Chana Masala

Chana Masala

Chana Masala is one of my favorite dishes. When I was a child, my mother always cooked a special meal on Sundays. It was almost always either chana masala or rajma, and I was equally happy to see either one on the table. Chana masala is excellent served hot, cold, or at room temperature. It tastes spicy and velvety, with a sharp sour bite at the end.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients intimidate you. Most Indian dishes require a blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne, and if you cook Indian food often, you’ll find it useful to make your own garam masala. For this recipe in particular, it is important to practice your mise en place, because you’ll need to add some of the ingredients in quick succession, while stirring continuously the entire time.


  • 2 large yellow onions, minced
  • 2½ tsp salt
  • 2 serrano peppers, minced (for less heat in the finished dish, use just one pepper, or even remove the seeds and white pith in the pepper)
  • 1 tbsp peeled and very finely grated fresh ginger
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice (avoid the stuff in bottles, it imparts an odd flavor to the dish)
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 15oz cans of chickpeas (may be labelled as garbanzo beans)
  • 1¾ cups of water
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp tamarind paste


  1. Put 2 tablespoons of the minced onions, ½ teaspoon of the salt, the serrano peppers, ginger, and lemon juice into a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Add the oil to a heavy, wide pot and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the remaining onions. Stir and fry for 8-10 minutes until the onion bits develop reddish-brown spots. It’s important to keep the temperature high as you fry the onions, and you should stir continuously with a rubber spatula to keep the onions moving and prevent them from burning.
  3. Add the tomatoes. Continue to stir and fry for another 5-6 minutes, mashing the tomato pieces with the back of a slotted spoon.
  4. Add the coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds.
  5. Drain the chickpeas and add them to the pot with 1¾ cups of water, the tomato paste, the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt, the garam masala, cayenne, and tamarind paste, if using. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.
  6. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook gently for 20 minutes. Stir a few times during this period and mash some of the chickpeas with the back of a slotted spoon.
  7. Turn off the heat and add the onions, serrano peppers, ginger, and lemon juice that you set aside earlier.
  8. Serve hot or lukewarm.

Serves 6.
Adapted from: Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.

One thought on “Chana Masala

  1. Pingback: Bento: Chana Masala | Way of the Pepper

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