Chana masala, also called Chole in Punjabi, is one of the most popular North Indian and Pakistani vegan curry recipes. This easy recipe makes tender, flavorful chickpeas in a perfectly spiced curry and requires simple ingredients you likely have on hand.
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.
Why this Chana Masala Recipe?
This recipe is authentic in that it’s cooked in the traditional Pakistani & North Indian style. But it’s also unfussy – a pantry meal you’d make on a whim. This recipe:
- Uses canned chickpeas. (See note below if you’d rather use dried.)
- Is naturally vegan.
- Results in extra tender chickpeas for a restaurant-like finish (thanks to a pantry ingredient).
- Is perfectly balanced, salted & spiced.
- Is no-fuss & EASY, yet deeply flavorful.
Pro-tips for making Chana Masala:
- Adding a small amount of baking powder or soda 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.
How to Make Authentic Chana Masala
Over the years, I’ve tried many variations of chana masala to see what gives the best flavor and consistency. This chana masala is vibrant, just the right amount of tanginess, and rich in spicy flavor.
To make it, you simply prepare the curry base and add in the chickpeas along with a bit of baking powder (or soda). Add water and allow the curry to simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes. (I used to skip the simmering, but I find it helps the chickpeas absorb the flavors and become perfectly tender.)
Next, cook down & use a wooden spoon to slightly crush the chickpeas for the perfect consistency. Garnish with garam/chaat masala, lemon, and cilantro.
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.
Using Uncooked (Dried) Chickpeas Instead of Canned
You don’t have to use canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans to make this recipe. If you prefer, just pre-cook the the chickpeas as you normally would, then use them in the recipe when called for chana masala. If you use salt to cook the chickpeas, just adjust salt when making this recipe.
1 can of drained chickpeas is about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas. Around 3/4 cup of dried chickpeas should yield that amount, though I haven’t measured this myself.
Adding Potatoes to Make Aloo Chana
You can also add potatoes to this curry to make aloo chana (potatoes and chickpea curry). I have used 3 small potatoes and they were the perfect amount. Add the potatoes alongside the chickpeas, then cover and cook as directed. The potatoes will take the same time to fully cook.
More Easy Vegan Curry 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)
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 red chili powder
- 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped
- 2 cans (around 15-oz each) chickpeas rinsed and drained
- 1 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp baking powder or soda (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.