Punjabi Chole is a popular North Indian style curry. Chole also is known as Chana/ chickpeas are cooked in onion, tomato based sauce and are flavored with ginger, garlic and a variety of spices. Punjabi Chole or Rajma is essential on the menu when guests come over.

This recipe is not overly spicy but has a tangy flavor. It is very simple and easy to make but I will agree that the process is a little time-consuming. I make them on special occasions or for weekend brunch, also this is a perfect dish to make for your next potluck.

We enjoy chole with poori or bhature. It also tastes delicious with plain parathas, tandoori rotis or jeera rice. The leftover chole can be used for making aloo chole chat the next day!

How to get the dark brown color for Punjabi Chole

I often get asked how to get the deep brown color for the chole, so here is what I do to get the color for this chole recipe. Give chana enough time to soak in amchur powder that is the reason I start with this step, brown the onions evenly and properly, use less amount of turmeric powder, cast iron pot for cooking if possible and you will get the same results.

Cook the Chole

Wash and soak 2 cups of chana/chickpeas in 8 cups of water for 8 hours. Pressure cook the chole with 1 tsp of salt for 20 minutes using instant pot/pressure cooker or until chole is tender but still retain the shape and can be crushed easily. Strain the chana and preserve 4 cups of the liquid.

NOTE: Cooking times vary and depend on the source of the chole, hardness of the cooking water and many other factors.

How to make Punjabi chole


Amchur (dry mango) Powder

Amchur powder also referred to as dry mango powder. You can find amchur powder in Indian grocery stores in the spice section. Add the amchur powder to the cooked chana along with the 4 cups of preserved water. Combine it well with a spatula, ensuring there are no lumps and keep it aside. When it is time to add the chana to the masala, strain the chana and preserve the liquid. Amchur powder gives chole a tangy flavor and the dark brown color, this trick I have learned from my mother-in-law.

NOTE: Add amchur powder after the chana is cooked not during the process.

Add amchur powder

TIP: I always start with this step when I am making Punjabi chole because this gives chana enough time to soak in the amchur powder and get the darker brown color.

Puree Tomatoes, ginger and garlic

Using a blender or a food processor, blend the tomatoes, ginger and garlic to smooth puree and keep it aside.

Puree Tomatoes, Ginger and garlic

Bloom the Whole Spices

In a deep pan on low, heat add oil. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick. Sauté till bay leaves changes color and the spices become fragrant. This will take about 2 minutes. Next, add the cumin seeds.

Cook the onions

Once the cumin seeds splutter immediately add the chopped onions.

Cook the Onions

On medium heat, cook the onions till golden brown. As onions cooks they will loose the moisture and volume. This can take somewhere about 15-20 minutes. Stir the onions frequently for even browning and to avoid burning them. 

NOTE: If onions get burnt, it is better to start over again because otherwise, the chole will taste bitter.

Browned onions

TIP: The color of the c_hole also depends on how well the on_ions are browned.

Prepare the masala for Punjabi chole

On low heat, add the prepared tomato, garlic and ginger puree and stir to combine. Let it cook for about a minute. After that add the cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder and salt. Stir to combine the spices and let this cook uncovered on low heat. 

Add tomatoes and Spices

Keep stirring the masala at regular intervals and scraping the bottom of the wok. All moisture from the masala will evaporate and it will become thick. This can take about 10 minutes.

NOTE: This is the most important step in making delicious North Indian dishes, the end result depends a lot on how well the masala is cooked.

Masala Ready

TIP: This Masala is the base for many North Indian dishes like Rajma, chicken masala, Mutton curry etc. I often make a big batch of this masala and store it in the refrigerator for a week. This helps reducing the cooking time for the weekday meal preparations.

Add the cooked chana.

Strain the chana and preserve the liquid with amchur powder. Next, add the boiled channa to the masala, stir to combine well and make sure the chole is well coated with the masala.

Dry roast the chana

On medium heat, dry roast the chana with the masala for about 5minutes. Keep stirring at regular intervals and scraping the bottom of the wok.

Chole coated with masala

Finishing the Punjabi Chole

Lastly add 4 cups of preserved water from chana soaked in amchur powder. Stir and let it come to a boil and let it simmer for about 10- 15 minutes, as a result the gravy will thicken. Keep stirring at regular intervals and scraping the bottom of the pan.

Punjabi chole

TIP: Add more water for a thinner consistency.

Punjabi chole is ready! Garnish with a pinch of Garam Masala, some freshly chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves and serve hot with steamed white rice, plain parathas, Poori, or bhature.


TIP: The gravy will thicken as it cools down. While reheating you can add 1/4 cup of warm water, adjust for salt and simmer for 2-3 minutes.