Chana Masala Recipe

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Looking for that perfect recipe to make a Punjabi-style Chana Masala. I’ve got just that recipe for you in this post. This tangy, spiced and tasty curried chickpeas recipe is also gluten-free and vegan. Whether you have it with your day-to-day Indian flatbreads or steamed rice or just as is, topped with some onions, tomatoes, coriander leaves and lemon, the dish is tasty as well as nutritious.

chana masala in a small serving wok topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lemon and green chillies served with poori.

Why This Chana Masala Is A Winner

Punjabi cuisine is known for its bold flavors and rich textures, and Chana Masala is a prime example of this culinary tradition.

Made with white chickpeas (kabuli chana) cooked in a spiced onion-tomato gravy, this dish is a staple in Punjabi as well as North Indian households.

The term ‘Chana’ means chickpeas and ‘Masala’ here, refers to the spiced onion and tomato base or gravy.

The hearty and aromatic nature of this Chana Masala makes it a beloved dish, often enjoyed with a variety of breads or rice.

The key to an authentic Punjabi Chana Masala lies in its robust ingredients. The main component is dried chickpeas, which are soaked overnight to ensure they cook to a tender perfection.

The base of the gravy is created with onions, tomatoes, and a blend of spices. Ginger, garlic and green chilies provide a depth of flavor, while a hint of dried mango powder (amchur powder) adds a tanginess to the dish.

In place of dry mango powder, you can also add lemon or lime juice. If you live in India, you can also add dried pomegranate seeds powder (anardana powder). Add this powder instead of the dry mango powder.

For a good Chana Masala, the chickpeas should be cooked really well. You should not feel even a slight bite when eating them. They should be soft and melt-in-mouth.

You can also add canned chickpeas to make this chana curry. Chana Masala can be made into a dry, semi-dry or a curried version. This recipe makes for a curried variant that is not overly spicy but moderately spiced.

Chole Masala and Rajma are a weekly affair at any Punjabi home. So, once in a week, even I end up making these.

In fact, whenever there is a festival or celebration, these two famous legume dishes along with Punjabi Kadhi Pakora and Dal Makhani are always considered in the menu.

Punjabi-style Chana Masala is a celebration of bold flavors and hearty textures. Its rich, spiced gravy, coupled with the tender chickpeas, makes it a comforting and satisfying dish.

Whether enjoyed as a main course or a side dish, it remains a favorite in Punjabi cuisine, cherished for its versatility and depth of flavor.

Perfect for family meals or festive gatherings, this dish exemplifies the essence of Punjabi hospitality and culinary excellence.

Since chickpeas are a pantry staple at my place as well, check out more regional recipes like Kadala Curry, Amritsari Chole, Pindi Chole and this South Indian Chickpea Curry made with coconut.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Chana Masala

Soak Chana

1. Rinse 1 cup dried chickpeas (or chana) for a couple of times in water. Then, soak them in about 3 cups water for 8 to 9 hours or overnight.

soaked chana in water.

2. Once soaked nicely, the chickpeas will become softer, plump up and increase in size. Drain the water, rinse the chickpeas again with fresh water and add them to a 3 litre pressure cooker.

Also, add the whole spices – 1 inch cinnamon stick, 1 black cardamom, 1 small to medium tej patta (optional) and 2 to 3 cloves.

I have also added 2 to 3 pieces of dried amla (Indian gooseberry) to get the dark color in the chickpeas.

Instead of dried amla, you can add 1 black tea bag. You can also just cook the chickpeas plain with water, spices and omit adding the amla or tea bag completely.

Adding a pinch of baking soda also helps in making the chickpeas soft.

soaked chana, amla, spices in cooker.

3. Add 2.5 cups water.

chana with spices, amla and water in cooker.

Cook Chana

4. Pressure cook the chickpeas on medium to medium-high heat for 15 minutes or until they are cooked completely.

Let the pressure fall naturally in the cooker and then open the lid. The chickpeas should be cooked well and softened. They should be soft when you mash with a spoon and not give you a bite when you eat.

You will see a brown shade in the chickpeas, which is due to the amla. Remove the amla pieces which would have softened by now or the tea bag from the stock.

