10 Ingredients | 30 Minutes | This easy chana masala is an authentic, vibrant Indian chickpea curry. Super forgiving and perfect to kickstart your Indian cooking!
Chana masala (or chole) is a North Indian dish with chickpeas in a tomato-onion base. There’s a certain sour note to traditional chana masala that I’ve found really hard to replicate in my years of tinkering with this dish.
Some attempts were successful (like this chickpea dip, which is definitely chana masala masquerading under another name). Many others failed so I won’t share them here. But, this weekend, I finally made one that took me back to my days of living in Delhi.
How to make authentic chana masala?
The secret is in the spice mix. Traditional chana masala needs a bunch of ingredients that are used frequently in an Indian kitchen, but will likely not be used as often by most people (e.g. dried mango powder, black cardamom, etc.)
This recipe omits a few “specialized” ingredients without foregoing the authentic flavors. I’ve noted the omissions in notes section in case you want to go all out (but the flavors are still delicious if you leave them out!) When cooked perfectly, the chickpeas will be soft but not mushy. The base will be fluid, but not watery. Perfect for scooping up with some rice or flatbread.
Canned chickpeas or dried chickpeas?
Either works! Canned chickpeas makes this a REALLY easy chana masala – just make sure to get a low sodium version. If you end up using dry chickpeas, you need to soak them overnight so they can be cooked easier. I also recently read a trick from Richa at My Food Story (genius, I say!). Put the chickpeas in a pot or casserole, add boiling hot water and a pinch of salt and cover for an hour. I tried this recently and it worked great!
Fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes?
Depends on the season! Either option works and I’ve noted how much of each you’ll need in the recipe. I typically mash the tomatoes well when I make chana masala, to get the delicious consistency that I know and remember, so any option will work for that. If you use fresh tomatoes, use about 2 cups, chopped. If you use canned tomatoes, use one can. Easy!
What’s in the spice mix?
I use a mix of coriander and cumin seeds, ginger and garlic, some spicy chili peppers (jalapeno or Serrano). If you can’t find the fresh spices, or prefer something flavorful but a bit less intense, you can substitute the coriander and cumin with store-bought ground spices. If you have garam masala sitting around your pantry, feel free to use that to replace the dry spices.
You’ll grind this into a paste, and then saute it before adding tomatoes, turmeric, red chili powder, salt, and tamarind paste. All of this together forms the delicious base for the chana masala. If you don’t have tamarind paste in your house, you can use lime juice (or white wine vinegar) mixed with an equal amount of light brown sugar instead.
What do you eat this with?
The most delectable way of eating chana masala is with a bhatura (deep fried Indian bread). Another creative dish – Trinidad Doubles (open faced fried sandwich with chana masala and hot sauce). Or more traditionally, you can eat this with any flat bread (like a naan) or with rice. It’s delicious across the board. Working on a yeast-free homemade naan recipe – stay tuned for that!
But my favorite way to eat this is with samosas, as chana chaat (i.e. an Indian street food). I made some delicious baked samosas and air fryer samosas recently. In a bowl, I broke those samosas into small pieces, added this chana masala, and topped it with some yogurt, diced red onions, jalapenos, and mint. The result was indescribable. Try it out and let me know how it goes for you!
Can you reheat chana masala?
Yes. You can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days easily. You can also easily freeze chana masala for up to 2 months. I usually recommend dividing it into the portions you’ll consume, and freezing them in separate containers. This way, you can just grab one without thawing everything at once. When you’re ready to eat, thaw the masala, then pop in the microwave for a minute. Good to go!Print
This easy chana masala is an authentic, vibrant Indian chickpea curry with a huge hit of fresh spices. It is also super forgiving, so it’s the perfect meal to kick start your Indian cooking!
For the spice base
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers (or Serrano chiles) – chopped
- 1 tbsp of ginger paste (or 3–4 pieces of fresh ginger, i.e. 1″ knobs)
- 2–3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds (sub: 2 tsp of ground coriander)
- 2 tsp of cumin seeds (sub: 1 tsp of ground cumin)
For chana masala:
- 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp of turmeric
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of red chili powder
- 1 tbsp of tamarind paste / concentrate (sub with lemon and light brown sugar if you don’t have tamarind)
- 2 cans of chickpeas (drained and rinsed) – preferably low sodium
- Few sprigs of cilantro (for garnish, optional)
- In a food processor, blend ingredients for spice base (onion, jalapenos, ginger, garlic, coriander, and cumin) until they form a paste (the spices will still be somewhat coarse, this is okay)
- Heat oil on a medium pan, and when hot, saute onions until they’re fragrant (about 2-3 minutes)
- Now, add the spice blend from the food processor and saute until they’re brown
- Add the tomatoes, red chili powder, turmeric, and salt, then use your spatula to mash down the tomatoes a bit to release some of their juices – this will help deglaze the pan
- Add chickpeas, tamarind paste and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Then, lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes
- Take off the heat, garnish with cilantro and serve hot!
- For a spicier version of this dish, keep the seeds in the peppers!
- Using the raw spices and grinding them makes the end product more fragrant. But if you want something just as delicious but less intense, use the powdered versions listed. Also, if you live near an Indian grocery store, you can buy ‘chole masala’ and substitute the dry spices with 2 tsp of that powder!
- For a slightly more sour and sharp flavor, you can add a few pods of green cardamom and cloves to the food processor
- Category: Entree
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: easy chana masala, chole masala, chickpea curry