Authentic Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea Curry)
Chana Masala, or Indian Chickpea Curry, is undoubtedly one of the most popular vegetarian curries in and out of South Asia. This easy & authentic recipe makes tender, flavorful chickpeas in a perfectly spiced curry.
“Made this dish for the first time and am so in love with the flavors. It is the best Chana Masala I have ever had.”Gwen
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, vegan curry recipe that captures the essence of South Asian cooking.
Chana Masala – the best of weeknight dinners
Chana Masala is a North Indian and Pakistani curry made by cooking chickpeas (chana) in a onion and tomato base (masala).
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 and consistency. This Chana Masala recipe is vibrant, with just the right amount of tanginess, and rich in spicy flavor.
Why this Chana Masala Recipe?
This recipe is authentic in that it’s cooked in the traditional South Asian style. But it’s also unfussy – a pantry meal you’d make on a whim. This recipe:
- Uses canned chickpeas. (See FAQ if you’d rather use dried.)
- Yields extra tender chickpeas for a restaurant-like finish (thanks to a pantry ingredient).
- Is precise and easy-to-follow.
- Requires simple ingredients that are commonly used in South Asian cooking.
How to Make Authentic Chana Masala
Most traditional Chana Masala recipes more or less follow this method of cooking. Here’s what we’re trying to achieve at each step:
- Sauté onion: Sauté the chopped onions along with cumin seeds to form the base (or masala) of the curry. You want to sauté until golden, but not fully brown, because they’ll deepen even more in color once you add the garlic and ginger. If at any point the onions start to stick to the pan or brown unevenly, deglaze with 1-2 tablespoons water.
- Add garlic, ginger, and green chili pepper: Adding the garlic and ginger at this stage cooks out the raw flavor and allows them to become fragrant. The green chili infuses the curry with a subtle warmth. It would be more fiery if added later in cooking.
- Bloom the spices: Chana Masala is quite heavy on spices, which is why you’ll add them early on to extract their flavor into the base of the curry. Again, at any point if they start to stick, deglaze with water.
- Sauté the tomatoes: Cook the tomatoes for a few minutes to evaporate their water content and help them disintegrate into the curry.
- Add water, cover, and cook: Even though the canned chickpeas are technically cooked, they need to simmer in the curry to soften and absorb the flavors.
- Sauté down: Sauté for another 2-3 minutes to desired consistency. Use a wooden spoon to slightly crush chickpeas to thicken and enhance their texture. Keep in mind the curry will thicken even more as it cools.
- Garnish: Brighten the flavors with a sprinkling of garam masala, a squeeze of lemon juice, and crunchy julienned ginger if you’d like.
Tips for making Chana Masala:
- Adding a small amount of baking powder (or even baking soda) makes the chickpeas extra tender. You can either marinate the chickpeas in it or add it directly to the curry as I have.
- The recipe moves quickly once the onions are brown, so make sure to have all the ingredients (especially the spices) near the stovetop and ready to use.
- Keep water on hand and deglaze the pan at any point the onions, spices, or tomatoes stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Use a wooden spoon or spatula to slightly crush the chickpeas to thicken the curry and give it a restaurant-like finish.
FAQ & Variations:
To make the similar curry Aloo Chana (potatoes and chickpea curry), peel and cube 2-3 small russet potatoes. Add the potatoes alongside the chickpeas, then cover and cook as directed. The potatoes will take around the same time to cook through. Taste and adjust salt and spices as needed.
If you’d like to use dried chickpeas, use about 3/4 heaped cup (6-7 oz). (Here’s a great, detailed guide on cooking chickpeas from the lovely Ali at Alexandra Cooks.) First, soak them in water overnight (Ali also adds salt). Bring the drained chickpeas, 4 cups of water, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp baking soda to a boil. Then lower the heat and cook for around 45 minutes, until soft. Discard any scum that rises to the surface.
Chana Masala is the general term for Chickpea Curry cooked in an onion and tomato masala base. Chole (the Punjabi term for chickpeas) refers to a type of chickpea curry typically eaten for breakfast with poori or bhature. Chole are often made with extra spices, tangy flavors, and even tea bags which give it the signature darker hue. That said, I do think this recipe could work just fine alongside poori.
What To Serve With Chana Masala
This is such a versatile curry that you can serve it with just about anything: basmati rice, any bread, and even poori (as mentioned above). If you keep it on the drier side, it goes wonderfully with naan, roti, or paratha. For some crunch, top it with red onions. Yogurt or raita makes a nice, cooling side.