You can chose to keep the softened amla pieces if you prefer. If you do so, then let them become warm and mash them very well with a spoon or a mortar-pestle.

Add this mashed amla to the masala gravy. If you add the softened mashed amla, then you may not need to add the dry mango powder, as the gravy will be naturally tangy due to the amla.

I have tried this method and the chana masala gravy tastes great with wonderful sour and tangy taste.

You can also remove the whole spices from the stock, but I keep them. Keep the chickpeas with the stock aside.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, then cook the chickpeas in a pot/pan or the Instant Pot with plenty of water. Cooking chickpeas in a pot or pan will take a lot of time though.

cooked chana to make chana masala.

Fry Green Chilies

5. Heat 2 to 2½ tablespoons oil in a kadai (wok) or pan. Keep heat to medium-low.

Add 3 to 4 slit green chilies and fry them stirring often, until you see some light golden blisters on them.

Remember to slit the green chilies and fry, so that they do not burst in the oil.

Additionally feel free to leave out the chilies if you prefer. You also have the option of adding 1 or 2 green chilies to the masala base while sautéing.

green chillies getting fried in oil in a wok.

6. Remove the fried chilies with a slotted spoon and place them on a kitchen paper towel. Set aside.

fried chillies on kitchen paper towels.

Sauté Onions & Spices

7. Reduce the heat to a low. In the same oil, add ¼ teaspoon carom seeds and sauté for a few seconds or until fragrant.

Carom seeds are fragrant tiny seeds with an aroma similar to thyme. These flavorful seeds with a sharp taste are also called “Ajwain” in Hindi.

If you cannot source these, add ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds. Generally carom seeds are added to preparations like chana masala, as they help in digestion.

carom seeds in a small measuring spoon being added to oil in wok.

8. Add about ½ cup tightly packed chopped or finely chopped onions.

onion added to wok.

9. Stir and sauté until the onions turn translucent or light brown on a medium-low to medium heat.

onions being sautéed.

10. Add 1 teaspoon ginger paste and 1 teaspoon garlic paste.

ginger paste and garlic paste added to sautéed onions.

11. Sauté until their raw aroma dissipates.

sautéing ginger and garlic paste with onions.

Make Onion Tomato Masala

12. Add ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon red chili powder and 1 teaspoon garam masala powder.

Instead of garam masala powder, you can also add chana masala powder or Punjabi garam masala powder.

ground spices in sautéed onions mixture.

13. Stir and mix the ground spice powders with the sautéed onions. Then add 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes.

tomato added to the sautéed onions and spice mixture.

14. Stir and mix the tomatoes very well.

sautéing onion tomato masala.

15. Sauté until the tomatoes soften and the oil starts to leave the sides of the masala.

sautéed onion tomato masala with some oil separating from the sides.

Make Chana Masala

16. Once the oil has separated and the masala looks glossy, its time to add the cooked chickpeas along with the stock (cooked water).

Make a note that instead of using the stock (the water in which the chickpeas were cooked), you could also use fresh water.

cooked chickpeas and water to onion-tomato masala.

17. Stir and mix well. Add salt along with 1 teaspoon dried mango powder (amchur powder).

If you do not have dried mango powder, drizzle a bit of lemon juice according to taste, once the curry is finished cooking with.

Opt to add your preferred salt. You could also use a mix of black salt and regular salt or pink salt.

dry mango powder and black salt added.

18. Mix very well and simmer on medium-low to medium heat.

You can also mash a few chickpeas with the back of the spoon to thicken the gravy.

seasonings mixed with the chana curry.

19. Simmer till the gravy has thickened as you see in the picture below. You will see some oil specks floating on the top layer of the gravy.

Check the taste of curry and add more salt, red chili powder, garam masala powder or dried mango powder, if required.

simmering chana masala.

20. Lastly, add the fried green chilies. You can also reserve the fried chilies to be used as a garnish.

fried green chillies added to chana masala.

21. Serve Chana Masala hot garnished with 2 to 3 teaspoons chopped coriander leaves along with bhatura or poori or aloo kulcha or paneer kulcha.

Serve sliced onions, tomatoes and lime or lemon as accompaniments. You can also add some fried potato cubes as toppings.

chana masala in a small serving wok topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lemon and green chillies served with pooris.

