Chana Masala is a naturally vegan and gluten-free Indian curry made with two key ingredients: Chana (chickpeas) and Masala (spice blend). This hearty one-pot curry is simple to make and delivers amazing flavours. If you are still not making it at home, you need to start today!
What is Chana Masala?
Chana Masala is a flavorful North Indian dish known and loved around the globe. Made with white chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, spices, and herbs, this dish offers a perfect combination of taste and nutrition.
This popular dish is all about variety. Different regions have put their own spin on it, adding their own special ingredients and flavours. When you start digging into the art of cooking Chana Masala, you'll see how the taste can change depending on the spices, tomatoes, and other little details. But one thing always stays the same: the lovely aroma, incredible taste, and comforting feeling when you eat it.
What makes our Chana Masala recipe easy?
You can find many different recipes for "Easy Chana Masala", so let me tell you why you should try our recipe before you keep looking.
- We use a simple spice mix. If you are an Indian food lover as much as we are, you will most definitely have already all the spices required for this dish. We use cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, chilli powder, salt, and pepper. I know it seems like a lot, but these are common spices that are often used to cook other Indian curries such as Korma, Gobi Manchurian, Dal, etc. If you are just starting to cook Indian food at home or this is your first time, don't worry, you can make our recipe using an already-made Chana Masala spice blend.
- Our recipe is made with canned chickpeas. You can make Chana Masala with soaked dried chickpeas soaking them overnight and pressure cooking the chickpeas until tender before adding them to the curry sauce. But if we are honest, we are not that organized and rely a lot on canned pulses. Using canned chickpeas makes the whole recipe process way easier and quicker.
- We use canned tomatoes. If you live in a hot country, chances are you can find sweet and juicy tomatoes most of the year but that is not the reality for a lot of people and isn't it great to not have to wash and cut fresh tomatoes, when you can simply use chopped tinned tomatoes? Just look for good-quality tinned tomatoes and you will be able to save time and make sure your tomatoes are sweet and juicy all year round.
- One-pot meal. Chana Masala can be a one-pot meal if you use canned chickpeas. We love using our cast-iron pot or Dutch oven for this recipe.
Our Chana Masala is:
- Mildly spicy
- Indian-style recipe
- One-pot meal
- Easy to make
How to cook Chana Masala
Chickpeas. You can use canned chickpeas by simply adding them to the curry or dry chickpeas, soaking them in fresh water overnight, and pressure cooking the chickpeas until tender before adding them to the curry sauce. For this recipe, we use canned chickpeas. We like mashing some of the chickpeas before we add them to the curry to make the consistency of the curry heartier.
Spice blend. One thing we learnt in India is to use good quality and fresh spices when cooking. For our Chana Masala, we use garam masala, bay leaf, cloves (ground or whole), cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, cumin powder, red chili powder, salt, and black pepper. The garam masala contains already most of them but we love adding some more to get a delicious deep-in-flavor sauce. You can use a Chana Masala spice blend that comes already mixed. We recommend using whole spices such as cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, etc, if you have a spice grinder, as they will be more flavourful.
Onion, garlic, ginger, and green chillies. These four ingredients are the start of our Chana Masala base. We start the dish by frying finely chopped onion, garlic, fresh ginger, and green chilis, to create a delicious and rich base for the curry. You can use any type of onion or shallots, garlic powder if you don't have fresh garlic, and red chilies or serrano peppers if you prefer instead of green.
Tomatoes. We use chopped tomatoes to cook our Chana Masala. Choose a good quality can of tomatoes, as this is the most important ingredient of the dish and will define its taste. You can as well use fresh tomatoes, tomato puree, canned plum tomatoes, or tomato passata. Optionally, you can as well add some tomato paste to give your Chana Masala curry a richer umami taste.
Vegetable stock. We find that adding a little vegetable stock instead of water enhances the flavor of the dish
Coriander. The last touch to your curry is chopped fresh coriander added at the end and some extra right before serving for a beautiful presentation.
- Finely chop the onion, garlic, ginger, green chilli. You can use a food processor to finely chop all these ingredients and save some time. Heat some vegetable oil or vegan butter to medium heat using a large pot. Add the ingredients and cook for a few minutes until the onion starts to soften. Stir often making sure the garlic doesn't burn.
- Add the spices, stir well, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. If you are using whole spices, you may want to ground them first. Cardamom pots, cloves, and cinnamon sticks can be added whole, simply remove them before serving.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock and bring the pot to a simmer. Leave simmering for about 10-15 minutes so the tomatoes soften and cook well releasing their natural sweetness. You can at this point, add some sweetener such as brown sugar, or another type of sweetener you normally use.
- Add the chickpeas and chopped coriander, and cook for 5 more minutes until all the ingredients are well incorporated, season to taste with salt and black pepper, and your Chana Masala will be ready to enjoy.
- Make this easy Chana Masala using a pressure cooker. Using a pressure cooker to cook Chana Masala is a popular and time-saving approach. You will need to soak white chickpeas overnight or for at least 6 hours, adding baking soda to soften them. After soaking and draining the raw chickpeas, you can prepare the base sauce as indicated in the recipe card. Then, we add the soaked chickpeas, and pressure cook for about 15-20 minutes on medium heat. Once the chickpeas are tender, you can simmer the curry for a few minutes to thicken the gravy.
