Chole Defined - Chickpea Curry

Chana Masala

Chole (Spicy Chickpea Stew)
Chole (Spicy Chickpea Stew). Photo © [S Khalsa]

Definition of Chole

Chole is a kind of curried vegetable dish made from chickpeas. Chole may be referred to as Punjabi Chole Masala or Chana Masala as it is made from white chana, a large variety of light colored chickpeas, and flavored with spicy masala seasonings. Variations of Chole may also be referred to as Kadala Curry or Channay Chaat. 

Chole, or chickpea curry, is popular for special occasion get togethers such as weddings, birthdays, and worship programs held at home.

Chole is often served for gurdwara langar during holidays, and at Sikh parades along with crispy poori, a kind of deep fried flat bread. Chole also goes well with aloo or potatoes, samosa, chaval or rice, roti a kind of Indian flatbread, bhatura or patoora which is a kind of Indian deep fried leavened bread, or desi ghee dumplings, and even yogurt.

The legume from which chole is made is known internationally by a variety of names. These include black, green, and white Chana or Channa, also known as the Chick pea, Garbanzo bean, and sometimes referred to as Egyptian pea, Ceci or Cece, Kabuli (white) Gram, Bengal (black) Gram and Pulse.

Chole is considered to be vegetable dish, so even though chana itself is a legume, chole is usually referred to as sabji rather than dhal. Variations of chole sabji include:

  • Chole or Channa masala, a chickpea curry made from white chickpeas in a sauce seasoned with ginger, onions, garlic, green chilies, tomatoes, turmeric, and chana masala.
  • Dry chole which is made with cooked white or black chickpeas, that have been drained and flavored with fresh ginger and masala.
  • Black chole made with kala channa or black chickpeas cooked in broth seasoned with onions and black salt.
  • Green chole made from freshly harvested young chickpeas cooked with potatoes in a tomato broth flavored with masala seasoning.
  • Chana dhal made with a small variety of chana that has been split. Split Chana dhal is often combined with whole dark skinned Moong dhal (mung bean) or Urid dhal.

Pronunciation and Spelling

Pronunciation: The word chole may be pronounced either as cho-lay with first syllable Gurmukhi consonant ch  or with first syllable Gurmukhi consonant chh softened and aspirated so that it sounds like show-lay.

Spellings: Chole, Choley, Cholay, Chhole Chholey, and Chholay are all phonetically acceptable.

Example of Chole in Sikh History

Chole or chickpea curry was a favorite food of Guru Gobind Singh as a child. A kind rani, or queen, without children of her own, prepared chole chana masala with white chickpeas for the young prince and his childhood friends. Rani Maini served the hungry boys chole along with deep fried poori. To commemorate the rani's devotion, the custom is continued today at a gurdwara in Patna where chole is served to worshipers for langar.