Chana Masala Easy (1)
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  • Food: Chana Masala
  • Writer: Nicolas Wilson
  • Content-Type: Food Blog

One of my favorite Indian restaurant menu items is chana masala. It’s a comforting, saucy chickpea and tomato meal.

I’m sure you already have the components for this simple homemade version in your pantry!

I originally shared this dish in 2014, and I wanted to bring it up again now that we’re all spending more time at home. I relished the fragrant 20 minutes I spent over the stove preparing this dish.

You’ll need onion, ginger, garlic, and other healthy spices including coriander, cumin, and turmeric to make this chana masala.

The classic spice mix for chana masala is garam masala, but if you don’t have any on hand, there are substitutes listed below.

I’d like to start preparing Indian dishes on a more regular basis. Which one do you think we should see next? Check out my healthy pantry recipes list for more pantry-friendly meals.

This Quick & Easy Method vs. Authentic Chana Masala

Chana Masala (1)
Food: Chana Masala (Source: Holy Cow Vegan)

When I came across a recipe for quick and easy chana masala in Angela Liddon’s guidebook, The Oh She Glows Cookbook, I was overjoyed (affiliate link).

Angela’s ingredients and cooking procedure have been tweaked somewhat. Let me be the first to say that this dish is a little out of the ordinary!

Whole spices and dried mango powder are used to make authentic chana masala (amchur). This recipe calls for ground spices, which will be cooked in oil to bring out their full flavor.

We’ll use a wedge of lemon instead of dried mango powder to add some tartness to the dish.

Options for Canned Tomatoes

In this dish, I like to use crushed fire-roasted tomatoes because they provide a quick way to get a rich, long-simmered taste. Don’t worry if you don’t have them.

You can alternatively use whole canned tomatoes (with liquids) and crush them with a firm spoon against the pot’s side as they simmer. Alternatively, diced tomatoes can be used to achieve a chunkier result (you could blitz them a few times in a food processor or blender beforehand, to achieve crushed tomatoes).

Spices to Try

In chana masalas, garam masala is traditionally used. In English, garam masala roughly translates to “hot spice combination.”

Coriander, cumin, cardamom (green and black), cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and other spices vary by area and personal choice. There are no two masalas alike.

If you don’t have garam masala and don’t want to go to the store, here are some creative alternatives. I am confident that tikka masala is delicious (tikka masala has brighter notes of chili powder and paprika).

You could also use a teaspoon of yellow curry powder—it won’t taste the same, but it’ll do the trick! If you don’t have any of those, you can probably just leave out the spice blend and add a pinch of ground clove and cardamom to the saucepan instead.

Chana Masala

15-minute prep time

Time to cook: 20 minutes

35-minute total time

Served with basmati rice, this chana masala recipe is quick and uncomplicated. This vegan and gluten-free Indian meal made with chickpeas are spicy and hearty.

It also produces fantastic leftovers! Because the recipe proceeds rapidly, make sure to prepare the ingredients ahead of time. This recipe makes 4 bowls.


  • 1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice, for serving (rice is optional, I like to cook extra to have on hand for other meals)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium serrano or jalapeño pepper, minced (remove ribs and seeds to tame the spice level)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (about a 1-inch piece)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional!*)
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) of chickpeas (or 3 cups cooked chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)


Chana Masala Yum (1)
Food: Chana Masala (Source: Holy Cow Vegan)
  1. Cook the rice (if serving the chana masala with rice): Rinse the rice in a fine-mesh colander after bringing a big pot of water to a boil on the stove. Pour in the rice and stir once it has reached a boil. Cook the rice for 30 minutes, then remove it from the heat and drain it. Cover the pot and return the rice to it. Allow 10 minutes for the rice to steam. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork, seasoning to taste with sea salt.
  2. Prepare the chana masala as follows: Warm the oil in a medium Dutch oven or big saucepan over medium-low heat. Combine the onion, serrano, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and transparent.
  3. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the garlic and ginger are aromatic. Then, cook for another minute, stirring constantly, after adding the garam masala, coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt, and cayenne (if using).
  4. Toss in the tomatoes, along with their juices. If using whole tomatoes, split them apart with the back of a wooden spoon (you can leave some chunks of tomato for texture).
  5. Add the chickpeas and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce to low heat. Cook for 10 minutes or longer, decreasing the heat as needed to maintain a moderate simmer, to enable the flavors to emerge. If desired, season with more salt to taste. Add another pinch of cayenne if it’s not hot enough for you.
  6. If desired, serve over basmati rice with a lemon slice or two and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves.


  • MODERATE THE HEAT: While chana masala is naturally spicy, the serrano (or jalapeno) and cayenne pepper add a kick. Reduce or eliminate them both if you’re sensitive. If you want extra cayenne pepper, add a pinch at the end of the cooking process.
  • SPICE BLEND NOTE: Garam masala is a typical Indian spice blend. If you don’t have it and don’t want to make another trip to the shop, you could use tikka masala or even 1 teaspoon of yellow curry powder. What if you don’t have any of those? I think a pinch of clove and cardamom, or maybe nothing at all, will provide a pleasant taste to this dish.
  • STORAGE SUGGESTIONS: This is a terrific meal for leftovers! To get the finest results, store the rice, chana masala, and garnishes separately. Warm the rice with the chana masala, then serve with fresh lemon wedges and cilantro on top. Leftovers should last up to 5 days in the refrigerator. You should be able to freeze the chana masala and rice separately for later use.
  • CHANGE IT UP: I think this would be fantastic with a liberal splash of coconut milk for some richness, though it’s not typical (it would also mellow the spices somewhat).