Easy and simple Chana Masala is made using raw chickpeas which are soaked overnight and then cooked with onion, tomatoes and spices.
This popular Indian dish is vegan and gluten-free and pairs well with rice or naan.
Chana Masala needs no introduction. It is one of the most popular Indian dishes, whether its in India or in the western world.
In Delhi though, we usually make Chole, which is very similar to Chana Masala but uses a special blend of spices.
Both are made with white chickpeas but chana masala is made using basic everyday Indian spices.
Punjabi style chole is also usually darker in color and simmered for much longer time.
However, my mom made this simple Chana Masala often with poori or paratha and we relished every bit of it.
Why We Love This Recipe
- it is vegan and gluten-free.
- protein-packed dish for vegetarians and vegans.
- wonderfully spiced.
- freezes well and also great for meal planning.
The dish uses everyday Indian spices like coriander powder, cumin powder, paprika, turmeric and garam masala.
Often red chili powder is also used. I haven’t used it here since I am not a fan of heat but feel free to add it if you like.
The base of the dish is a onion-tomato masala which is made by cooking fresh onion and tomatoes along with ginger-garlic and green chili.
The spices are then added to the masala along with boiled chickpeas and them simmered until done.
This recipe is pretty basic and straight forward, if you cook Indian food often, then you will most likely will have all these ingredients in your pantry.
Chickpeas: I strongly recommend to start with raw chickpeas. Canned chickpeas are just not the same when it comes to making a good bowl of chana masala.
Onion-tomato: like a lot of Indian dishes, the base of this dish (masala) is also made with onions & tomatoes. There’s also garlic-ginger and green chilies to add to the depth of flavors.
Whole & ground spices: this recipe uses a bunch of spices. Whole spices like bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns make the chana masala so fragrant and the ground spices like coriander, paprika, garam masala add to the flavor of the curry.
Tomato paste: I like using bit of tomato paste to really enhance that tomato flavor. If you don’t have it, you may skip it.
Step by Step Instructions
1- Soak 1 cup raw white chickpeas (200 grams) overnight in 3 cups (24 oz) water. In the morning, drain the water and transfer the soaked chickpeas to a pressure cooker along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 to 2.5 cups (16 oz-20 oz) water. After soaking overnight, the volume of chickpeas increased to 2.5 cups (425 grams)!
Instant Pot: Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes with natural pressure release.
Stove-top pressure cooker: cook on high heat for 2 whistles, them lower heat to medium and cook for additional 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
2- Once pressure cooked, the chickpeas will break easily when pressed between your thumb and index finger.
If using canned chickpeas, you can skip these steps, use 2.5 cups canned chickpeas and directly move to cooking the chana masala in the pot.
3- Using a mortar and pestle, crush the ginger, garlic and green chili. Set it aside.
4- Heat a pot/pan over medium heat on stove-top. Once hot, add the oil and then add the whole spices- bay leaf, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and cumin seeds.
Let the spices sizzle for 30 seconds and become fragrant.
5- Add the finely chopped onion and stir. Cook for 3 minutes until the onions soften. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt here so that onions cook a little faster. Meanwhile puree 2 tomatoes using a blender and set aside.
6- Add the crushed ginger-garlic and green chili. Stir and cook for a minute or two until the raw smell of the ginger-garlic goes away.
7- Add the pureed tomatoes along with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Stir and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring often.
8- Then add the ground spices- coriander powder, cumin powder, paprika, turmeric and garam masala.
9- Cook the spices for 30 seconds. The oil should ooze out of the sides of the masala at this point.
10- Stir in the boiled chickpeas and mix. Also add 2 cups of water and stir. I used the same water in which the chickpeas were boiled. You can add more water here if you prefer more gravy in your chana masala.
Taste test and adjust the salt at this point, I added 1/8 teaspoon more salt here.
11- Cover the pot with a lid, set heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes for the flavors to mix-in.
12- Stir in crushed kasuri methi and chopped cilantro. Garnish with more cilantro and serve Chana Masala hot. You may also squeeze some fresh lemon juice if desired before serving.
The dish goes well with jeera rice or garlic naan.
You can also serve it with plain roti.
Using Canned Chickpeas
You can make this chana masala recipe using canned chickpeas.
Simply skip the steps of soaking and pressure cooking the chickpeas. Use 2.5 cups cooked (canned) chickpeas, around 425 grams.
A 15 oz can of chickpeas typically has 1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas so you would need around 1 and a half of those cans.
Follow all the steps as it is!
Freezing The Dish
Can this freeze well? Yes, chickpeas usually freeze well and this chana masala is no exception.
Let it cool down to room temperature and then store in a freezer safe container or ziplock and freeze. It should be good for up to 2 months.
Tips to Make Good Chana Masala
Here are some of my tips to make a good chana masala at home!
