Chana masala, also called Chole in Punjabi, is one of the most popular North Indian and Pakistani vegetarian curries. It’s an easy weeknight dinner that’s healthy, naturally vegan, and gluten-free. This recipe makes tender, flavorful chickpeas in a perfectly spiced curry and requires simple ingredients that are commonly used in South Asian cooking.
If there’s one dinner recipe I’ve turned to for years when I have no time, creativity, or motivation to cook, it’s chana masala. There’s no planning, thawing, or (thanks to canned chickpeas) soaking required. It’s a straightforward, one-pot recipe that captures the essence of South Asian cooking.
Chana Masala – the best of weeknight dinners
Chana masala reminds me of my time spent living in Midland, TX. Midland was a small town in West Texas where healthy and delicious dining options were scarce, and halal options almost nonexistent. At the time, my food-related frustrations (don’t we all have them?) were at their peak. I longed for quality, nutritious, flavorful food, and – with due respect to Tex-Mex – I quickly ran out of options.
Looking back, that deprivation also brought about resilience in me. It instilled the habit of cooking and planning and making do with what I had. Instead of opting for restaurant food that I wouldn’t find tasty or feel good eating, I opened a couple of cans of chickpeas and got to work. Chana masala became my takeout, delivery, and drive-thru.
Over the years, I’ve tried many variations of chana masala to see what gives the best flavor. This chana masala is vibrant, just the right amount of tangy, and rich in spicy flavor. I tested and tweaked the recipe until my husband said it’s one of the best he’s had – thus giving the seal of approval to be shared on the blog.
Here are a few tips and points on making Chana Masala:
- The canned chickpeas, though already cooked, need to be simmered with water in the curry to help absorb the flavors and be as tender as possible. The baking powder helps to make them extra tender.
- Adding a small amount of baking powder makes the chickpeas extra tender. You can either marinate the chickpeas in the baking powder before adding them to the curry or add directly to the curry as I have.
- The garam masala at the end is standard, but lately, I’ve been loving the addition of chaat masala. Chaat masala, much like amchur (dry mango powder), lends a subtle tang, and I’m more likely to have it on hand.
- The recipe moves pretty quickly once the onions are brown, so make sure to have all the ingredients (especially the spices) near the stovetop and ready to use.
- Use a wooden spoon or spatula to slightly crush the chickpeas to thicken the curry and give a restaurant-like finish.
More Easy Vegetarian Dinner Recipes:
Zucchini Curry – Pakistani-style Toriyan
Easy Spinach and Potato Curry (Aloo Palak)
Easy Mixed Vegetable Curry
Red Lentil Dal (Masoor Dal) (another Midland favorite!)
Baingan ka Bharta (Smoked Eggplant Curry)
If you try this recipe, please let me know in the comments below and/or tag me on Instagram so I can see your creations. I love hearing from you!
Chana Masala (Authentic Chickpea Curry)
- 1/4 cup neutral oil such as avocado or grapeseed
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 inch piece ginger crushed
- 1 small green chili pepper sliced or chopped
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp paprika powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp mild red chili powder
- 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped
- 2 cans about 15-oz chickpeas rinsed and drained
- 1 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp baking powder (optional – for extra tender chickpeas)
- 1/2 tsp garam masala or chaat masala
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2-3 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped
- Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil, cumin seeds and onion and sauté for 7-8 minutes, until golden. If the mixture gets dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of water.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and green chili pepper and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a tablespoon of water (if needed), and add the spice powders and give it a few stirs. Add the tomatoes and continue to stir for a minute. Mix in the chickpeas, baking powder (if using), salt, and 2 cups of water.
- Raise the heat to high to bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and let cook for 25-30 minutes, until the chickpeas are very tender.
- Uncover and raise the heat to high. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to slightly crush the chickpeas. Sauté for another 2-3 minutes to desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt and seasoning. Turn off the heat and add the garam masala or chaat masala, lemon juice, and cilantro leaves.