Serves 8 to 10
Time: 1 hour || Active time: 30 minutes
One of the very first dishes I ever tried to recreate at home was chana masala. This was before the invention of vegetables, so when I went out for Indian food in my neighborhood, it was usually chana masala, a samosa and basmati rice. I probably started out with a recipe from somewhere, but I would just adjust, adjust and adjust until it tasted like what I would get on Coney Island avenue. Spicy, tangy, and fragrant, almost perfumed, with sweet spices like cardamom and cinnamon. The jalapenos probably have no place in chana masala, but hey, tell that to me 20 years ago.
I use fresh tomatoes in Indian inspired meals when I can because the clunky canned ones can end up tasting like spaghetti sauce, and luckily my tomato plants have been incredibly generous this year! Let me have a proud tomato mama moment and show you:
And when chickpeas are the absolute star of the show I prefer to cook dried ones, rather than use canned. The taste is fresher and the texture is meatier. I also find that coconut oil gives chana masala a richness that other oils lack, but since not everyone has coconut oil lying around, vegetable oil will be just fine! Same for subbing lime juice in place of tamarind concentrate.
This is one of those recipes that will help fine tune your taste buds. Look for the spicy, the sour, the salty, adjust until you’re thoroughly pleased. Even 20 years later and I’m still adding a little of this or that.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional, and more or less to taste)
For everything else:
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large onion, sliced in medium pieces
2 jalapenos, deseeded and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 lbs tomatoes, diced
Fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or two cans, rinsed and drained) note: 2 cups dried will give you the right amount
1 teaspoon agave
Juice of one lime, or 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
Preheat a large pan over medium heat. I prefer a pan to a pot, because it gets the tomatoes to cook down faster.
Meanwhile, mix together the spice blend in a small bowl.
When the pan is hot, saute the onion in the coconut oil for about 10 minutes, until nicely browned. While it’s sauteeing you can prep the rest of the veggies.
Add the jalapeno, garlic and ginger, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cilantro and saute until wilted. Add the spice blend and toss to coat the onions, letting the spices toast a bit (about a minute or so).
Add the tomatoes and mix well, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Add salt and pepper, chickpeas and agave. Cover the pan and bring heat up a bit. The tomatoes should take about 10 minutes to breakdown and get saucy. Remove the lid, and cook for about 20 more minutes on low heat, so that the flavors meld and the sauce thickens. It shouldn’t be too thick (like a marinara), but it shouldn’t be watery, either.
Add lime juice or tamarind concentrate. Taste for seasoning, you might want to add a little of this or that. Let sit for 10 minutes or so off the heat before serving. Serve with basmati rice and garnished with extra cilantro, if you like!
This became one of my go to recipes. It is delicious and it’s easy to add some frozen chopped spinach a little before you stop cooking it.
I could not agree more that fresh home-grown/organic/heirloom toms really take this dish to the higher level.
This is simmering on my stove as we wait for Hurricane Sandy to blow our yard apart, and all I have is a tamarind paste (puck?). How can I incorporate this into the recipe? So far I’ve got a bit soaking in a bowl with some hot water to loosen it, and have pulled out the seeds. Should I strain it, or just throw it in pulp and all? And thanks for all the awesome recipes!
I usually blend the pulp with some of the soaking water.
My mom uses jalapenos in some of her curries; can’t remember if she puts it in this, but it’s perfectly fine in Indian dishes. 🙂 There are many different versions of the same Indian dish depending on what part of india the cuisine is being prepared. I can’t recall where this dish is prominent, however I do remember my mom saying that a traditional way to make it involves tea bags. I haven’t looked it up, but I bet you could google it. I grew up eating it with sautéed onions, rather than the garlic and ginger (although that sounds delicious as well). We always throw a good amount of fresh cilantro on top of most dishes, rather than cooking it in. Another variation to make it more traditional would be to use ground paprika (the Indian version is pretty spicy!) in place of the cayenne and to omit the black pepper. I like different versions of the same dish and yours sounds tasty as well.
Oh yeah, and garam masala is a spice I would definitely include in this dish.
Thank you so much for these recipes, your books are the reason myself, my husband our parents and friends in Ireland eat vegan.
Making this for about the 100th time tonight. Having an Indian potluck and this dish is a winner! Everyone freaks out over it when I make it. Sometimes I throw in some mustard greens or spinach and it’s good like that too. Cannot get enough of it! (I am so grateful for the fresh tomatoes too). Just thought I’d tell you again. Your recipes rock.
Great to know, thanks!!
I made this a few nights ago and it is super yummy. It has the perfect amount of spiciness. It is one of my favorite dishes and will definitely be in my frequent recipe rotation.
