Loved & Versatile
Chickpeas are especially loved throughout southeast Asia, the middle east, and Italy. From spreads to soups, fillings to dumplings, roasted and in salads, this hearty satisfying blank canvass can be many things. Chickpea curry is one of those restaurant standards that most people are familiar with. Like many popular foods in India, each region has their favorite way of building flavor. This coconut chickpea curry recipe is my favorite way.
In southern India, mustard oil and coconut are often the direction this dish takes. The standard-bearer is Punjabi style, where many of our Indian restaurant recipes hail from. It features garam masala, ginger, garlic, and chilies, along with a tomato base. Another north Indian favorite is infused with tea, pomegranate seeds, tamarind, and black cardamom, for a tour de force of a dish that will knock your socks off.
Besides being lovely to eat, this curry is vegan-friendly, high in protein, and gluten-free. Versatility is its middle name. You can make it ahead and freeze, but when pressed for time, you can open a can of chickpeas (I hear gasping!). But yes, make sure you drain off the liquid and rinse the chickpeas well. If you are a pressure cooker or Instant Pot person, pressure cooking the chickpeas works beautifully. In the ideal world, you will soak your chickpeas overnight, as they take longer to cook than other lentils.
Coconut Chickpea Curry
I would like to present you with a lip-smacking Keralan (billed as “God’s own country”) curry called “Kerala kadala,” starring chickpeas, star anise, fennel, cinnamon, and curry leaves. I could eat this every day. The flavors of south India seem to beckon me at every turn. My thanks to Ramya of Cooking From Heart, for posting this recipe on her blog, and who shares my love of food from Kerala. I’ve made my tweaks as usual, because I can’t stop my opinionated self. So make this and let me know how you like it. Yes, it has a long list of ingredients, but you can measure things, and then follow the recipe. It is simple when you get into the rhythm and steps of Indian cooking.
See the notes below before you cook.
Comforting Coconut Chickpea Curry
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 inches whole cassia ~ Or cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 green cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
- 1 cup black or white dry chickpeas (chana kala/kabuli chana)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil ~ Or oil of your choice
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds ~ Brown, if you have them
- 1 whole red dried Kashmiri chili ~ Substitutions
- 10 curry leaves ~ Chopped coarsely, optional
- 1 cup onion ~ Finely minced
- 1 green chili ~ 1/2 tsp, or more to your taste. More!
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ More to your taste, Substitutions
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Gather your ingredients for the spice mix.
- Gather your ingredients for the sauce.
- Wash chickpeas and soak overnight in 6 cups of water at room temperature. If your kitchen is hot, store in the refrigerator. Drain and discard water.
- Cook chickpeas until tender in an Instant Pot, other pressure cooker, or on the stove top, depending on the method you prefer.
- If cooking on the stovetop, place chickpeas in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, or saucepan. Add 6 cups of water and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover the pan with a slight crack and cook until tender. This will take about 2 hours. Check periodically and add more water if need be making sure the chickpeas are covered
- While the chickpeas are cooking, in a medium-sized heavy pan over medium-high heat, add the spices through to the black peppercorns. Sauté for a minute or two until fragrant. Let cool.
- Grind the cooled spices and place in a small bowl. Grind the coconut into a powder and add to the spices. Set aside.
- In a heavy pan, over medium-high heat, add the coconut oil, and when the oil is hot add the mustard seeds, the dried whole chili and stir for a minute or two until they crackle and the chili darkens. Add the curry leaves and stir for 30 seconds.
- Add the finely chopped onions, and cook until they are translucent. This will take about 5 minutes. Add a little water if your onions are sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the green chili, if using, turmeric, and Kashmiri chili powder. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the cooked chickpeas to the onion mixture along with the water used to cook them in. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, ground spices, coconut, and lemon juice.
- Bring to a boil for 3 minutes, then turn the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste for seasoning: acid, heat, and salt. Garnish with a swirl of yogurt or cream.
- The cook time does not include cooking the chickpeas.
- You are looking at the chickpeas to be melt in your mouth soft.
- A tip for softer chickpeas is to add a teaspoon of baking soda while soaking; drain and add more water for the cooking step.
- It is traditional to use black chickpeas, but if you don’t have them, use what you got.
- If you are using canned chickpeas for this coconut chickpea curry, you may still need to simmer them up to 20 minutes, or until they are soft.