Punjabi Chole is perhaps one of the most popular vegetarian north-Indian food dish. Creamy, spicy and slight tangy, this dish is a perfect umami of flavors!
To make this dish, Chickpeas, also called Garbanzo beans or Chana (in Hindi), are soaked overnight, and then cooked with fresh onions, ginger, garlic and seasoned with toasted garam masala blend.
Almost everyone I know has their own spin on Chole, and they all taste great.
But, what makes authentic Punjabi Chole different and stand out, is the unique combination of garam masala, Anardana (Pomegranate) Powder, and amchur (dry mango powder), which gives it an earthy and slightly tart taste!
Simpler than Traditional Punjabi Chole Recipe
For the longest time, my Mom used to make Chole in a 2-step process.
She would pressure cook the chickpeas with salt and turmeric for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, she would prepare the onion and aromatics masala, and then simmer everything together for another 10 minutes on medium heat.
Years ago, when my kids were babies, and I had very little time to cook, I developed this recipe, which cut down the time and steps involved, while maintaining the same lip-smacking taste.
Cooking Punjabi Chole in Instant Pot Pressure Cooker vs. Stove
Chole or Chickpeas, like any legume, take a very long time to cook on the stove-top.
It would take me around 50-60 mins to achieve the soft texture that we love in this recipe.
Plus, you have to be there, stirring and keeping an eye on the stove.
So, I use my electrical pressure cooker, Instant Pot. Any pressure cooker would work great for this recipe and reduce the active cooking time significantly.
How to make this recipe in under 30 minutes
By using canned Chickpeas, you can reduce the cooking time to less than half.
I simply rinse out the canned chickpeas and add them to the pot as per instructions, and pressure cook everything for 5 minutes.
I wait 10 minutes and then release the remaining pressure manually, and open the lid after the pin drops.
What is the difference between Punjabi Chole and Chana Masala?
These days, I often find, that restaurants use both these names interchangeably, but in my opinion, there is a difference in taste and spices used for these two dishes.
Like any classic recipe, there are a zillion variations of this dish.
Here are the differences based on how I've seen it being cooked in my extended family. These recipes have been passed on over a few generations now:
Punjabi Chole/ Punjabi Chana Masala/ Chole is referred to the popular street-food style preparation of chickpeas. You can find some of the most authentic preparations in and around Punjab and New Delhi.
It's distinguishing factors is a dark-brown curry or gravy, and a slight tangy flavor.
I don't add any turmeric, and very little tomato in this dish.
Chana Masala on the other hand, is a tomato-onion rich gravy, with a iconic reddish-orange curry. I get that color by adding turmeric, red-chili powder and tomato puree.
That being said, both curries awesome, so no matter which one you make, you can't go wrong!
Serving Suggestion for Punjabi Chole
Punjabi Chole masala are best enjoyed with a puffed fry bread, called Bhatura (check out my recipe for Bhatura).
Growing up, Chole Bhature used to be my family's regular Sunday brunch.
This happens to be my kid's favorite Indian vegetarian meal, and it has now become a tradition in our home, to make it for our Diwali dinner.
We like to enjoy it with some sweet and spicy lemon pickle .
Yum! Chole also go really well with Kulcha, Puri, Naan or Cumin rice.
Pairing Suggestions for Punjabi Chole
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Punjabi Chole in Instant Pot (Tangy Chickpeas Curry)
- 2 teaspoons ghee or olive oil for vegan
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium onion)
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger 1-inch ginger ground or grated
- 2 serrano green chiles stems removed (or 1 jalapeno)
- 1 roma tomato de-seeded and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon pink salt (kala namak) adjust to taste - see notes for substitute
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons garam masala add more, depending on how strong yours is
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon amchur (dry mango powder) - see notes for substitute
- 1 teaspoon fennel powder : optional, adds flavor and for easy digestion
- 1 tablespoon julienned ginger ½-inch ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 cup dried chickpeas rinsed and soaked for 8-10 hours or 2 (14oz) cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans
- 1½ cups water add more or less, depending on your consistency preference
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda optional ingredient (for making chickpeas soft and creamy)
- 1-2 black tea bags for color (Indian Tea) - optional
- 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Prep: Soak, Rinse & Drain Chickpeas
- If using dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinse and soak them in 4 cups of water, overnight, or at least 8-10 hours. Strain and rinse them once again before cooking. Skip soaking if using canned chickpeas. Rinse and drain them as well.
Saute Aromatics, Then Add Spices, Chickpeas & Water
- Heat ghee/oil for 30 seconds on Saute mode in the Instant Pot. Add bay leaf and chopped onions, and saute for 2 minutes.
- Add minced ginger and serrano chiles and saute for another minute.
- Add chopped tomatoes, salt, spices and saute another minute. Add a few tablespoons of water if spices start sticking to the bottom.
- Add julienned ginger, rinsed chickpeas, water and baking soda, if using. Give it a stir. Add tea bags and gently push them under the liquid. Turn off saute.
- Close the lid, set vent to 'sealing', and pressure cook for 45 minutes at Bean or Pressure Cook/Manual mode. Adjust time to 60 minutes if using dried 'unsoaked' beans.
- Wait for the pressure to release naturally for at least 10 minutes, then follow the quick release instructions of your cooker. Open the lid after the pin drops. Remove the tea bags.
- Using a potato masher or a wooden spoon, mash up a few beans. This makes the curry creamy and thick. Turn on saute and stir in tamarind concentrate. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes and check for seasoning. Turn off saute.
Short-Cut: 30 Minute Easy Chole Recipe with Canned Chickpeas
- Rinse out the canned chickpeas. Follow the steps as written and add them to the pot as per instructions. Then, pressure cook everything for 5 minutes.
- Wait 10 minutes and then release the remaining pressure manually. Open the lid after the pin drops. It's ready!
Notes & Recipe Tips
- Skip the ghee for vegan. Simply use olive oil as the cooking fat to keep it completely plant-based.
- Use two textures of ginger. Minced ginger is for forming the base flavors of the curry, while julienned ginger adds texture and a gentle heat.
- Customize the spice level. Remove the seeds from the serrano chiles before adding or skip them for a mild curry. To make it spicy, add ½ teaspoon of cayenne.
- Substitute amchur for lime juice. Amchur is dried mango powder, which is added for a tart flavor. If unavailable, add 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice towards the end.
- Use your preferred style of chickpeas. This curry can be made with dried & soaked, dried & unsoaked, as well as canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans. Adjust the pressure cook time as follows: Dried Soaked: 45 minutes; Dried Unsoaked: 60 minutes; Canned: 5 minutes.
- Add baking soda to make the chickpeas creamy. Optional, but it makes the chickpeas super soft and tender.
- Don't forget the tea bags. Adding Indian tea bags for a rich colored gravy is cool trick passed down by my grandmother. Pull them out carefully after pressure cooking and discard them. I wouldn't recommend adding any flavored tea bag here.
- Look for tamarind concentrate. Tamarind concentrate is added to achieve the iconic tangy flavors in this curry. Traditionally, dried pomegranate powder, called anardana, is used, but that is hard to find and doesn't have a long shelf life. Tamarind concentrate is easily available in the global section of supermarkets and a great alternative.
- Serve street-style with bhatura. This is the most authentic way to enjoy chole. But kulchi, poori, naan, basmati or cumin rice are all great options.