Jan 17, 2024
This chana masala recipe is an easy, healthy one-pot meal! Warm spices, fresh ginger, and cilantro add rich flavor to the satisfying chickpea curry.
This chana masala recipe is about to become the star of your weeknight dinner rotation. It calls for pantry ingredients. It cooks in one pot. And though it comes together in just over 30 minutes, most of the cooking time is hands off, so you can tackle the (minimal) cleanup as it simmers. Best of all, this easy chana masala is healthy, flavorful, and super satisfying.
About Chana Masala
Chana masala is a chickpea curry. Its name translates literally to spiced chickpeas, “chana” meaning chickpeas and “masala” meaning spice. Variations of the dish, such as Punjabi chole masala, are popular throughout India and Pakistan. Though these vary in terms of preparation method and exact ingredients, most feature a spiced tomato and onion sauce.
This recipe is my take on the chana masala I’ve enjoyed at Indian restaurants in the US. I can’t call it totally traditional. Authentic chana masala uses dried chickpeas and often fresh tomato puree. Some versions feature amchur, or dried mango powder, for its distinctive tang, and many recipes call for whole spices like cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks to add warming flavor.
I developed this recipe using ingredients I commonly keep in my pantry: canned chickpeas, canned tomatoes, and a handful of ground spices. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
How to Make Chana Masala
Here’s what you’ll need to make this chana masala recipe:
- Chickpeas, of course! I typically make this recipe with canned chickpeas because they’re so darn convenient. But if you like, you can cook dried chickpeas from scratch. 1 cup dried will yield about 3 cups cooked. Prepare them according to this method for how to cook dried beans.
- Yellow onion – Chop it finely so that it melds into the rich sauce.
- Garlic and fresh ginger – Instead of chopping them with a knife, I grate them using a Microplane zester. It gives them a fine, paste-like texture that helps them release great flavor into the curry without a long cook time.
- Cumin seeds – The only whole spice I call for here! You could substitute ground cumin, but the whole seeds add wonderful depth of flavor to this simple recipe.
- Ground spices – You’ll need coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and cayenne. I also call for garam masala, an aromatic Indian spice blend. You can find it online or in the spice section of many grocery stores.
- Canned whole peeled tomatoes and water – They create the tangy sauce.
- Extra-virgin olive oil – It adds richness.
- Cilantro – For fresh flavor. Mix some into the chana masala and sprinkle more on top.
- Fresh lemon juice – For brightness.
- And sea salt – To make all the flavors pop!
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
My Easy Method
To make this chana masala recipe, start by sautéing the onion. Cook until it’s soft and browned, around 8 minutes.
Next, add the spices. Stir in the cumin seeds, garam masala, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Mix in the ginger, garlic, salt, and 1/4 cup of water.
Add the tomatoes and their juices. I like to break apart the tomatoes with my hands as I add them, but you could also crush them with your spatula or spoon once they’re in the skillet. Stir to combine with the onion and spices. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until it thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.
Then, add the chickpeas. Stir them into the tomato sauce along with the remaining 1/4 cup water. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until the curry is thick. Give it a good stir every few minutes to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan.
Finally, season and serve! Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro and season to taste.
Serve the chana masala with lemon wedges for squeezing and more cilantro for garnish. I also like to top mine with a dollop of Greek yogurt, though this is completely optional. Without it, the recipe is vegan.
Pile the curry onto basmati rice for a gluten-free meal, or pair it with warm naan or roti. All are delicious!
Store leftover chana masala in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months.
Tip: This chana masala recipe is GREAT leftover. The flavors just get better as it sits in the fridge!
More Favorite Chickpea Recipes
If you love this chana masala, try one of these easy chickpea recipes next:
This easy chana masala recipe is a healthy, satisfying vegan meal! Serve the flavorful chickpea curry over rice or scoop it up with warm naan.
Prevent your screen from going dark
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 8 minutes, stirring often, or until soft and well browned.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cumin seeds, garam masala, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and a pinch of cayenne. Stir and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Stir in the garlic, ginger, salt, and ¼ cup of the water.
Add the tomatoes, breaking them apart with your hands as you add them or crushing them with a wooden spoon in the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Add the chickpeas and the remaining ¼ cup water, stir, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until thick. Stir in the cilantro and lemon juice.
Serve over rice with dollops of Greek yogurt, more cilantro, and more lemon juice, if desired.
Sources: Cook with Manali, Swasthi’s Recipes, Zainab Shah, Indian-ish by Priya Krishna, and Sarah DiGregorio