I am so excited to finally be posting this recipe! I am in love with Indian food and chana masala is probably my second favorite main dish, after paneer butter masala. I’ve tried so many different chana masala recipes and it’s never tasted quite how I want it to, but after a lot of tweaking and research and making it a gazillion times, I think I’ve finally gotten it right!
Chana masala is a very popular dish in India, so of course it’s made differently everywhere and truly there is no “correct” chana masala recipe, just the way you like it best. It can be made soupy and thin, or thick like a stew. Some recipes use canned tomatoes, some use fresh tomatoes, different amounts of onions, garlic, and ginger, and don’t even get me started on all the different combinations of spices. The most basic definition would be a chickpea curry in a tomato-based sauce. Chickpeas and tomatoes, that’s what they all have in common.
For my recipe, I start with the aromatics, onions first, mixed with a little baking soda. I learned this trick from The Food Lab blog on Serious Eats. Adding a teensy bit of baking soda to onions breaks them down super fast, which is what we want. Then I add the garlic, ginger, and a little bit of jalapeño along with the spices and let them fry for a few minutes and create a beautiful paste (pictured above).
One thing I learned from cooking Indian food is the importance of frying your spices. This deepens and really intensifies their flavor and aroma. So this step, frying the paste, is very important. This is the base of the dish and where most of the flavor is developed. After that, all that’s left to do is add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, chickpeas, canned tomatoes, cilantro, and water and let it simmer away for about 30 minutes and that’s it! This is a super simple, one-pot recipe with rich, deep flavor that tastes like you’ve been cooking it all day long (but really it just takes about 45 minutes)!
If you’re new to Indian food, this is a quick, easy and delicious recipe to start off with. Oh, did I mention it’s also super healthy? Traditionally it’s eaten with naan or chapati, (which is another flat bread) or rice. I made some homemade naan which is definitely my favorite combination, but you could also eat it with your favorite kind of rice or any whole grain really, quinoa, bulgur, etc. I also recommend serving it with sliced red onion, chopped cilantro, plain greek yogurt, and some slices of fresh lemon.
Whip up this classic Indian dish of chickpeas cooked in a rich, tomato-based sauce for a super flavorful, healthy and satisfying meal! Serve with warm, fluffy naan for optimum deliciousness.
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 inch chunk of ginger
- 2 T lemon juice, separated
- 3 slices of jalapeño (with seeds) or to taste
- 1 tsp salt, separated
- 2 T olive oil, separated
- 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 T ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp amchoor* (optional)
- 1 28-oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes
- 3 cups of cooked chickpeas (2 14.5-oz cans, drained and rinsed)
- 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
- 1 cup + 2 T of water
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- To Serve: (optional)
- brown rice
- chopped cilantro
- plain greek yogurt
- fresh lemon slices
- sliced red onion
- 1. In a food processor or using a mortar and pestle, process the garlic, ginger, 1 T of lemon juice, 3 slices of jalapeño (or less if you don't want it to be very spicy, more if you do) and 1/2 tsp of salt until you form a paste. (If you don't have a food processor or mortar and pestle, just mince the garlic and jalapeño, and grate the ginger and mix them with the lemon juice and salt in a small bowl.)
- 2. Heat a large pot on medium heat, and add 1 T of olive oil. When oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Stir constantly until they start to pop, then add the onion, baking soda and 2 T of water. Cook until the onion is browned and almost completely broken down, about 5 minutes.
- 3. Next, add the garlic-ginger-jalapeno paste you made in the first step to the pot. Immediately add the ground coriander, black pepper, turmeric, chili powder, and amchoor, if using. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a paste and looks oily. Add a tablespoon or two of water if it starts to burn.
- 4. Next add the can of whole peeled tomatoes to the pot and crush them up a little bit with a spoon or spatula. Then add the chickpeas, cilantro, and 1 cup of water and stir. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
- 5. Finally, stir in the garam masala, the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve with rice, naan and whatever condiments you like!
*Amchoor is a dried mango powder made from green, unripe mangoes so it has a sour flavor. It is used commonly in Indian cooking. You can order it online or find it at specialty Asian food stores. I used the Shan brand. If you don't use it, just add an extra tablespoon of lemon juice!
This is my own recipe but I did take a few tips from the The Food Lab's article on Chana Masala HERE.