Indian Chickpeas in Tangy Sauce (Khatte Channe)


Happy New Year, my dear readers! I hope you have spent wonderful, palate-pleasing holidays. I bet many of you have made new year’s resolutions, just like I did, and probably some of them concern food too. I wish you all the discipline, the courage and the patience to stick to them! This Indian chickpeas dish illustrates two of my 2013 goals: cooking more legumes and using more often the fascinating cookery books I own and tend to forget, such as the highly reliable Classic Indian Cookery by Julie Sahni, where I found this excellent recipe. As for my sudden longing for Indian flavours, I owe it to Eva (Kitchen Inspirations), who dazzled me with her extraordinary Indian feast throughout half of December (it started here and went on for several impressive posts).

Khatte Channe can have different consistencies, going from a thick soup to a dish with moderated amount of sauce and this version falls into the latter category. I will not bore you with the detailed description of the subtle and complex mixture of flavours (I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway) and will simply say it is the best chickpeas dish I have ever had in my life. One more successful adventure with Julie Sahni’s book, proving that I should open it more often. (Another delightful dish I have prepared following Julie Sahni’s instructions and posted here was Butter Chicken, which, contrary to its name, wasn’t greasy or heavy.)

I have slightly changed the spices’ amounts and adapted the recipe to four servings. Of course, like many Indian dishes in sauce, this one can be made in advance and reheated (the fresh sliced onion and fresh chili should be added however only before the dish is served).

TIPS: If you cannot find tamarind, you might use some lemon or lime juice instead. If you can find it, buy it because it keeps forever in the fridge and apart from the tanginess, brings a very particular taste. Tamarind is sold in Asian shops (not only Indian), usually in blocks (about 200g/ 7 oz) containing both the pulp and seeds and has to be dissolved in hot water.

Julie Sahni emphasizes the importance of the long onion browning stage in many Indian dishes and I must confess I first tried short cuts, i.e.  quickly softening onions instead. I quickly realised the final result obtained with browned onions is well worth the effort of constant stirring for 20 minutes.

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves four as a side-dish with rice and for example a meat dish):

2 x 400 g (about 2 x 16 oz) cans chickpeas or cooked chickpeas + 125 ml liquid from the cans or cooking liquid 

1 big onion

2 medium garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 cm (0,8 in) piece of block of tamarind paste 

1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

200g (2/3 or about 7 oz) small can of chopped tomatoes or 200 g (7 oz) fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped

1 heaped teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon garam masala


1 teaspoon roasted and then ground cumin seeds

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 fresh green chili pepper finely chopped (I have used red chili pepper and only sliced it)

Drain the chickpeas, keeping the liquid aside.

Dissolve the tamarind paste in 190 ml (about 6 oz) boiling water, squashing it with a fork. After a couple of minutes strain the juice thus obtained, getting as much as you can out of the paste.

Slice the big onion.

Chop the garlic cloves.

Heat 2 – 3 tablespoons oil in a pan. Fry the onion, constantly stirring for about 20 minutes until they become “caramel”, as the author calls it. Add the garlic and stir-fry it for 2 minutes.

Add turmeric, cayenne pepper, tomatoes and the ginger.

Cook the sauce at medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add the tamarind juice and and the chickpeas liquid.

Let everything simmer covered, at low heat for 15 minutes.

Finally add the drained chickpeas, garam masala, the cumin and cook for 10 more minutes.

Season with salt and serve sprinkled with sliced fresh onion and chopped or sliced fresh chili.


33 Replies to “Indian Chickpeas in Tangy Sauce (Khatte Channe)”

  1. Happy New Year Sissi, and thank you so much for your shout out and lovely compliment regarding our Indian dinner party. Chickpeas have been one of our favourite legumes and with your high praise for the flavours in this dish, I’m certain we would love it too. I bought the tamarind paste and had only used it recently, it contributes a rather unusual flavour but like most far east cooking, it does add to the complex layering of flavours. I shall bookmark this dish for a dinner next week. I know I can always count on your blog to influence and inspire our dinners for the coming week.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva, for such a compliment! I’m really flattered.
      I have always liked chickpeas, but somehow never got to cook them regularly. I have found another interesting chickpea recipe in my Indian cookery book, so I will try this one soon too. Indian cooking is a bit fussy with all the ingredients required, but the results are so fabulous! Thank you once more for inspiration and encouragement. I feel that I will eat more Indian food this year.

