This chana masala recipe is an authentic, vegan Indian chickpea curry. Super forgiving and perfect to kickstart your Indian cooking! And the best part? It takes only 30 minutes from start to finish, and uses basic spices you already have in your house. Let’s get into it!
The post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you’re successful in your first attempt. But if you’re in a rush, please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end!
Chana masala (or chole) is a North Indian dish with chickpeas in a tomato-onion base. There’s a certain sour note to authentic chana masala that I’ve found 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. This is that recipe.
📋 Ingredients & Variations
You’ll need tomatoes, onions, green chili peppers for the base (jalapenos, Thai green chili peppers, or Serrano all work great). But the secret to my authentic chana masala recipe is the spice mix (check the next section for details on the spice mix).
Traditional Indian chickpea masala (or chole) uses a few special ingredients that are used frequently in an Indian kitchen, but not used as often by most other folks (e.g. dried mango powder, black cardamom, etc.)
The other secret to this authentic chickpea masala – the sour notes of tamarind paste. If you’re thinking, “Well that’s as specialized as dried mango powder” – don’t despair, there’s an easy substitute! Use lime juice (or white wine vinegar) mixed with equal amounts of brown sugar instead.
This recipe omits many “specialized” ingredients … without foregoing authentic flavors! I’ve noted omissions in the recipe card if you want to go all out (but rest assured the flavors are still delicious if you leave them out!)
Can you make chana masala with canned chickpeas?
Yes, you can. In fact, canned chickpeas makes this a REALLY easy chana masala. Try to go for the low sodium version if possible. If you end up using dry chickpeas, you need to soak them overnight first. I 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!
Do you use fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes?
This depends on the season. I use fresh tomatoes when possible in the summer, and canned tomatoes the rest of the year. If you use fresh tomatoes, use about 2 cups, chopped. If you use canned tomatoes, use one 14.5 oz can. You have to mash the tomatoes to make the chana masala base. So, truly, either option will work.
👩🏽🍳 How to make chana masala
Start with the chana masala spice mix – the heart of the dish!
For the coarse spice mix, I use coriander and cumin seeds, ginger and garlic, some green chili peppers (Thai green chili peppers, jalapeno or Serrano all work) and some red onions. I grind this together into a coarse paste. If you can’t find the fresh spices, or prefer something flavorful but a bit less intense, you can substitute coriander and cumin seeds with ground versions. Or, if you have garam masala, feel free to replace the coriander and cumin with a spoon of that instead.
Start by sauteing the onions in a skillet, over medium heat, until brown. Then, add coarse spice paste and saute for a few minutes until raw smell dissipates. Then, add the can of tomatoes along with spices, tamarind paste and salt. Saute this for a few minutes until the base starts thickening (typically around 3 to 4 minutes).
Finally, add the canned chickpeas along with half to a full cup of water (depending on your desired consistency). Cover the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes. 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.
Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve hot.
🍴 Serving and storing suggestions
Storing & freezing: Store the chana masala in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. You can also easily freeze it for up to 2 months, again in airtight containers. I recommend dividing it into individual size portions, 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 to two minutes. Good to go!
You can serve chana masala with so many things!
- 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).
- 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!
- My favorite way to eat this is with samosas, as samosa 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!
If you liked this recipe, check out these other Indian recipes:
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag #urbanfarmie on Instagram, @urbanfarmie on Pinterest! For step-by-step instructions with pictures, check the post.
- 1/2 red onion medium size, chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers medium, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic substitute with 1-2 tsp of minced garlic
- 1 tbsp ginger paste 3-4 small slices of ginger, 1" each
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds substitute with 2 tsp of coriander powder
- 2 tsp cumin seeds substitute with 1 tsp of cumin powder
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion medium size, chopped
- 1 can diced tomatoes 14.5 oz – use a basic version
- 1 tsp salt adjust to taste
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder Kashmiri red chili is strong; use paprika or cayenne for a milder spice kick
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste substitute with a tbsp of lemon juice and 1 tsp of brown sugar
- 1 can chickpeas 14.5 oz, low sodium version if possible – drained and rised
- 1 tbsp cilantro chopped finely
- 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
- Garnish with cilantro and serve hot – with flatbread or rice
- 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
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Note: This recipe was originally published on March 23, 2020. It was modified on August 2, 2020 to include more process shots and clarifications.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag #urbanfarmie on Instagram or @urbanfarmie on Pinterest! Don’t forget to join my Facebook Group where you can discuss these recipes and explore any and all questions related to vegan and vegetarian dishes from around the world.