More Vegetarian Curry Recipes:
Zucchini Curry – Pakistani-style Toriyan
Easy Spinach and Potato Curry (Aloo Palak)
Easy Mixed Vegetable Curry
Baingan ka Bharta (Smoked Eggplant Curry)
Tried this recipe? If you have a minute, please consider leaving a comment & star rating telling me how it was! If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. I truly love hearing from you! Thank you!
Authentic Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea Curry)
- 1/4 cup neutral oil, such as avocado or grapeseed
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 medium (~220-260 g) yellow onion, finely chopped
- 5 (~1 tbsp) garlic cloves , crushed
- 1-inch (~1 tbsp) piece ginger, crushed
- 1 small green chili pepper (such as Serrano or Thai chili), sliced
- 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 (~300 g) tomatoes, finely chopped or puréed in a food processor
- 2 cans (around 15-oz each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (See Note 1)
- 1 1/4 tsp sea salt or table salt, or to taste
- 1/4 tsp baking powder (or sub baking soda), (optional – for extra tender chickpeas) (See Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp garam masala or chaat masala
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2-3 tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped
- julienned ginger, optional, for garnish
- 1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, optional, for garnish
- Heat a medium, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and onion. Sauté for 7-8 minutes, until golden. If the mixture gets dry, deglaze with 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 all the spice powders. Give it a few stirs to roast the spices, and then add the tomatoes. Continue to sauté for another 2-3 minutes. 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 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. Sprinkle with julienned ginger and black pepper, if desired.
149 Comments on “Authentic Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea Curry)”
Very delicious dish. Especially for Vegetarians.
Can I add yogurt for creaminess in the end to this dish?
ooh yes, that sounds delicious!
This was a fantastic recipe! It was the perfect blend of easy to execute while still being very aromatic and full of flavor and spice! I really enjoyed the heat that the serrano pepper added, and based on a comment you made I chopped it more finely than called for so it’d be on the spicier side. Next time I might even toss it into the food processor with the garlic and ginger so it’s super fine. 😀
I pureed my tomatoes so I had a lot of liquid to begin with, so I might use less water if I made it the same way again. I liked that it was a good balance between dry and saucy.
I’m looking forward to testing more of your recipes, and will definitely be making this one again.
Thanks for sharing!
Yes, serrano adds such nice flavor. Great tips. Thanks for sharing, Meri!
I Made this recipe and loved it. I had way more chick peas than called for and so I doubled the recipe. It probably should have been more spicy but it was really wonderful we all loved it and I found homes for all the leftovers in a minute.
So glad to hear that, Roxanne. Thank you for sharing! 🙂
I followed the recipe used all the same ingredients and this turned out so bad. Had no flavour.
Hmm not sure what could have gone wrong. This is definitely toward bolder flavor. Did you sauté the onions long enough?
I have a question. My husband and I liked the flavor, but it wasn’t what my husband expected. I had told him I was cooking curry and he was expecting there would be lots of sauce to pour over rice. Do you have any recipes like that? Thanks.
Hi, Karen. Great question. You can always increase the sauce of any curry by increasing the amount of water. Here you’d just either add 3 cups instead of 2, or you could even add preferably boiling water in the early part of Step 4 when you’re reducing to desired consistency. And yes, I have plenty of super saucy curries in my main dish category.
This was so delicious!!!!! Thank you so much!!!! I am going to keep making this
This was the best tasting Indian recipe I have made at home. Even my wife, who was not excited about it, enjoyed it. My 2 yo son is crushing it as well. Thanks for the recipe! I will check out some of your others as well.
So happy to hear that! Thank you for taking the time to share.
Can you give more details on how to prepare the green chili pepper? You say sliced but are we looking for long slices or short slices, kind of chopped small like the onion? Is this green chili pepper supposed to blend into the recipe and not really be seen again? We’re not huge spice people so I’m a little intimidated. If you have photos or video of how you slice it for this recipe, that would be super helpful.
Hi Liz, that’s a great question. In the pictures and video I have a small green chili (bird’s eye or Thai) thinly sliced horizontally. But really there’s no wrong way to do it. That said, the way you chop them does change the spice level a bit. So if you were to leave it whole or slice in half vertically, it’ll be less spicy. On the other hand, if you chop them very finely or crush them using a mortar & pestle, they’ll be spicier.
This was delicious and easy to follow! Flavor and texture were perfect. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks so much, Emily!