This chana masala recipe is a spicy chickpea mixture in an onion-tomato sauce. Serve it with chapati, roti, naan or rice. This deliciously spicy Indian dish is simple to prepare both on your stovetop or in your pressure cooker!
What is Chana Masala?
Chana Masala is a popular dish originating out of India and Pakistan. Recipes for it vary by region. Some recipes will cook the tomatoes down until they are a tomato puree and other recipes like a nice chunky tomato. I happen to like it both ways!
This Chana Masala recipe is a gluten-free and vegetarian dish that is high in protein and fiber and can be thrown together pretty quickly!
Stovetop or Pressure Cooker?
I have made this chana masala recipe on the stove and I have made it on my Instant Pot. There is very little difference in the cook times (actually - the Instant Pot may take a little longer, since you have to wait for it to come to pressure).
Canned Chickpeas or Dried?
I guess if you really want to, you could buy dried chickpeas and soak them for hours before adding them to the pot. But few of us have time for that, especially with canned beans being just about as cheap as dried beans. But if you want to try a recipe using dried chickpeas, this one looks pretty good!
What kind of tomatoes should I use?
I am a big fan of a "saucy" Chana Masala recipe, so I like using crushed tomatoes or even just tomato puree.
But there are also times when I want is a little more "chunky" and dry (usually if I know that I am going to use leftovers in wraps or sandwiches). In those cases, I will use half crushed tomatoes and half diced tomatoes - it's really up to you! See what mixture of tomatoes gives you your desired consistency.
If you prefer using fresh tomatoes, make sure to blanch them first to remove the skins and then dice them, removing seeds first.
Why make the ginger garlic paste?
Well - first, because it's more authentic! That explanation not good enough for you? Ok.
By using a mortar & pestle, the flavors start to release and meld in a way that it won't if you just dump everything in your pan individually. If you don't have a mortar & pestle, you can always use a bowl and the back of a spoon!
I always use fresh garlic (with a garlic press) and fresh ginger (with a microplane). Even if you use the jarred version, crush 'em together!
Controlling the spice level
I used a serrano pepper because I like spicy, but I know that not everyone has an asbestos tongue like me! I also know some people like it more spicy!
Make it less spicy:
- substitute a jalapeno pepper for the serrano pepper (make sure to remove all the seeds). for an extra-mild flavor, use a can of chopped green chilies.
- add coconut milk at the end: this will make for a creamier chana masala recipe but will also help to cut the spiciness. Just be aware that this may also dilute some of the flavors. Consider adding up to an extra teaspoon garam masala if you use coconut milk. Like all cooking, it's a matter of taste!
Make it more spicy:
- add a pinch of red chili powder - JUST A PINCH to start!
- serrano peppers are considered "medium heat" peppers. Use (sparingly) a hotter pepper like habaneros or Thai chili peppers.
How to serve chana masala
Serve over basmati rice or brown rice. You can also serve it with naan bread, chapati or roti. For a low-carbohydrates version, serve it with riced cauliflower
Storing and reheating leftovers
Store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
If you made a chana masala recipe that is "saucy", you can reheat it on the stove on low heat until heated through. You can also reheat in the microwave at 50% power for about 3 minutes, stirring after each minute.
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For the Chana Masala
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 small serrano pepper minced (ribs and seeds removed)
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil, grapeseed oil or ghee
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (or 3/4 tsp ground cumin)
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 2 tsp garam masala spice blend
- 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas) rinsed and drained (14 oz cans)
- 1/2 tsp salt to taste (optional)
- fresh cilantro
- basmati rice or naan
Make the Ginger-Garlic Paste
- Place the garlic, ginger, lemon juice and serrano pepper in a mortar & pestle or mini food processer and blend until it makes a paste.
- Remove the ginger-garlic paste and set aside
Make the Chana Masala - Stovetop
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven or heavy saucepan
- Add cumin and mustard seeds. Cook for about 15 seconds (they will jump around in the pan)
- Add the onion and stir.
- Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic, ginger-garlic paste, garam masala, coriander and turmeric
- Cook for about 45 seconds, until fragrant
- Pour the crushed tomatoes in the pan and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chickpeas and stir.
- Bring mixture to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and cover the pot loosely with a lid, allowing some steam to escape.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid has reduced a bit and the flavors have come together.
Make the Chana Masala - Instant Pot
- Set your Instant Pot to Saute setting
- Heat oil in the pot. Add cumin and mustard seeds. Cook for about 15 seconds (they will jump around in the pot)
- Add the onion and stir. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic, ginger-garlic paste, garam masala, coriander and turmeric. Cook for about 45 seconds, until fragrant
- Pour the crushed tomatoes in the pot and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chickpeas and stir.
- Attach the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is in the sealing position). Set the pressure level to "Normal" for 15 minutes.
- When the timer had finished, release the pressure using the quick release method.
- When the pressure has been released, remove the lid and stir the chana masala
- serve with rice (basmati is best) or naan
- Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and a lemon or lime wedge (optional)
- for a creamier Chana Masala: add 1 can (15 oz) unsweetened coconut milk. This can also help to cut the spice level. (if cooking in an Instant Pot, add the coconut milk after pressure cooking. Remove the lid, set the Instant Pot to Saute and add the milk. Cook and stir until heated through)
- for a chunkier Chana Masala: use half crushed tomatoes and half diced tomatoes (14.5 oz cans each)