Posted on: September 28, 2021 Posted by: Joven Comments: 0

Kadala Curry (a.k.a. Kadala Kari) is a delicious spicy curry made with black chickpeas, coconut and a bevy of warming spices. This popular dish is traditionally served with Puttu or Appam for breakfast in Kerala cuisine. Follow along with my step by step photos to learn how to make this comforting gluten-free and vegan curry like a pro!

overhead shot of kadala curry in a green bowl on a green plate with two puttu by the side

About Kadala Curry

Kadala is the Malayalam word for “chickpeas,” which are also known as kala chana, desi chana or whole bengal gram. Kari means “curry,” which you might’ve already guessed from context clues.

Chickpeas are a great source of vegetarian protein, as well as fiber and nutrients, making this a healthy curry option. This traditional recipe from Kerala is also naturally vegan and gluten free, making it a lovely meal for sharing with friends and family.

Kadala kari and Puttu (steamed rice and coconut cakes) is one of my favorite breakfast combos, which isn’t surprising given its popularity in the state of Kerala. While this pairing makes for a delicious morning meal, you can also serve kadala curry with rice, chapatis or pooris for lunch or dinner.

This recipe calls for a special Kerala garam masala (garam masala simply means “spice blend”). Since this blend is not readily available in all stores, I have made a very small amount of the spice blend that is just enough for this recipe.

As with many Indian recipes, there are many variations of kadala curry, ranging from gravy to a semi-dry version. Some variations use coconut milk, others use fresh or roasted coconut, and still others don’t use coconut at all. This particular recipe has been loosely adapted from the ‘Essential Kerala Cookbook’ by Vijayan Kannampilly.

This spicy kadala curry is also quite versatile; it can be served with puttu, appams, Idiyappam or with steamed rice, chapatis or pooris depending on what you have on hand and what you prefer.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to Make Kadala Curry

Prepare Chickpeas

1. You will first need to rinse and then soak 1 cup black chickpeas in 2 cups of water for 8 to 9 hours (or overnight).

NOTE: You can also use white chickpeas instead of black chickpeas.

TIP: In a hurry? You can speed up the soaking process by bringing the water to a boil before pouring over the chickpeas. Allow them to soak in the hot water for an hour before draining and proceeding with cooking.

For a super speedy shortcut, you can also opt to use drained and rinsed canned white chickpeas – if you do, simply skip to step 5.

soaked black chickpeas in water

2. Add the soaked black chickpeas to a 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker with ½ teaspoon salt.

spoonful of salt being added to pressure cooker with kadala

3. Add 2.5 cups fresh water.

water added to chickpeas in pressure cooker

4. Stir to combine, then pressure cook the chickpeas for approximately 9 to 10 whistles, until they are tender and cooked through. Reserve the stock (a.k.a. aquafaba) and keep it aside.

spoonful of chana after pressure cooking

Make Coconut Paste

5. While the chickpeas are cooking, add ½ cup tightly packed grated coconut in a grinder or blender jar.

grated coconut in grinder jar

6. Add ¼ to ⅓ cup water and grind to a smooth paste. (Add more water if required.) Keep the ground coconut paste aside.

coconut paste in grinder jar for kadala curry

7. In a small pan, dry roast the following five spices till fragrant:

  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 to 3 single strands of mace
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 pinches of grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder

This is just a light roasting to awaken the oils in the spices; don’t over-do it.

Make Kerala-style Garam Masala

NOTE: If you prefer to use a pre-packaged spice blend, you are welcome to.

toasting spices for Kerala kerala garam masala

8. Using a small spice grinder, coffee grinder or a mortar & pestle, grind or pound these five spices to a semi fine or fine powder. Keep aside.

ground spice mix for kadala curry recipe

Making Kadala Curry

9. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a pan. Coconut oil gives a really good flavor but if you don’t have it on hand then feel free to use any neutral-tasting oil.

oil in a pan

10. Add ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds and let them crackle.

crackling mustard seeds in oil for kadala curry recipe

11. Add ⅓ cup chopped pearl onions or shallots. Stir and sauté for a minute.

chopped shallots added to pan

12. Add 1 teaspoon chopped ginger, 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies, and 10 to 12 curry leaves. Sauté till the shallots turn translucent or light golden.

ginger, chilies and curry leaves added to pan

13. Add 1 teaspoon red chili powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder and the entirety of the ground Kerala garam masala. If you are using packaged Kerala garam masala, then add 1 teaspoon of it.

TIP: I use a full teaspoon of red chili powder in this recipe because we like it hot! For a milder version, reduce to ½ teaspoon. Also, tomatoes are not added in this recipe, but you can add 1 finely chopped medium tomato if you like.

ground spices added to pan with aromatics for kadala curry recipe

14. Stir the masalas very well on low heat and sauté for a minute.

masalas after stirring

15. Add the ground coconut paste.

coconut paste added to kadala curry

16. Stir and mix very well.

stir Kerala curry

17. Sauté stirring often for about 4 to 5 minutes on low heat.

Kerala kadala curry after cooking spice and coconut mixture for a few minutes

18. Add the cooked black chana (kadala).

black chana added to curry

19. Stir and mix very well.

stir Kerala kadala curry until well coated

Simmer Kadala Curry

20. Add 1 to 1.25 cups liquid – you can use water, chana stock (the water in which the chickpeas were cooked) or a combination of both. Stir.

For a thicker consistency in the curry add less water. For a thin consistency you can increase the water a bit, but make sure not to dilute the flavors by adding too much of water.

water added to pan for Kerala kadala curry recipe

21. Season with salt and stir the curry again. Remember to start with less salt – you can always add more, but you can’t take it away!

salt added to curry

22. Let the curry come to a boil on medium heat.

Kerala kadala curry simmering on stovetop

23. Simmer the curry till all the flavors of the kadala curry are well blended. You will also see some oil specks floating on top.

To thicken the curry you can also mash some of the black chickpeas with the back of a spoon.

Kerala kadala curry in a pan on the stove

23. Serve kadala curry hot or warm with puttu or appams or idiyappam or steamed rice or rotis or pooris.

Any leftover stays good for about 1 day in the fridge in an air tight container. While reheating add a splash of water if the curry has thickened too much. Reheat in a pan or a small pot.

kadala kari in a green bowl on a green plate with two puttu


Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Yep! Kadala curry will keep in the refrigerator for up to a day. To reheat, simmer gently on the stove adding water as needed if the curry has thickened.

What can I use in place of the black chickpeas?

While black chickpeas are traditionally used for making Kadala Curry, you can make substitutions based on what you have available. I recommend using chana (white chickpeas) or rajma (red kidney beans) or black eyes beans if you can’t get your hands on black chickpeas.

Is there a substitute for mace strands?

Mace and nutmeg come from the same tree, so you can substitute about 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg instead.

More Tasty Recipes with Chickpeas

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Kadala Curry (a.k.a. Kadala Kari) is a delicious spicy curry made with black chickpeas, coconut and a bevy of warming spices.

Prep Time 8 hrs 30 mins

Cook Time 25 mins

Total Time 8 hrs 55 mins

Servings 4


For cooking the chickpeas

Other ingredients for kadala curry

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This Kadala Curry post from the archives (January 2015) has been republished and updated on 28 September 2021.

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