Just made it – fantastic!
Can you tell me if you start with the dried chickpeas, or already cooked chickpeas? If cooked, can you tell me how to prepare and cook them? Thanks!
They are cooked (says so in the recipe!) It’s really easy to google “how to cook dry chickpeas”. Good luck!
Hot damn! I have tried several channa masala recipes, and they have always come up short until now. This recipe was so frickin’ good! Thank you for giving us such a great balance of onion/ tomato/ chickpea and sweet/ sour/ salt/ spice. Delish.
(Had to make a couple of minor subs – 1 T chili paste (Sambal Oelek) instead of jalapenos, candied ginger + a generous dash of ground ginger to replace the fresh ginger and the agave, 1 teaspoon amchoor powder instead of tamarind concentrate.)
i’ve made chana masala a few times before but this is by far the BEST recipe. the agave and the lime juice really sets this version apart. I made this for a work event and everyone LOVED this dish. thanks again
I was just referring to this recipe to make for the 8th million time and I just noticed it says it serves 8 to 10. People? Humans? Are you crazy? Have you tried this? It’s always been a solid 3-4 serving recipe for me. And that is controlling myself.
Haha! Well, I usually make it with rice and a salad, so maybe that’s why.
So good and authentic! Will make again and again!
Thanks for this recipe I just made this today, it’s lummy lummingtons!
This is a wonderful, very tasty recipe, but I wonder if you have rethought the use of coconut oil since writing your cookbook on reducing. I know that classic Chana Masala is often made with coconut or coconut oil, but I did not use either of them because of the high saturated fat content. Also, I reduced the oil to 1 tbsp. of canola oil and probably could have used just canola spray–the onions will still brown in a nonstick pan and the spice mixture will not stick to the pan. Thanks for your good work.
made this last night for the first time…what a great recipe! really fresh taste from the lime juice. i didn’t buy coconut oil, but maybe will splurge since i will be making this again. mine was a little watery, so maybe i should have simmered it longer or if it happens again i may make a roux or add tomato paste.
thanks for another great recipe!
The spice blend is good in this, but I found it quite strong, so I tempered it with a can of coconut milk, and about 500g of frozen spinach, it made it very tasty, substantial and rich. Didn’t use cilantro, substituted tinned tomatoes for fresh ( 2 cans), and didn’t use cloves as I didn’t have any. It was pretty good and I’ve made it twice since!
This was so delicious! I ate it all week and my husband (omnivore) really liked it too. Thank you so much; this is a hit! I will get a bit more heavy handed with the spices next time.
Just made this and it’s amazing! I only put one jalapeno and it was perfect. Definitely making this again!
Thank you for making this, and many other recipes, so big. I have a largish family and I’m always having to double recipes – but not yours!!
I make this all the time. Everyone loves it, and everyone can eat it. It’s a staple recipe for me at this point- so delicious!
I made this last night for dinner and just had some for lunch. It is oh, so good. It’s just perfect. My mission for the winter is to try A LOT more Indian food. Thanks for the great start and the inspiration.
This looks great. I’ve tried so many chana recipes, but your blog is so compelling I will have to try this.
I found your website today and I just had to made something! I chose this as I had all the ingredients and it was AMAZING! Even my family who eat meat loved it. Thanks so much!
I loved this. We added half a can of coconut milk to it and I couldn’t keep my son out of it.
A great recipe. I’ve made it many times. All the flavors come together very well. I do change a few ingredients: water instead of oil, quinoa instead of rice and I double the cayenne-I like it spicy. Sometimes I add kale for the heck of it. Love the recipe Isa and hope you came back to Austin!!!
I have a chana masala spice mix. Can I use this instead of making the mix, if so how much would you start with?
I’ve been trying versions of this for YEARS with bland results. Thank you! This is freakin’ rad. I love your recipes!
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What’s up mates, how is all, and what you would like too say concerning this post, in my view its actrually amazing
Isa, God bless you for making this recipe- I make it regularly and it freezes wonderfully, which is good for me being the single college student. Just cause I’m curious any fun twists that could be put on this?
Yum! This was delicious, and even better the next day!! Here are the changes I made:
-left out fennel seeds, cardamom, and jalapeno because I didn’t have
-used honey instead of agave
-unfortunately, I subbed some water and tomato paste for the tomatoes because I only had two small fresh tomatoes
This turned out amazing, I loved the flavor, and with some rice, it makes a very satisfying meal.
Made this recipe tonight. First try at Indian entree. Went over very well with omni family. Great flavors and very flexible to adding in other veggies. Thanks for this do-able recipe that allowed me to cautiously venture into some new foods/flavors. Looking forward to my lunch of leftovers tomorrow…