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Ghugni (Dried yellow pea curry/vatana)



One of the perils of shopping at an Indian grocery store is that no matter how determined you are to stick to your shopping list, there are bound to be products that you just have to buy, even though you have no idea how to use it, but know for sure that you will need it sooner or later.

I have fallen into this trap time and again.  I have a big bag of dill seeds sitting on my shelf for over a year now. I have absolutely no idea what to do with it. Or with the hellishly tart dried pomegranate seeds that made me cross-eyed for a minute. I have no clue why I was so anxious to buy what essentially is concentrated little balls of pure citric acid.

And do I really need six different kinds of coconut – frozen, powdered, shredded, grated, sweetened, unsweetened?! Talk about being a hoarder!

One area where I try to avoid experimenting is the beans and lentils section of an Indian store. Frankly, I am amazed every time I walk by it – not only are there dozens of varieties but some are sold whole, some cracked, some hulled, some split – how does one even begin to make sense around them? Thanks to my years in Calcutta shunning the kitchen like the plague I have to rely heavily on Google images to tell me which daal is supposed to look like what.

When I picked up this bag of dried yellow peas ( it was labeled vatana, which confused me even more), it looked vaguely familiar, but it was not until I googled it did I realize what I could do with it! I could make ghugni with it! Yipee!

Ghugni or yellow pea curry is a staple in Bengali households and it was delightful to be able to recreate it in my kitchen! There were lots of recipes on the Internet to get me started, but ultimately I made it the way I wanted to. The familiar flavors of the spicy and tart sauce with a hint of sweetness brought back so many memories! The texture of the yellow pea is quite similar to chickpeas, in fact, they are both cooked in pretty similar fashion. If you like chickpea curry, then you are going to like this ghugni too!

Here is the recipe -

Ghugni (dried yellow pea curry/ vatana)

Serves 8-10


2 cups dried yellow peas/vatana

8-10 cups water

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp Kosher salt

1 tbsp cumin seeds

4-6 green cardamom pods, crushed

2-3 cinnamon sticks

1 red onion, chopped

2 Serrano peppers, chopped (seeded, if you don’t want the heat)

2 tsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp coriander powder

1/2 tbsp cumin powder

14.5 oz can of petite diced tomato

heaping tablespoon of good quality garam masala

1 tbsp tamarind paste

juice of 1 lemon

1-2 tbsp sugar

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Vegetable oil

Salt, to taste


1) Soak the dried yellow peas in water overnight. Next day boil 8-10 cups of water in a big pot. Add the kosher salt, baking soda and the soaked yellow peas. Cover and cook until the peas are softened but not disintegrating, about 45-60 minutes. Set aside, reserving the water it cooked in.

2) In another pot heat oil and add the cumin seeds, cardamoms and cinnamon sticks. Stir for 30 seconds until spices are aromatic. Add the onions, Serrano peppers, ginger paste, garlic paste, turmeric, coriander powder, cumin powder and salt. Saute until the onions are completely cooked through, making sure to not burn the spices.

3) Add the can of tomato and cook until everything is well incorporated and the tomato pieces are disintegrating to form a smooth sauce.

4) Add back the cooked peas and some of the reserved water, depending on how thick or watery you want the sauce to be. Add the garam masala and let it simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes for all the flavors to meld together.

5) Add the tamarind paste, lemon juice and sugar at the end. Stir well and check for seasoning. There should be a nice balance between spicy, tart and sweet flavors.

6) Garnish with lots of chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with your favorite Indian bread. Enjoy!

Yellow peas curry

Yellow pea curry /vatana

11 comments to Ghugni (Dried yellow pea curry/vatana)

  • Suchismita

    Looks yum!

    I don’t know why it would be called Vatana there. It’s a very Konkani/Marathi term for Chana. So in Goa I frequently see Safed Vatana, Bada Vatana, etc.

  • Madhuja

    Thanks for stopping by, Suchismita!

    I guess the grocery stores stock stuff from all over India, so a lot of them are labeled according to the region they come from.

  • Hana

    I tried the recipe. It was delicious. I bought the yellow vatana by mistake. I thought they were soy beans for making soy milk. I was going to throw the bean in the compost bin as I didn’t know what to do with them. But before I threw them out I searched for the yellow vatana’s recipe and found your & tried it. Very delicious! I decided to keep the rest of the beans for next time.

  • Madhuja

    Hi Hana,

    I am so glad you didn’t throw away the vatana in the compost bin! :) You know what else you could do with it? Try using boiled yellow vatana in place of the garbanzo beans in the chaat recipe on my website – you’ll have scrumptious Indian street food in no time!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Rach

    Hi Madhuja

    I too loved to Ghugni growing up…And am excited to try this recipe tonight. Wanted to know if I can use regular salt (instead of Kosher salt) and if I can pressure cook the peas instead of boiling them for 45 mins ? If yes – for how many minutes ?


  • Madhuja

    Hi Rach,

    I am so excited that you are going to try my ghugni recipe tonight! Please let me know how it turned out!
    You can absolutely use regular salt, just remember that you will need to use a lot less of it. I would start with maybe 1 teaspoon of regular salt, do a taste check and then add more if needed.
    Hmmm, I have never used a pressure cooker to cook ghugni, so I don’t have a definitive answer for you – but, a quick search online shows that other people have pressure cooked the peas for about 10 minutes or so (when the peas have been soaked for a long time).

    Hope this helps!

  • Rach

    Thank you for replying so promptly. I followed the recipe instructions and it turned out awesome. I did omit the baking soda though – What was the purpose of that ?
    Thank you so much for your recipe. I am sure I will be making this again.

  • Madhuja

    I am SO glad you liked the recipe! And thank you for reporting back – I really appreciate that!
    p.s. The baking soda helps cook the peas faster.

  • Madhavi

    Can I make ghugni with green vatana? Will it taste same?

  • Madhuja

    Hi Madhavi!

    I have never cooked with green vatana, so I have no idea how it will taste in the ghugni! If you do make it with green vatana, please let me know how it turned out! :)

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