South Indian Chana Masala

Fragrant chickpea curry made in South Indian style with fresh coconut and whole spices. 

South Indian Chickpea Curry with coconut

That South Indian blood in me, is 50% coconut. I'm sure! 

Everything tastes a little better with some coconut in it, do you agree?

Now, that we have established ourselves as fans of that brown fruit or nut, lets move on. So who like chickpeas? I know I do. 

If you are still here, then you will love this South Indian style of making Chana Masala.

South Indian Chickpea Curry with coconut

Chana Masala is a curry made with Kabuli Chana or Chickpeas or Chhole. South Indians make it differently from the North Indians. The North Indian curry is heavy on tomatoes, while the South Indian one uses coconut. If you were looking for the North Indian curry, you will like these:
Amritsari Chhole, Pindi Chhole or this slightly different Chhole Palak.

While I'm super lucky to be in the tropics, where coconuts are easily available and not very expensive, you can replace the fresh coconut here with frozen coconut or with coconut milk.
If using coconut milk, just expect a paler color as you will not be roasting the coconut.

Now, back to the dish, it is actually very simple to make. You really don't need to be a chef. But you have to know your spices. Here, I have used whole spices that I dry roasted on low heat for a few minutes and then ground along with the coconut. You can use garam masala or chhole masala, but I highly recommend grinding those whole spices, just this one time. Grated fresh coconut is also roasted on low flame until it turns a golden brown. If you are using coconut milk, you don't have to do this step. Grind the spices and the coconut. Fry it for a while, then add the chickpeas and simmer. Garnish generously with coriander leaves. 

And this Chana Masala goes so well with crusty bread, some rice or light fluffy naans. You can make this curry and serve it right away, I think it tastes better the next day. A day or so in the fridge allows the chickpeas to soak in all the flavor. 

South Indian Chickpea Curry with coconut

South Indian Chickpea Curry with coconut

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South Indian Chana Masala Recipe

South Indian Chickpea Curry with coconutSouth Indian Chana Masala is a spicy curry made with chickpeas, fresh coconut and whole spices.
Recipe Type:  Main
Cuisine:            Indian
Prep Time:     15 minutes
Cook time:     60 minutes
Yield:                Serves 2-3


1 cup dried Chana or 1 can Chickpeas
0.75 cups grated fresh Coconut or 1 cup thick Coconut Milk
5-7 dry Red Chillies
1 small Onion
1 Tbsp Coriander seeds
1 tsp Fennel Seeds (Saunf)
0.5 tsp Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
1-2 Cloves (Lawang)
0.5" Cinnamon (Dalchini)
1 green Cardamom (Elaichi)
4-5 Black Peppercorns (Kali mirch)
0.5 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp grated Ginger
1 tsp Tamarind pulp
4 tsp Oil
A handful of fresh coriander leaves to garnish
Salt to taste
Water as required


1. Soak the dried chickpeas in water for 8-10 hours.
2. Pressure cook with a 0.5 tsp of salt until completely cooked. Do not overcook them.
3. Dry roast the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and pepper on low heat until fragrant. That should take around 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and keep aside.
4. Heat 1 tsp of oil in the same pan and on medium to high heat, roast the dry red chillies until they puff up. Remove from heat and keep aside.
5. Lower the heat, and add the grated coconut (if using) to the pan and on low heat, roast the coconut until it turns a golden brown.
6. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
7. Grind together the roasted whole spices, red chillies, roasted coconut, grated ginger, tamarind, turmeric powder and chopped onion along with a little water to a smooth paste. If using coconut milk, just grind together the spices, red chillies, ginger, tamarind, turmeric powder and onion.
8. Heat the remaining oil in a pan, and add the ground paste.
9. Fry on low heat for 2-3 minutes.
10. Add the cooked chickpeas, 1 cup of water and salt. Allow to come to a boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
11. If using coconut milk, then add it after 5 minutes of simmering and continue to simmer until the curry reaches the desired consistency.
12. Garnish with the chopped coriander leaves.
13. Serve warm/hot with rice, bread, or flatbread of your choice.

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