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This easy chana masala recipe is naturally vegan, gluten-free, wholesome, and delicious. Learn how to make the best chana masala in the comfort of your own home in less than an hour. I’m sure it’ll become one of your favorite vegetarian/vegan weeknight meals.
Why We Love This Homemade Chana Masala Recipe
It’s easy and requires less than 10 minutes of prep time. For this chana masala, we’re using canned chickpeas for minimal work with uncompromised flavor.
We’ve divided the spices into optional and obligatory ones, making this recipe accessible. The optional whole and ground spices add more depths of flavor, but may not be lying around in your pantry. Yet, you can still make a delicious chana masala with pantry staples.
You can choose between a luscious creamy texture by blending the masala sauce, keeping it chunky or blending it into a coarse sauce if you prefer. I like to switch it up depending on my guests (kids are more likely to enjoy the creamy version because they can’t see the onions!)
It’s super delicious, healthy, and satisfying at the same time. My definition of the perfect meal. Pair it with freshly made naan and coconut rice for an Indian feast (that’s seamlessly vegetarian).
Lastly, it can be saved for later. You can keep chickpea curry in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months, but the texture may differ slightly when thawed. To defrost, let it thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
What Is Chana Masala Made Of?
The main ingredients in chana masala are chickpeas, tomatoes, and onions, but what makes it so delicious is the abundance of fragrant spices. Here is the full list of ingredients you’ll need for this easy chana masala recipe:
- 2 – 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups water or more (for the sauce)
- 2 Tbsp. neutral oil (or more as needed)
- Optional, but recommended whole spices: 1 bay leaf, 1 inch of cinnamon, 2 cloves, and 1 green chili, slit or chopped
- 1 ½ cups golden onions, finely chopped (about 2 large onions)
- ½ Tbsp. each of finely minced ginger and garlic (or 1 Tbsp. ginger garlic paste)
- 1 ½ cups tomatoes, finely chopped (or 1 ½ cups diced can tomatoes)
- ¾ tsp. salt (or more to taste)
- ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. brown sugar or palm sugar (to counter the acidity of the tomatoes)
- 1 ½ tsp. Kashmiri red chili powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 tsp. garam masala (adjust to taste)
- 2 tsp. coriander powder
- Optional, but recommended powdered spices: ½ tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), and ¼ tsp. amchur (dried mango powder)
- To garnish: 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)
How To Make Chana Masala
Step 1: Sauté the whole spices, onion, and garlic ginger paste
Heat the oil in a large pot until hot. Add the whole spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, and bay leaf and sauté until fragrant (for 1-2 minutes).
Now, add the diced onion and sauté until soft and lightly golden. Then incorporate the ginger garlic paste and cook for a minute, while stirring constantly to avoid burning.
Step 2: Make the chana masala sauce
Add the diced fresh or canned tomatoes to the pan and cook until mushy and thick. Stir in the red chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, coriander powder, and cumin powder. Saute until fragrant (for about 3 to 4 minutes).
Step 3: Blend the sauce (optional)
If you want to make a smooth curry, discard the bay leaf and cinnamon, let the sauce cool, and blend it in a blender until desired consistency. Then add the gravy back to the pan. Or you can skip this step and make a chunky chana masala.
Step 4: Add the chickpeas and cook to perfection
Once your gravy is ready (and blended if desired) add the drained and rinsed chickpeas to the sauce along with 1 ½ cups water. Mix well and add salt as needed. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes to thicken the curry.
When the masala has thickened, add optional dried mango powder and dried fenugreek leaves. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander and serve with coconut rice and butter naan.
Step 5: Enjoy your easy chana masala!
Notes & Tips
- If using canned diced tomatoes, you may need to balance out the acidity. Either add more spices, sugar, or some coconut milk. I love how chana masala tastes with coconut milk.
- The ginger and garlic paste can be substituted for 1 tablespoon of only ginger or only garlic if you’d like. I know some people aren’t fans of ginger.
- Don’t forget to discard the bay leaf and cinnamon (if you used them) before blending the sauce. Otherwise, you could break your blender. We’ve got a list of good-quality blenders for you to check out.
- Use a good quality garam masala powder. Finding a good garam masala is not the easiest task, but you can substitute it with spices you may already have in your pantry. Check out our detailed article on the Best Substitutes For Garam Masala.
- If you want to substitute fenugreek leaves, there are many options. We have a full article on the best fenugreek substitutes for your reference. We’re sure you’ll have a few of them in your pantry.
- You can make this recipe with dried chickpeas too. In this case, you’ll need 1 cup of dried chickpeas soaked overnight. Cook them in a pressure cooker for 5 to 6 whistles or in an instant pot on high pressure for 18 minutes. Use 1 ¼ cup of chickpea water and an additional ¾ cup of filtered water to make the best chana masala.
What To Serve Chana Masala With
I love serving this vegan chickpea curry with coconut rice and naan bread. To make coconut rice, simply prepare rice according to package instructions, but substitute a third of the water with coconut milk.
Basmati rice is a wonderful classic side as well. If your rice is mushy, check out this article on how to fix mushy rice in a rice or pressure cooker.
Chana masala and rice make a full meal on its own, but you can also accompany it with raita, a fresh salad, and even other Indian curries. I’m certainly a fan of Indian food and love making a feast to share with my loved ones.
To make a real Indian feast, serve chana masala with other dishes like this simple Gongura paneer, or this creamy and rich potato milk korma. If you want to keep it vegan, try this spicy and tangy pappu charu recipe.
- 2 – 15 oz. cans of chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 Tbsp. neutral oil
- Optional whole spices: 1 bay leaf, 1 inch of cinnamon, 2 cloves, and 1 chopped green chili
- 1 ½ cups onions finely chopped
- Tbsp. ginger garlic paste
- 1 ½ cups diced fresh or canned tomatoes
- ¾ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp. Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 tsp. garam masala
- 2 tsp. coriander powder
- Optional powdered spices: ½ tsp. cumin 1 tsp. dried fenugreek leaves, and ¼ tsp. dried mango powder
- To garnish: 2 Tbsp. freshly cilantro chopped
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- Heat the oil in a large pot until hot. Add the whole spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, and bay leaf and sauté until fragrant (for 1-2 minutes).
- Add the onion and sauté until lightly golden. Then add the ginger garlic paste and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the diced fresh or canned tomatoes to the pan and cook until mushy and thick. Stir in the red chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, and sugar. Sauté until fragrant (for about 3 to 4 minutes).
- Optional step: Discard the bay leaf and cinnamon, let the sauce cool and blend it until desired consistency. Then add the gravy back to the pan.
- Once your gravy is ready, add the chickpeas to the sauce along with 1 ½ cups water. Mix well, taste, and season with salt. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Once thickened, add optional dried mango powder and dried fenugreek leaves.
- Garnish with freshly chopped coriander and serve with coconut rice and naan.