You can make restaurant style spicy and tangy chana masala or Indian style chickpea curry at home with this easy recipe. Chana masala is naturally vegan and a healthy vegetarian dish that goes excellently with rice and Indian breads.
One of the best known Indian vegetarian curries and a personal favorite is chana masala or choley masala. This protein-rich, healthy vegetarian curry is so delicious, I promise you it will be a regular fixture in your meal rotation.
To make restaurant style chana masala, we use kabuli chana or white chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. While a couple of cans of cooked beans will make your job easier, it is always best and economical to buy the dried beans in bulk and boil them yourself. An overnight soak in water and a good rinse later, the chickpeas are boiled in water till they are super soft yet able to hold their shape. The perfect consistency is when you can easily mash a chickpea between your fingers, but the chickpeas should not have burst and disintegrated into the cooking liquid. A long soak makes it easier to cook them, so plan accordingly.
The secret to good chana masala is very simple. Perfectly cooked chickpeas, bhuna masala and some TLC! What is bhuna masala, you ask? It refers to the Indian method of sautéing onions, ginger, garlic, chilies and spices in oil till they are soft, perfectly caramelized and well blended together. Chana masala needs a good amount of tomatoes that are also cooked down to form the perfect smooth base for your chickpea curry. Patience is key here because you do not want to bite into uncooked pulpy tomatoes. Even though traditional Indian curries do not use roux or other thickening agents, it comes out absolutely smooth and delicious.
But that doesn’t mean that there are no shortcuts for those busy weeknights. One trick that I often use is to use my favorite pasta sauce (tomato based, of course) to the sautéed onions and spices. This drastically cuts down the cooking time because I don’t need to cook it as much as I would have to do with raw tomatoes. I will be noting this sneaky tip in the recipe card below if you want to try it out.
I can eat a bowlful of chana masala just on its own. A sprinkling of sliced onions and a dash of lemon juice and I’m all set. Choley masala or chana masala goes incredibly well with any sort of Indian rice or flatbreads. Serve it with plain rice, pulao, roti, naan, chapatis or the best combination of all – chana masala and pooris (deep-fried puffed whole-wheat breads).
I made a quick peas pulao this time and you can follow this recipe for jeera rice if you want to try it. Just add a small handful of green peas along with the rice and cook as mentioned in the recipe. Once done, fluff with a fork and the fragrant peas pulao is done in no time. Add a generous helping of the chana masala and it makes for a healthy, colorful and easy Indian style curry bowl. Meals in bowls seem to be the rage nowadays and whoever said that you cannot put together a traditional Indian bowl?!!
Chana curry is spicy, tangy, comforting, healthy and naturally vegan as well! What more do you need?! Read on for the easy vegan curry recipe.
Here’s how you make restaurant style chana masala or vegan Indian chickpea curry at home.
- Oil - 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - 1 tsp, lightly crushed
- Onion - 1 large, finely chopped
- Ginger and garlic paste - 1 tbsp
- Green chilies - 2-3, chopped
- Ripe tomatoes - 2, large, thinly sliced into half-moons
- Tomato paste - 1 tbsp
- Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
- Red chili powder - 1-2 tsp (as per spice level desired)
- Garam masala powder - 2 tsp
- Coriander powder - ½ tsp
- Aamchur powder - ½ tsp (see Notes)
- Chickpeas - 3 cups, cooked (see Notes)
- Salt - to taste
- Cilantro leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped
- Heat oil in a deep pan. Add cumin seeds and allow them to crackle.
- Add onions and sauté till they are golden brown. Add ginger-garlic paste and green chilies and sauté till the raw smell is gone.
- Now add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook till the tomatoes are mushy and you see oil starting to separate at the sides.
- Add turmeric, red chili, garam masala, coriander and aamchur powders. Mix well.
- Add the cooked chickpeas and 2 cups of water (or chickpeas cooking liquid). Add salt to taste.
- Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 5 minutes. Then reduce heat and cook further till gravy is thickened to your liking, stirring once in a while. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mash some of the chickpeas with the ladle to further thicken the masala.
- Stir in chopped cilantro. Keep covered till ready to serve. Serve chana masala warm with rice or flatbreads.
Soak 1 heaped cup of dried chickpeas overnight in a generous amount of water. Just before cooking, drain and rinse them well under running water. Cook the drained chickpeas in a large pan adding 2-3 cups of water and ½ tsp salt till they are very soft. In a traditional pressure cooker, cook for 3-4 whistles and allow the steam to release naturally before opening the lid.
2. If you do not have dried chickpeas, use two 14-oz cans of cooked chickpeas instead.
3. If you are in a hurry, use ½-3/4 cup of thick tomato-based pasta sauce instead of the sliced tomatoes and tomato paste. Adjust salt accordingly if the pasta sauce is already salted.
4. Aamchur powder or dried mango powder is used in several Indian dishes to add a tangy flavor. You can replace it with a generous squeeze of lemon juice towards the end.
5. The prep and cook times mentioned in the recipe does not reflect the soaking and prep time for chickpeas. Chickpeas can be soaked, cooked and refrigerated a day in advance.
Enjoy this finger-licking delicious chana masala with a mild pulao, rotis or pooris.
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Do you like chana masala? Do you have a favorite recipe? Do try this chana masala recipe and let me know how you like it.
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