Chana Masala Recipe

by katerina on May 3, 2010

Thinking too much about this recipe and it’s merits frustrates me.

When I was young, I was vegetarian and hated curry, which to me meant all Indian food. What a waste. Of all the diets in the world, the Indian culture contains some of the most varied vegetarian recipes.  Hinduism encourages a vegetarian lifestyle, and though it is left up to the individual, many Hindu’s are vegetarian. Today, throughout India and it’s many regional cuisines vegetarian dishes are frequent and varied.

I remember eating many fettucine alfredos in my vegetarian days.  Restaurant menus were always short on options and despite being a pasta addict, I was never enthusiastic about the gluey looking pastas I chowed down on.  Aromatics and spices like ginger, garlic, onions, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cardamom in Indian cooking make every dish taste unique. Mint, cilantro and fresh chilies fleck the dishes with hints of green. So different than those bland, plate-shaped fettucine dishes.

chana masala recipe

Now that I have embraced curry and other Indian flavours I am attempting to make some classic recipes, of which this Chana Masala, or Channa Masala, is one.  Chana, Hindi for chickpea, masala simply translates to chickpeas with a spicy mixture.  While researching this recipe I found the common ingredients to be chickpeas and tomatoes with generous amounts of garlic, ginger, onions, and garam masala.

So I urge you, if you are a vegetarian out there who is hesitant about curries, give this Chana Masala or chickpea curry recipe a try. Make it a feel meal and serve it with some sweet and sour okra. Just don’t use your spouse’s coffee grinder to make garam masala — they hate that.

Print Recipe

Chana Masala

(serves 4)
Adapted from Recipezaar

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder/garam masala
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 15oz can chickpeas
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/2 fresh green chili, minced

In a heavy pot with a lid heat oil to medium and add onions & garlic. Cook, stirring regularly for 5 minutes or so. You want the garlic and onions to actually start to brown.

Turn heat to medium low and add ground cumin, turmeric, cumin seeds, curry powder, coriander, paprika and salt. The spices should become fragrant when they hit the heat. Just don’t stand too close or you risk a sneeze. Stir for 60 seconds, then add the tomato and cook for another 3 minutes stirring regularly. Add chickpeas and water and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. It should be at a gentle simmer.

Add chili and ginger, stir for another 30 seconds and serve.

This recipe keeps well in the fridge and is a great filling for a wrap the next day. Try adding fresh spinach, cilantro and a bit of yougourt to a wrap along with a scoop of Channa Masala.


Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cooking Time: 20 minutes | Total Time:25 minutes
Calories(approximate per serving): 400



{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Happy Cook May 3, 2010 at 7:33 am

If you are a vegetarian India is a place to be, no were in the world you can such variety of vegetarian dishes.
You missed a lot i think in your vegetarina time as you didn’t like curry.
CHickpea is one legume we all love here at home and i make it often. When my daughter was little she used to call chockpea Indian balls :-)
This chickpea dish looks absloutley delicous. Love the picture too.

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blueviolet May 3, 2010 at 9:52 am

I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that you posted this!! I am absolutely nuts about this dish and never thought about making it myself. Now I can!

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m. arthur May 3, 2010 at 9:53 am

Where is the print symbol….no one wants to print all your chatter.

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katerina May 3, 2010 at 9:57 am

Happy Cook – I know! I just love chickpeas though, and always have. I am also working on a Baighan Bhartha recipe, but haven’t been successful yet.

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katerina May 3, 2010 at 10:08 am

Blueviolet – I was surprised how easy it was to make too!

m. arthur – I am currently working on a print function, but don’t have one yet. Don’t forget there is a person behind all that chatter, with feelings. Copy and pasting into a text editor isn’t that much work.

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Katie May 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

I didn’t like curries when I was growing up, either, and it took me a while to try them again as an adult. What was I thinking? Now I LOVE all Indian food. Chana masala is one of my favorite things to order, and it’s about time that I make some myself.

Oh, and I like reading your chatter, and I’m willing to spend 2 seconds copying and pasting a recipe if I want to print it. Just my 2 cents…

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Melanie May 3, 2010 at 11:15 am

What is garam masala?

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Melanie May 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

Also, do I need it for this recipe?
Thanks :)

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katerina May 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Melanie – Garam Masala is also known as curry powder. It is a blend of spices that varies household to household and by region in India. Yes, you will want it for this recipe. You can make it yourself or purchase it at the grocery store. I admit I am lucky and have a family friends who brings us his family’s homemade blend back from Indian (deathly hot though) every year. :)

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Melanie May 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Ok! I’ll check out my grocery store today which has a lot of stuff. When should I add it to the recipe?

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katerina May 3, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Melanie – just follow the recipe and where it says “curry powder” use garam masala. You want to add it with the rest of the spices like cumin and turmeric etc. Good luck!

