punjabi chole masala

This delicious northern Indian dish features chickpeas cooked in black tea, which lends the curry gravy a deep brown color. Typically I purchase canned chickpeas, but for this recipe, I tried soaking dried chickpeas overnight in water, and then cooked them for another hour in water steeped with black tea, whole cardamom, and onion. The flavor and texture of re-hydrated beans are incomparable. In contrast to canned beans, these chickpeas retain a delicious bite without being mushy. I would recommend serving this heavily spiced dish with a bright white wine, such as a Muscadet.

  • Dried white chickpeas (2 cups)

  • Black tea leaves (1/2 cup of prepared leaves)

  • Black cardamom pods (about 2 whole pods)

  • White onions (2 small whole onions plus 4 onions, chopped)

  • Bay leaf (1 whole)

  • Ghee or clarified butter (2 tablespoons; use regular butter or canola oil if you can't find ghee) (

  • Salt (2 teaspoons, plus additional to taste)

  • Garlic (4 cloves, or 2 tablespoons chopped)

  • Fresh ginger (2 tablespoons chopped)

  • Cumin seeds (1 teaspoon)

  • Coriander seeds (1 teaspoon)

  • Black pepper (1/2 teaspoon)

  • Turmeric (1 teaspoon)

  • Garam masala (1 teaspoon)

  • Tomato (2 whole, cut in half)

  1. One day ahead, place the chickpeas in a large tupperware covered with water. Place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the chickpeas to re-hydrate. Be sure to add enough water to account for absorption.

  2. When ready to prepare the dish, empty the chickpeas into a large pot with the soaking liquid. Add extra water to ensure all chickpeas are covered in liquid.

  3. Separately prepare the black tea and put the tea leaves into a pouch made of cheese cloth, along with the whole cardamom pods.

  4. Add the cheese cloth bundle to the pot of chickpeas, along with 1 whole onion (outer layer removed) and bay leaf. 

  5. Simmer the chickpeas with the tea and spices for one hour. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Remove the whole onion and spices.

  6. While the chickpeas are cooking for the hour, in a separate large pot, heat the ghee (or butter) and the chopped white onions. Add 1 teaspoon of salt.

  7. Stirring the onions regularly, cook them until they are golden brown, which may take about 20 minutes. 

  8. Meanwhile, puree 1 whole onion with the garlic and ginger in a small food processor. Add to the browning onions.

  9. Grind the cumin, coriander, black pepper, turmeric, and garam masala with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Add to the pot with onions and garlic-ginger mix. 

  10. Add the drained chickpeas to the pot, plus additional chickpea cooking liquid to ensure chickpeas are covered. Salt to taste.

  11. Simmer the chickpeas for another hour, until the masala is your desired consistency. Serve over white rice.