Black Chhole For Navratri

Without onion and garlic

Growing up in Mumbai, a lot of my neighbors were from North India and devotees of the Goddess. They had special celebrations during Navratri and young girls, representing the Goddess herself, were invited. As a little girl I had several invitations in the neighborhood. Each home was fragrant with incense and had a bright aura on those days.

The ceremony was a bit different at each house but losely went something like this. After washing our little feet and applying auspicious alta (red coloring used to decorate the feet), we were served bowls of Puris filled with chhole and suji halwa. The spices in the chhole beautifully offset the sweetness of the halva. Before leaving we got a few rupees of cash. Every once in a while a neighborhood auntie would out do every other household by giving us small gifts like bangles, fancy hair clips, or some other trinkets. Those presents jingled in our pockets as we headed home with our bowls of prasad.

To this day, the feeling of being a Goddess stays with me. A little Goddess that is first worshipped and then offered Prasad.

This recipe is the closest I have been able to come to the flavor of that chhole in years and therefore I am excited to share it here. May the divinity in you feel worshipped when you eat this.

There are two main parts of this recipe for the taste and dark color. The freshly ground spices in the spice mix provide the taste. Cooking it in an iron pot will get the deep black color.


Spice Mix Ingredients:

  1. Star anise 1
  2. Whole Pepper Corns 10 to 12
  3. Cinnamon 1/2 inch stick
  4. Cloves 5
  5. Bay Leaf 1 large or 2 medium
  6. Dried Red Chills 2
  7. Coriander seeds 4 tbsp.
  8. Cumin seeds 1 tsp
  9. Poppy Seeds 2 tbsp.
  10. Anar dana (pomegranate seeds) 2 tbsp.

Other Ingredients

  1. Dry chickpeas 2 cups (soaked overnight and pressure cooked until tender)
  2. Tomatoes 3, pureed
  3. Ginger paste 1 tsp
  4. Cilantro 1 bunch, pureed
  5. Ghee/oil 3 tbsp


  • Heat a small pan over medium flame and add 1-6 of the spice mix ingredients and toast them for 4-5 minutes until fragrant
  • Add items 7-10 of the spice mix list and continue to toast the spices on a medium flame for another 2-3 minutes
  • After the spices have cooled, blend them to a find powder in a spice grinder making sure there are no large pieces remaining
  • In a large cast iron pot, on a medium flame, heat ghee. When the ghee is heated add tomato puree and ginger paste
  • Cook until the tomatoes are a deep color
  • Turn up the flame for half a minute before adding half the spice mix and cilantro puree. Continue to cook on a medium flame. You will see the spice mix, coriander puree and the cast iron pan will slowly start to darken the color of the mixture
  • When the mixture is sufficiently darkened but before it gets too dry, again turn up the flame for half a minute and add salt, cooked chhole (keep the water the chhole was cooked in separate), and the remainder of the spice mix
  • Continue to cook the dish on a medium flame and add the water from the cooked chhole a little at a time to keep the dish moist. The darkness of the dish will slowly increase.
  • Serve with hot puris or bhatura with a side of sooji halva

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