  2. I make chickpeas very similar way (minus tamarind which I don’t have). Its awesome. I also make red lentils this way (with tomato puree instead of chopped tomatoes) and I puree the dish when its cooked. Really good too, and ready quite quickly.
    I see you are suggesting 200g per person – that like having 200 g of vegetarian steak:)

    1. Hi, Mr. Three-Cookies. What a coincidence (but apparently this is a famous dish… I’m a complete ignorant in what comes to Indian cuisine). Red lentils are an excellent idea too (I suppose they don’t even need mixing after a certain time… I like the fact that they turn into a thick soup on their own).
      I have never thought this way, but if it’s true about the vegetarian steak… then I like chickpeas even more!
      Would you like me to send you some tamarind paste? Let me know. I would be very happy to do it especially since it doesn’t require refrigeration. It’s available here in every vaguely Asian shop. I think I have even seen the whole pods somewhere (but never bought them).

  3. This looks delightful Sissi. I love how adaptive chickpeas are – they soak up juices/sauces beautifully and are given to so many variations. This dish reminds me of an Indian version of my spicy Thai chickpeas and you’ve done a beautiful job incorporating key spices while keeping the overall recipe simple and achievable. Eva has been inspiring me on the Indian side too – wonderful flavours and colours! I’m looking forward to your legume recipes in 2013 Sissi – sounds like a delicious resolution to me and this is a great start!

    1. Thank you very much, Kelly. I also had butter chicken yesterday, still thinking of Eva’s wonderful dinner… I have found many legumes recipes in my Indian cookery book. Indians seem masters of legume cooking.

  4. Happy New Year, Sissi. Hope it’s been great so far and continues. I too was inspired by Eva’s Indian feast to do some Indian cooking and this sweet-sour chickpea dish is a nice new addition to my knowledge base. I don’t use tamarind enough in my cooking other than for pad thai and occasionally, a sweet drink.

    1. THank you very much, A_Boleyn. I don’t use tamarind often either, but it keeps so well and doesn’t take much space in the fridge…

  5. Happy New Year Sissi!! From all legumes I have a real fondness for chickpeas, and every new recipe I find is a welcome addition to my collection! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Nice version of a beloved and oft made dish! The easiest way for me to buy tamarind, which I use in many cuisines, is actually in ‘lump’ form from most of my spice merchants: one does the usual soaking bit to get a flavour unlike any other methinks! This with rice is more than an adequate meal for me: somehow I love chickpeas without a meat accompaniment. Oh, am delightedly using Jamie Oliver’s new 15 minute meals: not high end of gourmet, but so delightfully practical – he makes hommus with chickpeas, peanut butter [yep! not tahini!] and yogurt and it tastes absolutely divine 🙂 !

    1. Thank you, Eha. This is exactly what I used here (the square “lump” which is called sometimes pulp, sometimes paste…).
      Thank you for sharing your experience with this recent J.O.’s book. When I saw it, I thought it wasn’t worth much and was just a trap for those who never cook, but you have changed my mind.

      1. Many of our chefs use his books for their own home cooking! On our blogs he is one of the most admired because of his worldwide work > healthy, sustainable food and cooking, his wonderful, infectious sense of fun and his enthusiasm in making everyone love food. Those who never cook would not touch him with a bargepole 🙂 !

    1. Thank you, Nami. Happy New Year to you too! I’m looking forward to discovering your baked dishes this year. Good luck!

  7. Beautiful dish Sissi! Indian kitchen is a very rich in both flavors and variety. This sounds like a very tasty and aromatich legume meal! Have a happy New Year with all your expectations become a reality!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. Happy New Year to you too and good luck with all your projects and dreams!

  8. Happy New Year Sissi!!! I hope you had a wonderful holiday, got some rest and enjoyed life and friends. I sure did! It’s good to be back and be connecting with my friends, checking out what’s new for 2013. What a great dish to start with! I really never have used chick peas much as the main ingredients to a dish. Usually throw them in as a complementary ingredient. This bowl of beans with all of the wonderful Indian spices looks wonderful! Your gorgeous picture really sells it and I can smell the spice! Looking forward to seeing more dishes with legumes if this is the type of dish you’re dishing up! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. Whenever I eat any vegetable side-dish in an Indian restaurant, I love it and this one wasn’t a disappointment. Happy New year to you too!

  9. Happy New Year Sissi! How was your holidays? My youngest brother in law proposed to his lovely long time girlfriend at our annual Christmas eve party, she was completely surprised and it was just so touching!

    My Mom brought a chickpea dish to the party (it was a potluck), it’s such a healthy and yummy dish to eat, so I was excited to see your posting of another way to cook these little gems!

    Have a great week!

    1. Thank you so much, Jeno. I see you have had exciting holidays! I am very fond of chickpeas, so I hope to see your mum’s dish soon on your blog 🙂 Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you very much, Shilpa. I have just ordered a second Indian cookery book, so I feel this year my list of Indian recipes will become much longer… Accidentally I have discovered most Indian hot meals are perfect for entertaining: I can prepare everything the day before or in the morning and then just reheat without spending the whole evening in the kitchen (oh, and everyone loves Indian cuisine!). Thank you for the tip. I must check if I find any recipe to use mashed chickpeas.

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