Serving Suggestions

Best served hot, garnished with fresh coriander leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice for added freshness, Chana Masala pairs beautifully with a variety of Indian breads like bhatura or naan or roti.

For a more complete meal, it can be enjoyed with steamed basmati rice or jeera rice. Accompaniments such as pickles, sliced onions, and a fresh salad add a delightful contrast of flavors and textures.

More Punjabi Recipes To Try!

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closeup image of chana masala in a small serving wok topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lemon and green chillies.

Chana Masala Recipe

A Chana Masala recipe that will give you a robust, tangy and medium-spicy curry. Whether you have it with your day-to-day Indian flatbreads of steamed rice or just as is, topped with some onions, tomatoes, coriander leaves and lemon, the dish is tasty as well as nutritious. The recipe is also gluten-free and vegan.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 9 hours
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 9 hours 30 minutes
Cuisine North Indian, Punjabi
Course Main Course, Snacks
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan
Difficulty Level Moderate
Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

For cooking chickpeas

  • 1 cup dried white chickpeas (garbanzo beans or white chana) – soaked overnight in enough water
  • 3 cups water – for soaking chickpeas
  • 2.5 cups water – for pressure cooking
  • 2 to 3 pieces dried amla (Indian gooseberry, dried)or 1 black tea bag, optional
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 tej patta – small to medium sized, (Indian bay leaf), optional

For masala gravy ingredients

  • ½ cup onions – finely chopped & tightly packed
  • 1 cup tomatoes – finely chopped tomatoes
  • 3 to 4 green chilies – slit (green chili peppers)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste or about 1 inch peeled ginger – crushed in mortar-pestle
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste or about 6 to 7 medium-sized peeled garlic cloves – crushed in mortar-pestle
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala or chana masala powder or punjabi garam masala powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mango powder (amchur powder) or dried pomegranate seeds powder (anardana powder)
  • ¼ teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain) or swap with ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 2 to 2.5 tablespoons oil
  • salt regular salt or edible rock salt or black salt, add as required

For garnish

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coriander leaves – chopped, (cilantro)
  • 1 onion – sliced or chopped, small-sized
  • 1 tomato – sliced or chopped, small-sized
  • 1 lemon or lime, quartered

Instructions
 

Cooking chana or white chickpeas

  • First rinse the dried chickpeas for a couple of times in water. Then soak the chickpeas in enough water overnight or for 8 to 9 hours.
  • Drain the water. Rinse the chickpeas again in fresh water and then add them to a 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker.
  • Add whole spices – cinnamon, black cardamom, tej patta and cloves. 
  • I have also added dried amla to get the dark color in the chickpeas. 
  • Instead of dried amla, you can add 1 black tea bag. You can also simply cook the chickpeas plain with the spices and water.
  • Pour the 2.5 cups of water.
  • Pressure cook the chickpeas for 15 minutes on medium to medium-high heat. Wait for the pressure to drop naturally in the cooker. Then open the lid and check if the chickpeas are cooked well. 
  • The chickpeas must be tender, softened and have a melt in the mouth texture. They should mash easily when you press with a spoon. The cooked chickpeas must not give you any slight bite when you eat them.
  • If you do not have a pressure cooker, then cook the chickpeas in a pot with plenty of water or in an Instant Pot. Cooking chickpeas in a pot will take a lot of time though.
  • Remove the amla pieces which would have softened by now or the tea bag from the stock.
    You can also remove the whole spices from the stock, but I keep them. Keep the cooked chickpeas along with the stock aside.

