Chana Masala

DinnerIndianVeganVegetarian

Chana masala, also called chole masala, is a vegetarian and vegan Indian comfort food packed with flavor and perfect for dinner (or lunch) any day of the week! It also freezes beautifully, so it works well as a make-ahead freezer meal.

Photography Credit: Prerna Singh

Chana masala is a go-to comfort dish for me. It is simple to fix and gives me the comfort I crave on a chilly night or even a breezy day!

WHAT IS CHANA MASALA?

Chana masala originated from the northern parts of India where it’s a staple dish. But it has gained popularity in the past few years because it’s vegan, rich in protein, and simple to make.

Chana masala can also be called chole masala, referring to the kind of garam used in the dish. So if someday you see chole masala on a menu, then rest assured that it is your beloved chana masala.

This dish is typically prepared by cooking chickpeas in an Indian curry paste. This basic curry paste is the base of many Indian curries, from traditional Indian chicken curry to chickpea curries like this one.

Best Chana Masala bowl of chana masala with rice, and lemon wedge

WHAT IS INDIAN CURRY PASTE?

Indian curry paste is made with two kinds of aromatic blends: wet and dry.

  • The wet blend is prepared mainly by grinding onion, ginger, and garlic. Sometimes Thai chili is added to the mix.
  • The dry blend is a variety of whole spices, many of which are also used to make garam masala.

HOW TO MAKE THIS CHANA MASALA

For this recipe, I have simplified the process a bit. I have used garam masala for the spice blend and added some whole spices to give the dish an extra kick.

Also, traditionally the dish uses dry chickpeas, which are soaked overnight and then cooked before the curry paste is added. I am used to that process so it comes naturally to me, but feel free to substitute them with canned chickpeas. That will definitely make the process faster.

On top of this basic recipe, feel free to go crazy and add your own twist to it. Many people like to add coconut or almond milk for a creamier curry. Kale, spinach, or Swiss chard are also great sources of nutrition you can add to the dish.

Best Chana Masala - chana masla in pot with fresh green herbs sprinkled on top.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHANA MASALA

Serve chana masala with a side of rice or roti, an Indian flatbread, or, if you are in the mood for something healthier, go for whole grains like wild rice or quinoa.

HOW TO STORE CHANA MASALA

Like many Indian curries, chana masala will keep in the refrigerator for one to two days or can be frozen for up to two months. You can reheat it in the microwave or on a stovetop over medium-high heat. Don’t refreeze it once you’ve frozen and thawed it, or the curry just turns to mush.

MORE INDIAN FAVORITES TO MAKE AT HOME!

  • Indian Chicken Biryani is bursting with flavor and begging you to make it!
  • Sink your teeth into tender, tomato- and spice-infused Butter Chicken.
  • Looking for a new take on a classic Indian tonic? Try Coconut Golden Milk!
  • Use your pressure cooker to make quick work of this Saag Tofu recipe.
  • Looking for a light and healthy soup? Try Red Lentil Dal.

Chana Masala Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6

It’s common in Indian recipes to leave whole spices in the dish for the individual to pick out. If this concerns you, feel free to remove the cloves, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom pods before serving to your guests.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups dry chickpeas (soaked overnight), or a 28-oz can low sodium chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (garnish)

Method

1 Prepare the chickpeas: If starting with dry chickpeas, rinse the chickpeas with water, transfer them to a bowl, and cover them with water. Soak them overnight or for 6 to 8 hours. The next day, add 3 cups water to the soaked chickpeas, and pressure cook them until tender. Set aside for later.

If you prefer, skip this step and just use canned chickpeas. Strain and rinse the chickpeas, and move to the next step.

Best Chana Masala - chickpeas soaking in a bowl of water Indian Chana Masala Recipe - chickpeas soaking in a bowl of water

2 Bloom the spices: In a Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the cloves, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, and green cardamom pods.

Once the oil sputters, add the red onion. Turn the heat to medium and cook onion for 5-8 minutes until it begins to turn golden. Once the onions take on color, add the coriander, ginger-garlic paste, salt, and turmeric. Stir well. Cook for another 15-20 seconds until the spices are fragrant.

Indian Chana Masala Recipe - oil and spices in a panVegan Chana Masala - oil, onions, spices, in panIndian Chana Masala Recipe - oil, pisces, onion in panVegan Chana Masala - onions, spices, in pan with oil

3 Assemble the chana masala: Add the chopped tomato and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato cooks down and turns the masala into a loose paste. This should take about 5 to 8 minutes.

If you cooked your own chickpeas, add them along with the cooking liquid. If you’re using canned chickpeas, add them along with 1 1/2 cups of water. Add the garam masala and stir everything together.

Indian Chana Masala Recipe - spices, oil, onion and tomato in panEasy Chana Masala Recipe - chickpeas, in spicy liquid4 Cover and cook: Cover and cook the ingredients on medium-high heat to let all the spices and sauce marry well and season the chickpeas, 5-8 minutes.

5 Garnish and serve: Turn the heat off. Uncover the pot and stir in the cilantro. Serve warm with a side of rice or bread.

Easy Chana Masala Recipe - - chickpeas in spicy liquid with fresh, green herbs.

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Prerna Singh

Prerna leads the editorial, content and community growth at Indian Simmer, based out of San Francisco Bay Area. Her simple yet evocative writing coupled with mouthwatering photography and easy to follow recipes put Indian Simmer in the spotlight and won her two time nominations and a win of the prestigious Saveur Food Blog Awards.

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2 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Linda

    I absolutely adore Chana Masala, I can’t wait to try your recipe. I was wondering if you remove the cloves, cinnamon stick and the green cardamom pods at any point.

  2. Carrie Havranek

    This recipe rocks. I made it as written except I upped the cilantro slightly. I almost put coconut milk in it, although I think it would take it totally over the top. My house smells amazing now, even a day later.

    xxxxxyyyyy

Best Chana Masala bowl of chana masala with rice, and lemon wedgeChana Masala