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tigerfish May 3, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I can’t tell you how much I adore the variation in Indian vegetarian dishes :)

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Nhiro May 4, 2010 at 12:21 am

Curry is one of my favorite foods in the world. I don’t think I’ve met a curry yet that I didn’t love. There’s just something so comforting about it to me.

I’ve only had chana masala once, but I was surprised by how much I liked it considering there was no meat in it. Will hopefully try this recipe soon. Thanks!

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joshua May 4, 2010 at 12:28 am

Melanie – if you can’t find it in your local grocery, you can also buy it online. Amazon.com, just as an example, has numerous options. I’m sure other retailers do too. You can also google ‘garam masala recipe’ to find some options for making your own. It’s all regional, no standard version, but I think all the components are pretty standard fare that you could probably find at the spice aisle of any large chain grocery.

I see that a print option has already been added, but still, that was just rude, m. arthur. ‘Chatter’ is what makes a blog personal and, imo, worth reading. :)

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Simone May 4, 2010 at 6:50 am

What a coincidence! I recently had a photoshoot with this dish and I had no idea what it was called or what the recipe was and then I see your entry on foodgawker! Thanks so much for the recipe. It’s a wonderfully tasty dish!

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monika May 4, 2010 at 7:44 am

I used to be so scared of using spices; it seemed like such a mystery trying to figure out what goes with what. But you’re so right; vegetarian cooking is really great for becoming more adventurous in the kitchen.

This looks fantastic; I’ll certainly be trying it!

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katerina May 4, 2010 at 7:55 am

Nhiro – I know how you feel. I think chickpeas have a meatyness to them. A substance which makes them such a good substitution protein.

joshua – thats a great tip and thanks for the support! My timing for working on my print function was pretty funny.

Simone – A photoshoot! How intriguing.

Monika – you are right it isn’t just Indian cooking but vegetarian cooking which can make one more adventurous.

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turtle66 May 5, 2010 at 11:16 pm

This is making me Hungry!! and i just ate…lol

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heather May 22, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I made this last week, it was so good! I wrapped the leftovers in Lebanese bread for lunch the next day. Yum, thanks for the great recipe!

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katerina May 25, 2010 at 10:53 am

heather – So glad you enjoyed it, I loved it as leftovers, Lebanese bread sounds good.

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Anne May 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Thank you. I like this recipe. Your channa masala recipe is delicious. I will try it on Holiday.

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Denise @ Creative Kitchen June 1, 2010 at 8:48 am

What a great recipe…I can’t wait to try it! My husband loves chick peas. We haven’t tried Indian food yet due to misconceptions and/or lack of knowledge…so exciting to delve into food areas. Thanks for sharing!!

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indosungod June 1, 2010 at 11:06 am

Katerina,
I am so glad you have finally hit upon Indian recipes and its varied vegetarian recipes that work for you. It is indeed a treasure trove for anybody wanting variety in their vegetarian food.

I just want to point out one small misinformation regarding Hindus and vegetarianism. Majority of Hindus are not vegetarians and vegetarianism is not a prerequisite for being a Hindu. In literature there is instances of meat being offered to Hindu Gods and it is only recently that the Gods have all been made vegetarian.

But it is true though that most Indians would not eat meat every single day. It is more like a once a week kind of affair.

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katerina June 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

Denise – I LOVE chickpeas too, let me know if you try it!

indosungod – sorry if you got that impression. I said “encourages”, so “many” Hindus are vegetarian. But thanks for the clarification!

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kaylee August 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I noticed you forgot to mention the coriander in the recipe (but I will assume it goes in with the other spices :) )

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katerina August 17, 2010 at 9:21 am

kaylee – you are right! It goes in with the rest of the spices, I will update it.

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Buttermilk October 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Just made this–delicious! I did things slightly out of order than this recipe, per my usual Indian cooking routine, and it turned out fine. I heated the cumin seeds (and added mustard seeds) first until they popped, then the onions and garlic until browned. Minor change, still tasty.

Thanks, Katerina!

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Erika December 16, 2010 at 5:08 am

WOW! Great recipe and a great introduction to Indian food. Thanks again for another keeper…

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Rebells January 31, 2011 at 6:53 pm

That was simple and fantastic!!!…Just had it…wow…i always lookout for recipes that can be made quickly…a bachelor staying away from home always wants to spend less time in kitchen :)
I like it to be on a bit more spicy side so made some minor changes…added bay leaf, whole black pepper, clove and Cardamom before adding onions & garlic….and of course coriander for garnishing…served with chapti…

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katerina February 1, 2011 at 6:50 am

Erika – Thanks!

Rebells – so glad you enjoyed it! Great to know how to make it more spicy, I admit I have some extremely potent curry powder myself.

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sowms March 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Tried this recipe for a potluck and everyone enjoyed it! Thanks, definitely a keeper!

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Christa March 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm

This looks gorgeous. I cook for some vegetarians and want to round this out. I think it will be nice with some brown rice? Plus, some fresh cilantro…?
M. Arthur, that comment was outrageously rude. Someone has taken the time to create a site, share recipes, tips and photos, yours for the reading and using. And you toss a nasty comment in because you didn’t think to copy into a document? Goodness.