Making chana masala

  • Heat oil in a kadai (wok) or a pan. Add slit whole green chilies and fry them on medium-low heat until the have some light golden blisters on them.
    Ensure to slit the green chilies and fry, so that they do not burst in the oil.
    Note that you could skip frying the green chillies if you prefer. Or opt to add 1 to 2 green chilies in the masala while sautéing.
  • Place the fried green chilies on kitchen paper towels for any excess oil to be drained.
  • In the same oil, add the carom seeds. Sauté for a few seconds until the carom seeds are fragrant.
  • Add finely chopped onions. Stir and sauté until the onions turn translucent or light brown.
  • Add ginger paste and garlic paste. Sauté until their raw aroma goes away.
  • Add turmeric powder, red chili powder and garam masala powder.
  • Mix the spice powders with the sautéed onions and then add finely chopped tomatoes.
  • Stir the whole mixture very well to combine the tomatoes with the mixture.
  • Sauté until the tomatoes soften and the oil starts to leave the sides of the masala.
  • When the oil starts separating from the onion and tomato masala and it looks glossy, at this point add the chickpeas along with the stock (the water in which the chickpeas were cooked).
    You could also opt to add fresh water instead of the stock.
  • Mix well and then add salt and dry mango powder.
  • Stir again and simmer the curry on medium-low to medium heat.
    You can also mash a few chickpeas with the back of the spoon to thicken the gravy.
  • Simmer till the gravy has thickened. You will also see some oil specks floating at the top of the gravy.
  • Check the taste and add more salt, red chili powder, garam masala powder or dry mango powder if needed.
  • Lastly add the fried green chilies to the gravy or keep them aside to be used as a garnish.
  • Serve Chana Masala hot garnished with coriander leaves paired with bhatura or pooris or naan or roti.
  • As a side accompaniment serve the Chana Masala with sliced onions, tomatoes and lime or lemon.
    You can also add some fried potato cubes as a topping and serve.

Notes

  1. If you don’t have dry mango powder, then add:
    a) lemon juice once the curry is completed cooking with.
    b) or you can include the dry pomegranate seeds powder (anardana powder) and add it while sautéing the masala as replacement for dry mango powder.
  2. You can also use canned chick peas and add them once the tomatoes along with the ground spice powders are sautéed.
  3. The curry can be made more spicy by adding more red chili powder, garam masala powder and green chilies.
  4. Adding a pinch of baking soda also helps in making the chickpeas soft.
  5. Instead of garam masala powder, you can also add chana masala powder or Punjabi garam masala powder.
  6. Skip adding amla or tea bags, if you do not have them. 
  7. If you do include dried amla or Indian Gooseberry, you will see a brown shade in the chickpeas. Opt to remove the amla pieces which would have softened or keep them if you prefer. If you do choose to keep them, then let them become warm and mash them very well with a spoon or a mortar-pestle. Add this mashed amla to the masala gravy. When you do so, you may not need to add the dry mango powder, as the gravy will be naturally tangy due to the amla and tastes splendid.
  8. If cooking chickpeas in the pan or pot then:
    You have to take enough water in the pot while cooking the chickpeas. It takes a lot of time though. For 1.5 to 2 cups of soaked & drained chickpeas, you can take about 4 to 5 cups of water. Adding a pinch of baking soda in the water along with salt, also helps in the cooking process and the chickpeas become really soft when cooked. You can add about 1 teaspoon of salt. A little less salt is also alright. I usually add less salt. Cover the pot and cook. If the water starts to become frothy, then remove the lid and cook for some minutes. Remove the scum if there is any while cooking the chickpeas.

Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)

Nutrition Facts
Chana Masala Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 307 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 7g
Sodium 438mg19%
Potassium 736mg21%
Carbohydrates 45g15%
Fiber 13g54%
Sugar 11g12%
Protein 11g22%
Vitamin A 773IU15%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 0.3mg20%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.1mg6%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 0.4mg20%
Vitamin C 34mg41%
Vitamin E 4mg27%
Vitamin K 12µg11%
Calcium 92mg9%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 301µg75%
Iron 4mg22%
Magnesium 77mg19%
Phosphorus 223mg22%
Zinc 2mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This Chana Masala recipe from the archives was first published on November 2014. It has been updated and republished on June 2024.

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2 Comments

  1. Delicious.
    Found a couple typos for revising next update.
    1. Whether you have it with your day-to-day Indian flatbreads of ( should be or) steamed rice …..
    2. Chole Masala and Rajma is (should be are) a weekly affair
    3. (19.) You will ( left out the word see) some oil specks floating…
    4. Same error as #1 but on the recipe card.
    5. 1 teaspoon garlic paste or about 6 to 7 mediums (should be medium) peeled garlic cloves5 stars

    1. Hi Gyatri, thank you so much for the taking time to list the typos. I truly appreciate your effort. I have made the changes. Thanks again.