Make this kala chana recipe for a vegetarian curry of black chickpeas in an Indian spiced gravy. A quick Instant Pot kala chana curry!
Black chickpeas are a rare variety that's native to India, and may cause concern if you're seeing them for the first time. No, that black color is not mold, nor is there any need for concern.
Other than being slightly smaller in size and having a dark brown to black color, kala chana are basically the same as traditional chickpeas that most of us are familiar with.
The black chickpea can be used in place of yellow chickpeas in dishes like kawarma or chickpea masala. They're delicious and a healthy source of protein and fiber, with a nutty flavor that pairs really well with Indian spices.
Kala chana vegetarian curry
Although there are many delicious Indian curries with meat, every now and then, it can be nice to take a break and have a plant-based meal.
Using ingredients that are packed with nutrients is healthy for our bodies, and a hearty meatless meal like kala chana masala is a great choice.
This Indian curry is incredibly simple to make, and it's easy to customize, too. I think you'll love that it's an Instant Pot curry, because it requires less "hand holding", and cooks more quickly than on a stovetop.
Also, I'm going to share a method of quick soaking chickpeas in the Instant Pot with you. This way, you don't have to soak the kala chana overnight unless you want to or forget!
kala chana, black gram, black chana, desi chana, desi chickpeas, black garbanzo beans
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Black chickpeas simmered with vegetables and Indian spices in a flavorful masala gravy.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Kala chana is the literal Hindi name for the Indian (desi) variety of black chickpeas. The Hindi word kala in English means black, and chana is the Hindi word for chickpeas.
When shopping for dried kala chana, you may come across a variety called black kabuli chickpea. It's important to note that this is a completely different variety and not what you're looking for. Kabuli chickpeas are a bit larger and smoother than the desi variety.
If you prefer to use organic products, here's an affiliate link for organic black chickpeas.
Another thing to note is that chickpeas and garbanzo beans are two names for the same thing. Although the product is rarely labeled black garbanzo beans, you may use them if you find them labeled that way.
Soaking kala chana
There are two options for soaking the black chickpeas; overnight or quick soaking.
Like traditional chickpeas, soaking kala chana in water shortens the cooking time and helps to reduce phytic acid, the chemical that can cause bloating and gassiness.
Because the outer hull of the black gram is thicker than traditional chickpeas, you'll definitely want to soak them to shorten the cooking time.
The recipe card at the bottom of this post gives instructions for overnight soaking. They need to soak in water for at least 8 hours to achieve the full benefits mentioned above.
Instant Pot quick soaking method
- Rinse and clean 1 cup dried black chickpeas. Cover the chickpeas in a large saucepan or your Instant Pot, and cover with 3 cups of water. The water should cover the chana by about 2 inches, so use additional water if necessary.
- If using a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove the cooking pot from the heat and cover with a lid. Let them soak in the hot water for an hour. Then, drain in a colander, rinse, and use per recipe instructions.
- If using an Instant Pot, cook at high pressure for 2 minutes, followed by a 10 minute natural pressure release. Quick release any remaining pressure and remove the Instant Pot lid. Drain and rinse the kala chana in a colander, and use per recipe instructions.
How to make a perfect Indian vegetarian curry
- Toast the spices and sauté the vegetables.
The first step in making any great Indian curry is using the tadka cooking technique! Tempering the spices in ghee releases all of the natural oils in the spices, which is the key to unlocking the amazing aroma and flavor!
Softening the onion, garlic, and chiles serves two purposes; to add flavor and to preheat the inner cooking pot of the Instant Pot. As a result, it takes less time for the Instant Pot to come to pressure.
- Scrape up the browned bits on the inside bottom of the pot.
When you finish sautéing the vegetables, you'll notice browned bits of food in the bottom of the Instant Pot. The culinary term for that is fond, and I am SO fond of fond!
There is a lot of flavor in those little bits, so be sure to scrape them up and into the curry!
No, this is a mild vegetarian curry, but there are spicy notes from 1 green chile and a pinch of red chile powder. However, you can adjust the amounts noted in the recipe to suit your taste preferences, or even omit them altogether if you'd like.
If you have leftover curry, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will remain fresh for 5 to 7 days. If you freeze it instead, it will keep for 3-4 months.
I hope you enjoy this Instant Pot recipe as much as I do. It's an easy meal to make and the flavor of the vegetarian curry is fantastic!
Kala Chana (Black Chickpea Curry)
- 1 cup kala chana (black chickpeas)
- 2 tablespoon ghee or butter
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium red onion diced
- 1 serrano chile diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- 2 plum tomatoes chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek leaves
- 1 lime cut into wedges for serving
- cilantro for garnish
- Rinse and clean the kala chickpeas. Cover with 3 cups of water and soak for 8 hours or overnight. Rinse and drain before using, OR use method below all in the Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Quick Soak
- Rinse and clean the kala chickpeas. Cover with 3 cups of water. The water should cover the chana by about 2 inches, so use additional water if necessary. Cook the chickpeas at high pressure for 2 minutes, followed by a 10 minute natural pressure release. Quick release any remaining pressure and remove the Instant Pot lid. Drain and rinse the kala chana in a colander, and use per recipe instructions.
- Turn the Instant Pot to Saute setting and melt ghee or butter. Toast the cumin seeds in ghee for 2 minutes; add the onion, serrano chile and salt. Cook for several minutes, until onion is soft and translucent.
- Add garlic and ginger to pot, stir to combine, and cook for one minute. Stir in the tomatoes, coriander, garam masala, red chili powder and turmeric. Saute for for 2 more minutes, then add 2 cups water. Stir to scrape up browned bits on bottom of Instant Pot.
- Stir in soaked kala chana, cover pressure cooker with lid and manually set for 40 minutes using Pressure Cook setting. Allow a 10 minute natural pressure release before removing lid. Stir in fenugreek leaves.
- Garnish with additional ghee or butter, lime slices and chopped cilantro on top. Serve with warm naan or bread of choice.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.