated by the various smells beckoning me over and to this day, I am astounded by their ability to make perfectly round Chapatti’s every time (I personally prefer the shapes of various countries on the World Map apparently!).

I distinctly remember one of the most delicious smells from next door was when there was Channa or Chole on the stove. Oh, the aroma of savoury fried onion, tomatoes and chick peas can still make my mouth water just thinking about it!

Having tried different variations of the recipe, here is one I truly have tried and tested and LOVE! Easy to make (I suggest you make a batch of the Channa Masala and store it, in an air tight container) and children love it with Puris or Chapattis.


So what’ll you need:

1 tin (400g) Chickpeas, drained (if using dried chick peas, you’ll need to soak them overnight)

1 heaped tsp Channa Masala* (readily available in any Indian Supermarket)

1 Onion, chopped

1 Tomato, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped

1 lemon (juice of a lemon)

1 tbsp Rapeseed Oil (or Vegetable Oil)

2 heaped tsps Ghee

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

Salt to taste

Water, as required

Coriander leaves to garnish


To make the Channa Masala Powder:

1 tbsp Coriander Seeds

2 tbsp Cumin Seeds

4 green cardamom pods

1 tsp black peppercorn

2-3 whole red chillies

2½ inch cinnamon stick

3 Cloves

1 Star Anise

2 Bay Leaves

½ tsp Caraway seeds


  • Dry Roast all the ingredients until Channa Masala Powder (if making it). Allow to cool and then blend together into fine powder.
  • In a pan, heat the oil. Once hot, on medium flame, sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies until the raw smell disappears and the onion turns translucent.
  • Remove from heat, allow to cool and then grind into a fine paste.
  • In the same pan, heat the Ghee. Once hot, splutter the cumin seeds for 10 seconds, then add the paste.
  • Stir fry for a couple of minutes, now add the tomatoes. Sauté for another two minutes.
  • Add 1 heaped teaspoon of the Channa Powder to this and mix well.
  • Then add the chickpeas, salt and water – you are looking for a soup like consistency so don’t add too much water at this stage. Maybe a tablespoon and see how you get on!
  • Medium flame for about 10-15 minutes, or until the chick peas “squish” easily!
  • Remove from flame, squeeze and gently stir in the juice of 1 lemon, garnish with Coriander leaves and serve with Puris, Chapattis or Rice!




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