Use raw chickpeas: okay, I know there’s always a rush to have dinner ready and so we tend to use the canned stuff often.
However, if you can plan ahead I highly recommend using raw chickpeas for the recipe and soaking it overnight.
It does make a difference to the final taste of the chana masala. Take it from someone who grew up eating this dish very regularly, the canned version isn’t just the same.
Use fresh ingredients: like using fresh ginger-garlic in place of store bought ginger-garlic paste makes a difference to the final taste.
Simmer for 10-15 minutes on medium-low: once you have added the boiled/cooked chickpeas along with water to the pot, lower the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. This helps the flavors to come together, do not skip this step.
Don’t skip on the kasuri methi & cilantro: Once the dish is ready, don’t forget to add some kasuri methi which are dried fenugreek leaves and impart a wonderful aroma to the dish. Also, a handful of cilantro is must!
Pro-tip: I haven’t done this in the recipe, but to elevate the flavors, you can do that extra-step of frying ginger julienne in ghee and adding it to the chana masala (see notes in the recipe card).
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, it’s usually vegan until and unless one uses butter or ghee in the recipe. This recipe is most definitely vegan.
It will be good for 2 to 3 days. If you want it to last longer, you can freeze it for up to 2 months.
Yes, please refer to the notes in the recipe.
If you don’t like biting into whole spices, put them in a muslin cloth and then add to the pan. That will you will have the aroma of the spices and won’t have to bite into them. Else you can pick them out before eating.
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This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in March 2020.
- 1 cup white chickpeas raw, 200 grams, soaked overnight or use 2.5 cups canned chickpeas
- 3/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt or as needed, divided
- 2.5 cups water to boil the chickpeas, skip if using canned chickpeas
- 1 inch ginger
- 3-4 large garlic cloves
- 1 green chili or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons oil 30 ml, I use avocado oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 whole green cardamoms
- 3 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 7-8 whole black peppercorns
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 large red onion finely chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes pureed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi crushed, dried fenugreek leaves
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Soak 1 cup raw white chickpeas (200 grams) overnight in 3 cups (24 oz) water. In the morning, drain the water and transfer the soaked chickpeas to a pressure cooker along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 to 2.5 cups (16 oz-20 oz) water. After soaking overnight, the volume of chickpeas increased to 2.5 cups (425 grams)!Instant Pot: Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes with natural pressure release.Stove-top pressure cooker: cook on high heat for 2 whistles, them lower heat to medium and cook for additional 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
- Once pressure cooked, the chickpeas will break easily when pressed between your thumb and index finger.If using canned chickpeas, you can skip these steps, use 2.5 cups canned chickpeas and directly move to cooking the chana masala in the pot.
- Using a mortar and pestle, crush the ginger, garlic and green chili. Set it aside.
- Heat a pot/pan over medium heat on stove-top. Once hot, add the oil and then add the whole spices- bay leaf, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and cumin seeds.Let the spices sizzle for 30 seconds and become fragrant.
- Add the finely chopped onion and stir. Cook for 3 minutes until the onions soften. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt here so that onions cook a little faster. Meanwhile puree 2 tomatoes using a blender and set aside.
- Add the crushed ginger-garlic and green chili. Stir and cook for a minute or two until the raw smell of the ginger-garlic goes away.
- Add the pureed tomatoes along with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Stir and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring often.
- Then add the ground spices- coriander powder, cumin powder, paprika, turmeric and garam masala. Cook the spices for 30 seconds. The oil should ooze out of the sides of the masala at this point.
- Stir in the boiled chickpeas and mix. Also add 2 cups of water and stir. I used the same water in which the chickpeas were boiled. You can add more water here if you prefer more gravy in your chana masala.
Taste test and adjust the salt at this point, I added 1/8 teaspoon more salt here.
- Cover the pot with a lid, set heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes for the flavors to mix-in together.
- Stir in crushed kasuri methi and chopped cilantro.
- Garnish with more cilantro and serve Chana Masala with rice or naan! You may also squeeze some fresh lemon juice if desired (see notes).
- You can use a can of diced tomatoes if you don’t have fresh tomatoes. Just cook the tomatoes for 2 minutes only then compared to 5 minutes with fresh pureed tomatoes.
- If you prefer spicy food, add 1/4 teaspoon (or even more) of red chili powder for that extra-kick. You can even increase the green chilies in the recipe.
- I usually squeeze some fresh lemon juice in my chana masala once done, but here the tomatoes that I used were quite tangy so I didn’t feel the need. If your tomatoes aren’t that tangy, squeeze some lemon juice before serving.
- I haven’t done this in the recipe, but to elevate the flavors, you can do that extra-step of frying ginger julienne in ghee and adding it to the chana masala. Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a small pan on medium heat. Once hot, add sliced ginger julienne (from 1-inch ginger) to it. Fry until the ginger julienne starts changing color, then add this to the chana masala. Do remember though that the dish won’t be vegan any longer if you do this extra-step and add ghee.
