Authentic chana masala recipe
Delicious vegan chana masala, also called Indian chickpea curry. Very popular in South Asia. Tastes like you ordered it right from the restaurant. Fresh ginger, onions and spices come together in a vibrant and slightly tangy tomato base to make this warming curry. Fantastic dish to make all year round, especially during cold, dark winter evenings.Authentic and delicious.
I am in love with Indian food. I’ve had an obsession for many, many years. Chana Masala is my favorite dish. I order it at every Indian restaurant I go to.
This is a great dish to make for a filling and comforting weeknight dinner. It’s easy to make once you learn the steps.
This curry is:
- Vegan, vegetarian
- Gluten free
- High in protein
- Easy to make
- Full of flavor
- Canned chickpeas – I like using canned chickpeas because it makes this dish a lot faster. If you’d like to use dry chickpeas, I show tips on that below.
- Garlic & Ginger – One way to make this dish easier is to buy some ginger garlic paste at an Indian grocery store, or online.
- Spices – This recipe uses a mix of cumin, coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds and green cardamom pods.
- Fresh tomatoes – I prefer using fresh tomatoes, instead of canned tomatoes because they have a more mild flavor and won’t take over the dish, or make it overly acidic.
- Baking powder – This is optional, but I’m adding this to the dish to make the chickpeas more tender, like you would get at a restaurant.
- Chana masala spice mix – This is the golden ticket to getting my curry to taste more authentic. I learned about this spice mix when I visited India and watched a woman make this dish. She said pretty much everyone uses this spice blend when making chana at home. It’s easy to find online, if you don’t have an Indian grocery store nearby.
- Fresh Cilantro – This brings the whole dish together when you add it at the end.
Steps to making curry
Most Indian recipes follow the same order. Once you know this order, you can start to feel more comfortable cooking Indian food, because you know what to expect.
Step one: Heat up your oil, add the dry, whole spices like cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and more. You’re basically dry roasting your spices to enhance their flavor. Do this for 1 minute.
Step two: After you dry roast the whole spices, you saute the onion until golden brown. Once the onion is cooked you want to bloom the ground spices for 30 seconds by adding them to the pan and letting them heat up. This will bring out their flavors even more. You usually add the ginger and garlic at this point.
Step three: Next, you add your tomatoes and a splash of water. Many recipes have you cover the pan and let all of the flavors marinate and simmer together for about 5-10 minutes. This cooks down the tomatoes, and makes a deep, rich base to our masala (sauce)
Step four: Now we add the liquid and the vegetables or beans. This is where we add the chickpeas in this recipe. I like to cover with the lid and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes. This makes the chickpeas mingle with all of the spices and really infuses them with flavor.
Step five: Garnish and finish with spices or an acid. This is where we will add fresh cilantro and the chana masala spice mix. Sometimes you add garam masala or methi (fenugreek) leaves here as well. I love adding freshly chopped onion too.
- Chop up all of your ingredients, and measure out all of your spices before you start cooking. This makes cooking go by so much smoother and easier.
- Add ¼ teaspoon of baking powder to this to make the chickpeas more tender, like you would find at an Indian restaurant. Even though we’re using canned chickpeas, the baking powder will help make them buttery soft.
- If you plan on making chana masala regularly, buy a chana masala spice mix. It takes this dish to a whole new level. We add some at the end of this recipe. This blend makes it so you don’t need to buy a ton of different spices like amchoor powder or methi.
- Use fresh tomatoes. They make the spices shine through more, as opposed to it just tasting mostly of tomatoes.
- Topping this dish with fresh cilantro makes all of the difference. It really brings the curry together.
- Crush a few of the chickpeas with the back of your spoon, once the curry is done cooking. This thickens the sauce and makes it more like ordering from a restaurant.
- If you need help getting together your Indian spice collection, check out my beginner guide to Indian spices blog post. It will give you the essentials to get you started.
What to serve with chana masala
This dish goes amazingly well with either rice, or Indian breads:
- Basmati rice
Storing and reheating
To store, put in an airtight container in your fridge for 5-7 days.
To reheat, add it to a sauce pan on the stove and add a splash or two of water. Heat on medium low heat until warmed through. This also heats up well in a microwave.
Can this be frozen?
Yes! This is amazing to make a big batch of and then freeze the rest. To eat, just thaw it out in the fridge the day before and heat on the stove or in a microwave.
Modifications and substitutions
Can I make this oil free?
Yes! I’ve made this oil free many times before. Just saute the onions and spices in the beginning with water. This won’t taste as rich without the oil, but it will still taste amazing.
How to make this with dry (uncooked) chickpeas
To use dry chickpeas instead of canned chickpeas, soak ¾ of a cup of chickpeas in water over night. Drain them the next day, add them to a large pot with 4 cups of water, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat. Cook for about 45 minutes or until salt. Add the cooked chickpeas to the curry after draining.
Can I add more vegetables?
This recipe tastes amazing when you add potatoes or spinach.
To add potatoes, peel and chop. Add them in when you add the chickpeas.
To add spinach, add it in when you’ve got 5 minutes left on cooking time.
Try these recipes next
- Vegan red Thai curry
- Vegan stuffed shells
- Aloo gobi matar (potato, peas and cauliflower curry
- Butternut sage fettuccini Alfredo
- Vegan butter chicken
Check out my article Beginner guide to Indian Spices next
Vegan chana masala (Indian chickpea curry)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium red onion (diced)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 6 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (peeled and minced)
- 1½ cups of finely chopped fresh tomatoes (see notes)
- 3 cups chickpeas (about two cans – drained and rinsed )
- ½ teaspoon salt (1 tsp if there is no salt in your chana masala spice blend)
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon chana masala spice mix
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder (optional – this will make the chickpeas more tender, like at restaurants)
- Put an oiled pan on medium heat and let it heat for one minute. Add the cumin seeds and cardamom pods and saute for 30 seconds. Add the onions and let them get golden brown – about 5 minutes.2 tablespoons oil, 1 medium red onion, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 2 green cardamom pods
- Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger and garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes and a splash of water. Stir well, cover and let this cook down for 8 minutes. Turn the heat to medium low, so it doesn't burn.1 teaspoon cumin powder, 2 teaspoons coriander powder, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, 6 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, 1½ cups of finely chopped fresh tomatoes
- Add the chickpeas, water, salt and (optional) baking powder. Cover and let simmer on medium low heat for 20-30 minutes. You want to give the chickpeas enough of a chance to really marinate in the sauce. Add a splash of water if it gets too thick.3 cups chickpeas, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 cups water, ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- Once you get the consistency you like, turn off the heat and stir in the chana masala spice mix and garnish with fresh cilantro. Taste and add more salt if needed.1 tablespoon chana masala spice mix, ⅓ cup fresh cilantro
- Serve with rice, roti or naan bread
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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