South Indian chana masala or channa kurma is a flavorful chickpea curry made with white chickpeas, fresh coconut, and whole spices, resulting in a dish distinct from its North Indian counterpart, chole masala.
Whole aromatic spices give this vegan and gluten-free chana curry a unique taste and flavor. Perfect with Indian bread, rice, dosa, or poori, this South Indian version of chana masala is sure to delight your palate.
Unlike the North Indian version, which uses chana masala powder, South Indian chana masala relies on the natural sweetness and creaminess of coconut, along with the robustness of whole spices.
The Punjabi chickpea curry is hugely popular and also a part of restaurant menus. But if you go to a South Indian restaurant (like the popular Saravana Bhavan) and try the chana masala, you will be surprised to find a chickpea curry that tastes unique and different from the regular chana curry. It is also called channa kurma in some places.
Why you will love this recipe?
- Unique flavor profile: The use of fresh coconut and whole spices gives this channa masala a distinctive and rich taste that sets it apart from the Punjabi version.
- Vegan and gluten-free: This channa kurma recipe is vegan and gluten-free.
- Versatile: This South Indian chana masala can be served with rice, coconut rice, jeera rice, naan, dosa, or poori.
Ingredients and Substitutes
Chickpeas: I have used dry chickpeas (Kabuli chana), which need overnight soaking. See the tips below if you are using canned chickpeas.
Coconut: This curry gets its distinctive and unique taste from the use of fresh coconut.
Spices: We need whole spices to make this curry. I am using cinnamon sticks, green cardamom, cloves, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, dried red chili, ground turmeric, and poppy seeds to make the masala base. I am also using mustard seeds and bay leaves for the tempering. Replace whole coriander seeds with coriander powder and dry red chili with red chili powder. Optionally, you can add one teaspoon of garam masala powder to the finished curry.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Step 1: Soak the dried raw chickpeas in water for 6-8 hours (or overnight). Drain all the water and rinse the white chana in fresh water 2-3 times (image 1).
Step 2: In a mixie jar or grinder, take dried red chili, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and poppy seeds. Grind into a fine powder. To this powder, add tamarind, coconut, turmeric powder, and jaggery. Add ½ cup of water and grind into a smooth paste (images 2 and 3).
Step 3: Set the
Step 4: Add the tomato puree and ground masala paste. Mix well and saute for 5 minutes until the raw smell goes (images 6 and 7).
Step 5: Drain the soaked and washed chickpeas. Add the soaked chana along with 3½ cups of water (images 8 and 9). Mix well and secure the lid of the IP. Set the IP in pressure cook mode on high pressure for 25 minutes (image 10).
Step 6: Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then do a quick release of the pressure. Open the lid and mix well. Top with cilantro (image 11).
Use whole spices to make authentic-tasting South Indian chana curry. However, if you do not have access to whole spices, use ground spices instead, although this may alter the taste of the curry when you use spice powders.
Grind the whole spices into a powder before adding coconut to make the masala paste. This will ensure no big bits of spices end up in the curry.
For dried chickpeas, soak overnight and use the soaking water. If short on time, canned chickpeas are an option; drain and rinse them before use. When using raw dried chickpeas, soak two cups to yield five cups of soaked chickpeas for this recipe. If using canned chickpeas, measure six cups of canned chickpeas and adjust the pressure cooking time to five minutes.
What to serve with chana kurma?
This chana curry goes well as a side dish with steamed white rice, coconut rice, jeera rice, and naan for your lunch/dinner. It can also be paired with dosa and poori for an indulgent breakfast/brunch.
If you want to use dried chickpeas but have not soaked them overnight, soak them in boiling water for one hour. Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pot and turn off the heat. Add the dried chickpeas and cover the pot. Let it sit for one hour, and then rinse it thoroughly and use it as per this recipe.
To store South Indian channa kurma, cool it to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. For longer storage, freeze in a freezer-safe container for about 2-3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator and reheat it in a saucepan or in the microwave before serving.
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South Indian Chana Masala / Channa Kurma
- Soak the dried chickpeas in water for 6-8 hours (or overnight). Drain all the water and rinse in fresh water 2-3 times. Set it aside.
- In a mixie jar or grinder, take dried red chili, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and poppy seeds. Grind into a fine powder.
- To this powder, add tamarind, coconut, turmeric powder, and jaggery. Add ½ cup of water and grind into a smooth paste. Set it aside.
Making the curry:
- Set the Instant Pot in saute mode and heat the oil. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter.
- Next, add bay leaves, curry leaves, ginger, garlic, and green chili. Saute for one minute.
- Add the onions and saute for 3 minutes, until the onion turns translucent.
- Add the tomato puree and ground masala paste. Mix well and saute for 5 minutes.
- Drain the soaked and washed chickpeas. Add it along with 3½ cups of water.
- Mix well and secure the lid of the IP. Set the IP in pressure cook mode for 25 minutes.
- Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then do a quick release of the pressure.
- Open the lid and mix well. Top with cilantro and serve hot.