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Kerala Style Masala Choley | Spicy Chickpeas from Kerala, India

My mum’s cook Neelam has a reputation of cooking up delicious vegetable dishes. It’s her thing!

So last weekend mom emailed a recipe for Kerala Style choley a.k.a. chick peas or garbanzo beans, that she swore would knock my socks off. To be fair she sent it for her grand kids and not actually me or My Hubby.

But that seems to be the way things go when mother’s become grand mothers. As she like to say, “the interest is much more attractive than the capital!"

So off I went and took the guesstimate email and turned into a full blown recipe. And mom was right, it's fabulous!

As in most Indian recipes, we always begin with dried chick peas, soaked overnight and then cooked in a pressure cooker but you boil them just on a stove pot but be aware it will take longer. You can also do this the previous day to save time which is what I would recommend.

The spices and masala paste is the stuff of dreams so even though it may seem a bit tedious but don’t be put off. It’s well worth the little bit of extra effort!



Recipe for

Kerala Style Masala Chole ~ Spicy Chickpeas from Kerala, India Note: Recipe begins the previous night by soaking the chickpeas in water

Shopping list

1 lb dried chickpeas (chole) - not canned

plenty of water to soak overnight (to be discarded)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tbs salt

enough water to fill the pot 1/2" above the level of the chickpeas

Masala: yellow onions,  yield 3 cups sliced 1/2 tsp salt

3 plum tomatoes

10 garlic cloves, peeled

2” fresh ginger root,

10 curry leaves or 1 large sprig

3 tbs dried coriander seeds

2 tbs poppy seeds

2” piece cinnamon bark

4 cloves

2-4 whole dried red chilies - more if extra heat is desired

1-1/2 tsp black peppercorns

1/2 cup grated or shredded coconut (defrosted and measured if frozen)

1/4 cup + 2 tbs vegetable, grape seed or canola oil

Spices & Seasonings:

3/4 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground red chilies

1 tbs tomato paste

2 tbs chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Also required, a food processor capable of making fine pastes


Chickpeas:  Soak overnight in plenty of water. The next day discard the water and replace with 12 cups fresh tap water. Add salt and baking soda. Ideally cook in a pressure cooker for approx. 20 minutes or so on medium heat. Turn off stove and set aside until pressure is released naturally (approx. 30 minutes). Alternatively, you can cook the chickpeas on a stove top for approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour until tender.

Onions: Peel, discard ends and slice.

Ginger: Do not peel. Roughly chop and set aside.

Tomatoes: Wash, cut and discard woody end. Roughly chop and set aside


Masala paste:

In a heavy bottom pan, heat the oil until very hot.

Add the onions and saute for 7-10 minutes with 1/2 tsp salt until a light brown.

Add garlic, ginger, curry leaves, poppy seeds, dried coriander seeds & grated coconut and saute for another 5 minutes or so.

Add the cinnamon, cloves, red chilies, black pepper stir. Add tomatoes and saute for another 5-10 minutes until they have softened.

Set aside and cool for 15 minutes or so. Grind to a fine paste in a food processor with 1/4 cup water.

In a heavy bottom saute pan, large enough to hold all the chickpeas, heat 2 tbs oil on medium heat.

Add the ground masala paste and saute for 7-10 minutes stirring constantly until oil begins to simmer around the edges.

Add the cooked chickpeas and as much liquid so there is just enough gravy for the chickpeas without being too watery.

Stir to thoroughly combine the masala paste with the chickpeas. Add the turmeric, red chilly powder & tomato paste & stir to combine. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all the flavors meld. Taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, garnish with some chopped cilantro leaves.

Serve with paratha or steamed white rice or pooris.




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