Chana Sundal is one of my favorite chickpea dishes to make, partly because it's so easy to put together and entirely because it is so delicious. In this simple Tamilian stir-fry, chickpeas are tossed together with a few simple spices, including curry leaves, mustard seeds and chili peppers. Fresh coconut and cilantro add even more flavor. Sundal is served as a snack during the festival of Navratri, but it also makes a delicious and healthy side with nearly any main dish. This recipe is ready in under 15 minutes and it's gluten-free, soy-free and nut-free -- and vegan, of course.
A chana or chickpea sundal is one of my go-to recipes when I am rushed for time and want something tasty that I can stir up with a few ingredients, in one pot, and in under 15 minutes.
When most people think of chickpeas in the context of Indian cuisine, the dish that is likely to come to mind is chana masala. Other legumes are often associated with curries or dals or gravied dishes. But dry bean stir-frys are just as easily found across India's many regional cuisines, including usal, a stir-fry of sprouted beans made in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
A sundal is the Tamilian version of a dry bean stir-fry and it is usually made during festivals, including Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri, which is being celebrated right now. The sundal is given to visitors on each of the nine nights that Navratri is celebrated. A chana sundal is the most common, but sundals are also often made with other beans, including brown chickpeas (kala chana), black-eyed peas, green peas and even kidney beans (rajma). Cooks vary the spice mixes and legumes used, creating an entirely new dish with just a few minor tweaks for each of the nine nights.
One reason I love this dish is because it is indeed easy to tweak, and you can put it together with the most basic ingredients or those you have on hand. The recipe I have for you today is uniquely my own, and I hope you will love it. It retains some of the most common Sundal ingredients, like curry leaves, mustard seeds and coconut, while adding an ingredient not often used -- garlic --and a few other spices. Desi, my resident Tamilian, has never been a huge fan of sundal but he loves this version. I hope you will try it.
Why you'll love this chana sundal/chickpea stir fry
- It's delicious. That's the reason why we eat anything at all, isn't it, and this channa sundal will leave you mind-boggled. It is spicy, savory and garlicky. You will have a hard time stopping yourself from scooping it out of the wok and stuffing your mouth.
- It's easy. If you begin with canned chickpeas you can put this recipe together in 15 minutes flat.
- It's healthy. Spices are great for you, and the chickpeas, as you know, are health stars, packed with protein, fiber and so much good-for-you stuff. This is an incredibly nutritious snack or side dish. If you're watching what you eat, this dish would be a great addition to your diet. It has just 81 calories and 4 grams each of protein and fiber per serving.
- It's unique. I like sharing with you Indian recipes you are not likely to find at Indian restaurants. This dish, while not something you can order up, is easy enough to make at home for a taste of something differently delicious.
- Chickpeas or garbanzo beans. I mostly use canned--make sure you strain out all the water and strain the chickpeas. You can also cook dry chickpeas from scratch. Soak overnight and boil or pressure cook them. The cooked chikpeas should keep their shape but smash easily when pressed between your fingers.
- Masala paste: garlic, green chili peppers like jalapeno, and cumin seeds.
- Coconut oil. This is for tempering the spices. Use any vegetable oil that's flavorless. Don't use olive oil please.
- Spices: Black mustard seeds, asafetida, ground coriander, turmeric and paprika (or Kashmiri chili powder).
- Herbs: Curry leaves and cilantro.
- Unsweetened, shredded coconut. You can use fresh or frozen. Make sure you thaw it if frozen.
- Optional: Lemon juice or wedges of lemon, to sprinkle on top while serving.
How to make sundal
- Drain chickpeas in a colander. In a mortar and pestle make a coarse paste of cumin seeds, green chili peppers and garlic. Set aside.
- Heat 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a wok. Add mustard seeds and when they sputter add urad dal, asafetida and curry leaves. Stir-fry for a few seconds until the urad dal turns lightly golden-brown. Stir in the ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute.
- Add the powdered spices -- turmeric, paprika and ground coriander -- and mix. Then stir in the chickpeas.
- Mix the chickpeas well with the spices and continue to stir-fry for 3-5 minutes more until the spices are well-incorporated and the chickpeas have taken on color from the spices. Mix in the unsweetened coconut shreds and cilantro.
The chickpea sundal is wonderful as a snack. Or serve it as a side dish when you are having a salad for lunch or dinner to get a healthy protein boost. I even serve it as a side with burgers and tofu or tempeh steaks and it's delicious.
Storage and freezing
The sundal keeps in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. For longer storage place in airtight, freezer-safe container or bag and freeze. Thaw and reheat before eating.
More tasty Indian chickpea recipes
Sundal, an easy south Indian chickpea stir-fry
- Wok or large skillet
- Mortar and pestle
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1-2 jalapeno (chopped. Or use serrano peppers. Deseed and use just one if sensitive to heat.)
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- ¼ teaspoon asafetida (hing)
- 1 teaspoon urad dal
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional, but nice for color. If you'd like even more heat in the sundal use cayenne)
- 3 cups chickpeas (approx 2 15-oz cans or 1 cup dry, cooked. Drain all liquid from chickpeas before using)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoon cilantro (chopped)
- Place the garlic, cumin seeds and green chile peppers in a mortar and pestle or food processor and crush into a coarse paste. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a large wok or skillet. Add mustard seeds and when they sputter, add asafetida and urad dal. Stir-fry for a few seconds until the urad dal begins to turn lightly golden. Then add the curry leaves and stir-fry for a few seconds.
- Add the garlic-cumin-chili paste you just made to the skillet and stir-fry for a minute. Add the powdered spices to the skillet: the ground coriander, turmeric and paprika, if using. Mix.
- Add the chickpeas to the skillet and mix well. Continue stir-frying for a couple more minutes. Add salt to taste.
- Stir in the coconut and cilantro. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
- Chickpeas are great in this sundal. But if you'd like to change up the beans, use white beans or pinto beans. Make sure you use cooked or canned beans.
- If you can't find curry leaves, add 2 tablespoon cilantro at the time you'd add the curry leaves. You can garnish with more cilantro at the end.
- You can leave out the urad dal at a pinch. Or add a few broken pieces of raw cashews for a bit of crunch in the sundal.