Chole Sabzi Pulao

While flying from Cozumel to Houston, I picked up an in-flight magazine (Hemispheres) and paged through it for a while. I am a terribly nervous flier, and the brightly colored articles on Delhi were a welcome distraction. The pages were riddled with photographs of exotic spices and various types of grains, which all seemed just as foreign to me as the land they come from. It wasn’t until the last couple of pages that a few recipes began to emerge, immediately striking a chord with me. I was a) in need of something to keep me busy and b) hungrier than I’ve been in a long time (and I’m pretty much always hungry… so yeah!). I noted the recipe on my phone, which took about a half hour of tedious tapping and patience. I’ve logged in-flight recipes in the past, never to return to them. I was stubborn this time, rounding up all of the ingredients as soon as we went grocery shopping the next day.

I’ve never explored the arena of Indian food, at least not from the view of my kitchen. To be honest, I didn’t know what half the ingredients were, or what pulao even means. As you can tell, I’m terribly worldly and cultured. But alas, that’s what this resolution is for, no? Trying brave things in the kitchen. Learning a thing or two about how to enjoy my food before I scarf it down. And let me tell you, Indian food will definitely do that for you. First of all, there is a certain “heat” involved in this dish… so it can’t necessarily be scarfed down. Aside from the heat, it’s a surprisingly hearty dish. I felt full after nearly half a cup of the medley. My appreciation (and hopefully tolerance) for Indian cuisine has perked up a bit with this lively dish.


Chole: Cooked or uncooked chickpeas.

Sabzi: A dish consisting of vegetables.

Pulao: A South Asian rice dish (in Afghanistan, Bangladesh,Nepal, Pakistan, India, Iran) , also known as Pilaf.


  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 tsp veg oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 9 cloves
  • 1 one inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 serrano green chile, minced
  • 1 cup potatoes, 1/2 inch diced
  • 1/2 cup of carrots, 1/2 inch diced
  • 1 1/2 cup chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 large tomato, 1 inch diced
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cups hot water


  1. Rinse the rice in cold water and soak for 30 minutes.
  2. In a thick bottomed pot, add the oil and sauté half the onions until golden brown.
  3. Remove the onions and set aside for garnish when dish is fully cooked.
  4. Using blender or food processor, finely grind the cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods.
  5. Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat and then add clove, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, garlic, chile and remaining onions.
  6. Sauté until the onions are translucent.
  7. Add the potatoes, carrots and chickpeas and sauté for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the mint, half the cilantro, tomatoes, yogurt, salt and water.
  9. Drain the rice and add to the pot.
  10. Boil on high heat for 5 minutes, then simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes.
  11. Let stand covered and off the heat for a few minutes before serving.
  12. Garnish with fried onions and cilantro.

Sautéing the onions.

Soaking the rice. I soaked mine for about 45 minutes.

Mixing the yogurt in. The yogurt is a must for making this dish creamier.

I LOVE a messy kitchen ❤

Toasted bites of Bloom Baking Co’s sourdough bread.

And voilà! The end result. Yum!

First Impressions

This dish has a lot of heat. When I say heat, it’s not even necessarily a “spicy” type heat. It’s more of a warmth that develops within as you eat it. I think it’s due to the serrano chili, and to be honest, I would use WAY less of it in the future. I’d want to keep the dish as true to its roots as possible, so I wouldn’t eliminate it all together. I will also add that using basmati rice is a must. It’s long grain, and the consistency of it is a lot smoother (less sticky) than other rice. The dish holds together nicely, and feels a lot more authentic than if I had used plain white rice.

The use of cinnamon in this dish is outstanding. There is a salty sweet taste throughout, and the flavor is very complex. One bite may reveal heat from a bit of serrano chile, while the next may be engulfed in the sweetness of cinnamon. I neglected to add the mint to my grocery list, and I’m wondering if that would have increased the balance between mild and heated flavors.

I modified the recipe in a few other ways. Instead of tomatoes (which would have been a tremendous help in cooling down the heat of the dish), I used red peppers. I also used about a half of a bunch of cilantro, because let’s face it, I have a love affair with it. I also nixed the cardamom (found it later at the farmer’s market.. darn!) and used grounded powders in place of the minced ginger and cinnamon stick. Needless to say, a little modification didn’t seem to alter the dish too greatly. I also added chicken and sourdough bread on the side. Not the most authentic choices, but we’re taking baby steps here!

Overall, after having this dish for leftovers, I would say that the Chole Sabzi Pulao was a wonderful dish to break me into the world of Indian cuisine. It was flavorful, full of heat and fairly easy to prepare. I will definitely make it again, but next time I’ll have precise ingredients and will use a little less of the chile (because I am a total wuss!).

This weekend, I will be trying one of my wish list recipe, Potato and Cheese Perogies!

Bon Appétit!

5 thoughts on “Chole Sabzi Pulao

  1. Thanks for posting this recipe and your impressions even before United posts it in pdf

    Caught my attention too on a flight, so tore out the page

    Will try this, and thanks for the advice

  2. I also found this in the Hemispheres magazine and tried it tonight. Mine turned out very stew-like, where your’s looks less soupy. Did you use the full 3 cups of water? And how long did you let it simmer?

    • Hi Jen! I simmered the mixture longer than the time advised, mostly because it did turn out stew-like. Simmering for about 15 minutes more compensated for the soupy quality, but it did wind up sticking to the pan something fierce! I think if I were to make it again, I would use about 2 or 2 1/2 cups instead of 3 for that very reason. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  3. I tore this out of the Hemispheres as well, glad I read your input. I can’t wait to try it. I don’t have access to Indian food where I live, have to rely on myself. Happy cooking.

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