Chana masala is a delicious Indian dish with chickpeas cooked in a spicy tomato sauce filled with aromatic spices. This chickpea masala utilizes mostly pantry staples for a high protein, vegan, flavorful dinner.
Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines because it packs so much flavor in every dish. Chana masala is a staple dish and so popular because it’s high in protein, vegan, and so easy to make.
It is the spices that make Indian dishes so flavorful. Luckily, we have a great Indian market nearby where I get my spices. I highly recommend searching your area for one. The spices I used are: garam masala, cumin, ground cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, and kashmiri (Indian chili powder). If you can’t find kashmiri, substitute ¼ tsp paprika and ¼ tsp cayenne.
Along with the spices, Indian recipes rely on aromatics to flavor the dish. I used fresh garlic, ginger, and serrano peppers. This dish is made to be spicy and everyone has different heat tolerances. I used two serrano peppers, you can use one for less heat.
Using a microplane, I grated the ginger and garlic. Then using a motar and pestle I ground the serrano peppers into a paste to combine all of the ingredients. You may also use a food processor, but depending on the size, it may not make a paste as well.
Onions and patience
The first step in making this chana masala dish, is cooking the onions. Raw onion can be overpowering, so we want to cook the onions down. I sautéd the onions for 15 minutes until golden brown. Trust me, the flavor is worth the wait time!
Building the masala sauce
After cooking down the onions for 15 minutes, you will next add in the ginger/garlic/serrano paste. Sauté this until fragrant then add in the spices. Stir the spices so they coat all the ingredients. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan, this will help the spices from sticking to the pan.
In my other tomato based dishes, I have spoken about my love of fired roasted tomatoes. The fire roasted gives dishes an extra depth of flavor, elevating the final product. Crushed tomatoes are a mixture of diced and tomato puree. This gives you the perfect texture of saucy with pieces of tomato.
Finishing the sauce
Add in the fire roasted tomatoes, 1 tbsp roughly chopped cilantro, and stir to combine the sauce. Next I added in canned chickpeas, which I drained and rinsed prior. If using dry chickpeas, soak them the night before cooking the dish in water. Stir the chickpeas into the sauce and allow it to come to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
The 30 minute cook time allows all the flavors to meld together and infuse into the chickpeas. This is a vital step to insuring you have an incredibly flavorful chana masala. Once the 30 minutes is up, stir, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
While the chickpeas simmer in the sauce, I cooked some basmati rice to serve with the masala. If you don’t have basmati rice, you can substitute a white long grain rice.
Once the chickpeas and rice are done, spoon rice into a bowl and add the chana masala. Garnish with additional fresh cilantro. Best part? The leftovers are even more flavorful the next day!
High protein, vegan, and packed with flavor, I hope you enjoy this amazing chana masala dish.
Looking for similar dishes?
- 30 ounces canned chickpeas drained and rinsed (2 cans)
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 1 inch fresh ginger grated
- 2 serrano peppers sliced [see note #2]
- 1 medium yellow onion diced (2 cups)
- 3 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon kashmiri chili powder see note #3
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 28 ounces crushed fire roasted tomatoes (1 can)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro + more cilantro for serving
- Serve with basmati rice
- In a motar and pestle, add in the garlic, ginger, and serrano peppers. Grind into a paste and set aside. [see note #1]
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tbsp oil and 2 cups of diced onions. Sauté for 15 minutes until onions have slightly caramelized.
- Add in the garlic, ginger, serrano pepper paste and stir to combine. Sauté for a minute until fragrant. Next add in all of the spices: garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, kashmiri and kosher salt. Mix until the ingredients are coated in the spices. Add 1 tbsp of water to assist the spices distribute. Carefully pour in the crushed fire roasted tomatoes, chickpeas, and 1 tbsp chopped cilantro. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to come to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, cook the basmati rice according to package instruction.
- After the sauce has finished simmering for 30 minutes, stir, taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
- If you do not have a motar and pestle, you can use a food processor.
- This dish is meant to be spicy, use 1 serrano pepper if you want less spicy
- If you do not have kashmiri chili powder, substitute ¼ tsp paprika and ¼ tsp cayenne
- Leftovers can be kept in refrigerator for up to 4 days
- Sauce can be frozen and kept for a month.
Looks like you really need double the amount of tomato – The picture shows a can twice as large as the one the recipe calls for. I made it, and wound up adding an extra can of tomatoes to get the correct consistency.
Thanks for catching that! The photo is correct, I changed the recipe card to reflect that.