105 thoughts on “Chana Masala”
This is the first recipe for chana masala I’ve made. It was good. I’ve been enjoying the leftovers the past few days. I will add more of some of the spices the next time, but that’s just my preference.
Thanks for trying!
This was great! 1st time I’ve made an Indian dish at home and very authentic. Used dried chickpeas and canned tomatoes. Simmered this for a few hours on low.
glad you liked it K!
This is a great recipe, and a nee favourite with my family. No pressure cooker, so I put the chick peas, water, and a little salt in my slow cooker in the morning on high. Even from late morning they cook soon enough for supper. And I put the whole spices in the slow cooker. I expect it changes flavours some, but it sure smells good as it cooks.
I’ve tried some other of your recipes too, and they’ve all been lovely.❤️
This is the only recipe you need for Chana masala. There is a decent amount of prep work involved, but it’s all simple tasks.
I did go to the extra trouble of starting with dry chickpeas and I believe it was worth it. I don’t have a pressure cooker so I did some research online and followed a process involving an overnight soak and then 4 hours on high in the crockpot the next day with 6 cups water and 2t kosher salt (I did the whole bag of chickpeas which was ~2 cups or 400g). I’m not sure what the texture of the chickpeas is like using the pressure cooker method but I can tell you the texture was great with the crock pot method. I served this with some lazy rice cooker cumin rice (aka just cook your basmati rice like normal but throw some cumin seeds in there with the rice) and some roti I bought at the Indian store. It was the best Indian meal I’ve ever managed to make at home and better than A comparable meal at an Indian restaurant. Thank you so much for sharing it.
A couple of notes for those who are thinking they want to try this:
First of all don’t omit any of the spices. I put all of the whole spices in a cheesecloth satchel, except the bay leaf which can be fished out easily. I also didn’t put the cumin seeds in the bag because they’re so small and I like to eat them directly in Indian food like Chana masala, cumin rice (jeera rice) etc. I didn’t remove the satchel until the end and I let it cool for a few minutes before giving it a good squeeze over the pot like a tea bag. Got all the flavors without biting into whole cloves and whatnot.
Secondly, if you are thinking of omitting any spices because you don’t have them and you think it’s going to be expensive to buy them, go to an Indian grocery store if there are any near you. They will have all the spices at better prices and in larger quantities. I had to pick up all of the whole spices and it probably cost me less than $15 and now I can make many more recipes with them (including making this one again and again and again…). It is just SO worth purchasing these whole spices. They make such a difference even in small quantities.
Third, use dry chickpeas instead of canned like Manal says. And then definitely use the chickpea cooking liquid (aquafaba) as the liquid you add toward the end of cooking this recipe. I added half water and half aquafaba.
Lastly, look at the pictures she provided for each step, it’s very helpful to understand what the consistency should be like at each point during the cooking process so that you can adjust as needed. For example, I had bigger tomatoes (based on how much purée they made) and after simmering them for 5 minutes the masala was still very loose and full of liquid, so I just kept simmering and reduced it down until it looked like her picture, before I moved onto the next step of adding the ground spices.
Thanks for the lovely feedback!
So good! Full of flavor. I didn’t have fenugreek leaves, so I read online to use curry powder instead. That’s the only change I made. Because the recipe is perfect as is!!!
glad you enjoyed it Ruth!
I just made this and your palak paneer tonight (with some rice). I have some homemade lemon pickles to go with it and I’m starving; it all smells (and tastes) wonderful! thank you.
Welcome! Glad you enjoyed it Diane!
Sooo delicious! I cooked this for my boyfriend the other day and we both loved it. Thank you Manali.
Is it normal to leave the original spices fried in oil, whole?
What if you get a large stick of cinnamon or a whole clove in your mouth
yes it is normal, we do that commonly in India. Just pick out the spices. If you don’t want to bite into them at all or don’t want to pick them up- add all spices in a muslin cloth and add to oil. they will release their aroma this way without being in the chana masala.
This was my favorite dinner for the whole week – and we’ve had some good meals. Loved the flavors and the textures and how everything worked together. Comfort food at its best. We both had seconds & I had to force myself to stop there. Really worth the time it takes – but in the future I’m going to prep everything ahead to cut down a bit. Thinking of prepping (because I just meant chopping & measuring ingredients) is there any reason I couldn’t pre-cook a few batches of the sauce, ending with cooking the tomatoes & tomato paste and store it in batches so it only needs the final steps?
you can definitely make the sauce ahead and freeze it!
Really tasty! My sauce came out a little watery though despite little it simmer for a long time. Is there are tips for getting a thicker sauce. Mine was more like a soup than a curry. Thank you!
mash the chickpeas while the curry simmer, it will thicken a lot as it cools!