- Make Chana Masala using an instant pot. If you want to make this recipe using an instant pot, we recommend checking Piping Pot Curry's recipe, where she explains in detail how to prepare this meal.
- Make a Samosa Chaat. You can add a samosa to the plate, right before serving together with some extra garnishes such as chutneys, fried savory snacks, raw onion, etc. Here you can find a delicious Samosa Chaat recipe from Cook with Manali.
- South-Indian Chana Masala. In the southern regions of India, Chana Masala is prepared with coconut-based gravy. It incorporates ingredients like grated coconut, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and tamarind, resulting in a slightly sweet and tangy flavor. This is a yummy recipe for a South-Indian Chana Masala from Easy Indian Cookbook.
- Make it spicier. You can make this recipe spicier by adding more fresh chilies to the curry or chili powder to the spice mix.
- Make it creamy. We love adding some coconut milk and spinach to this same recipe to make a whole new dish, Chickpea and Spinach Curry, super creamy and hearty.
This hearty chickpea curry is normally served as a main dish with steamed basmati rice and chapati or naan bread. We love serving some homemade samosas on the side or you can as well add them on top of your Chana Masala, to enjoy a satisfying Samosa Chaat. You can find here some suggestions to serve you Chana curry like you would get it in India.
When it comes to Chana Masala, Indian breads are a popular accompaniment. Naan, a soft and fluffy flatbread, pairs perfectly with this rich dish, allowing you to scoop up every last bit of the flavorful sauce. If you prefer a slightly healthier option, roti or chapati, both whole wheat flatbreads, are a great choice.
When it comes to side dishes, rice is a classic way to complement this chickpea curry. Both basmati rice and jeera rice (cumin-flavored rice) enhance the flavors of this aromatic dish. You can use brown rice for a healthier alterantive. Our favorite side dish though, is some homemade samosas or fresh samosas that we buy from our local Indian restaurant. You can also serve Chana Masala with onion bhaji and vegan raita, a refreshing yogurt-based side dish, which adds a cooling element to balance out the heat from the spices and chilies.
Garnish your Chana Masala with some fresh cilantro or coriander. You can as well, add some natural vegan yogurt, coconut milk, or vegan raita to make it creamier.
If you want to add some acidity, you can squeeze some fresh lime juice or lemon juice.
To add an extra crunch to the curry, you can serve it with some raw sliced onion or green chillis for spicy food lovers. Chop some fresh coriander to garnish the plate.
Store and Reheat
Store any leftovers of Chana Masala in an airtight container to keep the dish fresh. It will last in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, so you can enjoy it as a meal or two for the next couple of days. Remember that Chana Masala is one of those one-pot meal dishes that tastes even better the next day!
You can create a whole new dish with Chana Masala leftovers. Add some coconut milk and spinach, and you will enjoy a delicious Chickpea and Spinach Curry.
You can freeze this Indian meal too. Let the dish cool completely to room temperature. Once cooled, place the Chana Masala in freezer-safe containers or bags, making sure to seal them tightly. It can be stored in the freezer for up to two months.
To reheat this meal, simply use a small pot or the microwave.
FAQ and Tips
Is Chana Masala healthy?
Yes, Chana Masala is a healthy dish. It primarily consists of chickpeas, which are a great source of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. Furthermore, the various spices used in the recipe, such as turmeric, cumin, and coriander, offer additional health benefits. However, it's important to keep the portion size in mind as consuming large quantities can increase calorie intake.
Can I use dried chickpeas?
Absolutely! In fact, using dried chickpeas is quite common in traditional Chana Masala recipes. To use dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight, and then cook them before adding them to the dish.
Is Chana Masala Vegan?
Yes, Chana Masala is naturally vegan as it typically does not contain any animal products. The main ingredients are chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and a blend of spices. However, it is essential to ensure any premade spice blends or sauces used in the recipe are also vegan-friendly, as some might contain additives or ingredients derived from animal sources.
Easy Chana Masala
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 green chilli
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cloves
- 3 cardamom pots
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder or small cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder
- 400 g canned chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 500 g canned chickpeas
- A handful fresh coriander
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Finely chop the onion, garlic, ginger, and green chili. You can use a food processor to finely chop all these ingredients and save some time.
- Heat some vegetable oil or vegan butter to medium heat using a large pot. Add finely chopped onion, garlic, ginger, and green chili, and cook for a few minutes or until the onion starts to soften. Stir often making sure the garlic doesn't burn.
- Add all spices, stir well, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. You may need to deglaze the pan with some water if the heat is too high.
- Add the canned chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock, deglaze the pan, and bring the pot to a simmer.
- Leave simmering for about 10-15 minutes so the tomatoes soften and cook well releasing their natural sweetness. You can at this point, add some sweetener such as brown sugar, or another type of sweetener you normally use.
- Add the chickpeas and chopped coriander, and cook for 5 more minutes until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, and your Chana Masala will be ready to enjoy.
- Serve with some basmati rice, Indian bread such as naan, chapati, or roti, or Indian sides such as samosas or bhajis.
|If you tried our recipe, please leave a comment or tag us on Instagram @Sixhungryfeet. We are always happy to see your creations!|