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katerina March 25, 2011 at 5:41 pm

sowns – I love hearing success stories, thanks!

Christa – Brown rice, fresh cilantro. Maybe some fresh naan bread?

(Thanks for coming to my defense)

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Corey Haines March 26, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Just made this recipe, thanks for posting it. Nice and easy. Looking forward to experimenting a bit with the spices. Here’s a picture of it in the bowl, ready to be eaten!
http://twitpic.com/4dm6rl

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Divya June 2, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Hi! I’m Indian and yet I have never tried the Chana masala… Have always cooked most “Sabzis” or gravy on the basis of trial and error…. Have a whole packet of garbanzo waiting to be cooked. This seems super interesting. Although I have a question… Is this as hot as the original Indian recipe or have you altered spice levels?

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katerina June 3, 2011 at 8:43 am

Corey – that looks great!

Divya – I am not sure I know what the correct levels are for the true Indian recipe as I have only ever eaten it at North American restaurants. I did not tone it down from that level.

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kelly June 28, 2011 at 11:45 am

in this recipe it doesnt say we need garam masala , but in the comments below u said we do i want to make this but i can’t find garam masala anywhere ;(

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katerina June 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Kelly – sorry, garam masala and curry powder are frequently labelled the same in the grocery store. I will update the recipe to be more clear. can you find curry powder?

You can also google recipes for garam masala, there are thousands. Typically they include cumin, coriander, turmeric etc.

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Megan July 3, 2011 at 9:51 am

A great vegetarian standby for when the cupboard is bare. Tasted great–thank you!

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veg-girl96 July 26, 2011 at 10:12 am

I didn’t see tomatoes or tomato paste in your list of ingredients, yet you mention adding it in the directions…how much should I add??

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katerina July 26, 2011 at 10:38 am

veg-girl -> It actually says one tomato in the list of ingredients, I think you just missed it!

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Megan August 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I just made this and it was very wet and soupy. It was also very fragrant but didn’t have much of taste. Yours looks lovely though!

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katerina September 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm

@Megan, I am sorry to hear that! Maybe try simmering without the lid for a few minutes if it is too wet? Maybe your tomato was much bigger than mine. I used a roma tomato

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Ellen Hougland September 25, 2011 at 6:32 am

I just made this recipe. It is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your recipes and your thoughts about cooking. It is not chatter. It is a window into the reasons why you love to cook! Have a wonderful day. Ellen

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katerina September 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm

@Ellen, so glad you enjoyed it. It is a window into why I love to cook. :)

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Chris December 29, 2011 at 11:53 am

This is a good recipe but I always find it helps if you had 2 tins of chickpeas, also mash one of them. :)

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katerina December 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

interesting idea, thanks Chris!

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JanetAZ October 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Thanks for posting. I made this last weekend and added some frozen chopped spinach. It was quite tasty. I liked your idea of making the leftovers into a wrap – and so did my son. I had to find this again to save it off so I can make it often. I will try more of your recipes as well.

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VioletHeaven January 13, 2013 at 6:26 am

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS! I have always loved curries and most Indian food. So as I was making the base/sauce for my palak paneer I noticed that the spinach I had asked my brother to wash was bad. I freaked out and googled all the ingredients I had already used to see if I could rectify the dinner. Well my palak paneer recipe is simular to this and so I added a can of chickpeas and saved the dish!
The next day, I smashed the leftovers and used it as a sort of humus in a naan veggie wrap for lunch. I split it with a co worker and she was in love with it.
I just found my go to INSPIRATION recipe blog.
Thank you.

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katerina January 14, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Awesome, thanks for the feedback! I love this dish too, and it is in some ways even better the next day.

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Laurie June 3, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Hi, I’ve made this recipe many, many times. We love to serve it with BBQ chicken and rice. My recipe varies very slightly; I use a 19oz can chickpeas, 1/2 cup chicken bouillion, 2 tbsp ketchup, 1 tbsp hot sauce (we like it spicy) instead of a chopped tomato, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 fresh minced green chili. Thank you for the lovely recipes.

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katerina June 3, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I like mine spicy too :) Do you make it ahead? I find chickpeas pick up the flavour best if you make this a bit ahead.

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Anthony Galasso January 23, 2014 at 12:21 am

This is such a delicious dish – perfect for my (mostly) vegetarian wife who absolutely adores a good curry dish. I must confess, however, that I had no tomatoes in the house when I made this. Therefore, I made a substitution: 1/2 cup of very mild salsa. WOW what a difference. When I tasted the dish it still tasted of a very mild Indian curry that I am used to and the flavor was tremendous. I LOVED how the spices bloomed in the heat – like freshly cut flowers or Indian potpourri. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

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katerina January 26, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Salsa, neat idea!

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Heartfulness March 19, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Healthy food = Healthy mind!

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