Brown Chickpea Bhuna

Brown Chickpea Bhuna Recipe

Despite what most Indian restaurants would have you believe, a bhuna is a curry with strong flavours, but very little sauce. Sticking with the traditional approach, the miniature pulses that make up this Brown Chickpea Bhuna are held together by a powerfully flavoured and concentrated masala. Deeply fragrant, it makes for a wonderful accompaniment to any curry.

One of three main types of chickpea, brown chickpeas (kala chana) are the smaller, darker and rougher cousins of the perpetually popular garbanzos (chana). Though widely used in Indian cuisine, kala chana can be tricky to find outside specialist stores. If you are struggling, regular chickpeas will suffice.

Brown Chickpea Recipes

Vitally important to any bhuna is the treatment of the spices. The only way to prepare your spices is to gently toast them, coaxing out their flavoursome oils. Once the seeds have darkened in colour and begun hopping about the confines of their pan, almost threatening to jump out, it is time to grind them ready for cooking.

Bhuna isn’t a dish to be rushed either. And while the cooking time of will be less than that of the more common mutton or lamb bhuna, it still pays to be patient. Despite adding water, what you should be aiming to achieve is a “dry” sauce that clings, as though for its life, to its resident chickpeas.

My catalogue of delicious Indian fare is really adding up now. A few favourites include Smoked Haddock Kedgeree, Spinach Pakoras and Fragrant Chicken Biryani

Brown Chickpea Bhuna

Serves 2-4


  • 200g brown chickpeas, dried
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 dried chillies
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 10-15 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • fresh coriander, finely chopped


  1. If using dried chickpeas, soak overnight in enough water to cover them by an inch or two. Drain and rinse thoroughly before use.
  2. Gently toast the whole spices and chillies. Grind and set aside. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions, along with the ginger and garlic pastes.
  3. Once the onion is translucent and softened, tip in the ground spices, chopped tomatoes, curry leaves and salt. After a minute or two pour in 100ml or water and combine.
  4. Add the chickpeas and simmer for 20-30 minutes until cooked through. Continue to cook until the masala has thickened and concentrated.
  5. Finish the dish with garam masala and serve with bread or rice and a handful of fresh coriander.

Recipe for Kala Chana Bhuna Kala Chana Bhuna

Cost: A dish composed primarily of dried chickpeas and spices, brown chickpea bhuna is inexpensive to say the least. A mere £1.10 for the entire dish. Perfect for a frugal spread of curries!


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19 comments on “Brown Chickpea Bhuna

  1. Manic Family Eating
    February 24, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Gonna definitely try this one

    • frugalfeeding
      February 28, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Yes! I hope you do – definitely worth it.

  2. Gary H.
    February 24, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    I hope to try this soon. Finding some of these whole seed spices (to toast them) can be a challenge here in the Great White North.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 28, 2015 at 10:12 am

      I bet it can! We’ll forgive you if you don’t use whole seeds!

  3. lovinghomemade
    February 24, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I’ve never heard of brown chickpeas, that’s something to look out for, thanks!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 28, 2015 at 10:12 am

      I don’t know how easy or hard they are to find, but when you do find them they are definitely worth it.

  4. cookinginsens
    February 25, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Another great curry!

  5. Chica Andaluza
    February 25, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Really lovely Frugal – I’m really enjoying these curry recipes with pulses, thank you!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 28, 2015 at 10:11 am

      Thanks – I’ll try and do some more too 🙂

  6. Wings of Harmony
    February 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Oh that looks lovely! We usually have it for breakfast, accompanied with a break or rice flakes that are lightly toasted (also known as Poha). Yum and not heavy, contrary to how it looks! 🙂

    • Wings of Harmony
      February 25, 2015 at 11:01 am

      *Bread I mean

    • frugalfeeding
      February 28, 2015 at 10:10 am

      That sounds great – I’ll have to try and find some rice flakes. Thanks.

  7. Kirsten
    February 25, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve never come across brown chickpeas before. I shall have to keep an eye out for them.

  8. Conor Bofin
    February 25, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Very elegant indeed. You are leaning me towards this type of cooking.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 28, 2015 at 10:10 am

      Thank you, Conor – I hope you give it a go. It’s a very satisfying way of preparing food.

  9. farmerkhaiti
    February 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Looks divine! I love how you say the sauce should cling to the chickpeas as if for their life! Beautiful!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 28, 2015 at 10:22 am

      Thank you – hah, it came to me in a moment of inspiration.

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