Make this Chana Masala for a delicious, flavorsome and healthy Indian meal. A protein-packed, vegan and gluten-free dish that you can easily customize to your taste. Serve this chana masala with plain rice, Jeera Rice, roti, Poori, chapati, Naan or Paratha. In this post I share the easiest recipe to make an Authentic Chana Masala with stovetop & Instant pot instructions. You will also find plenty of tips and tricks for a shortcut method using canned chickpeas.
This is one of the world’s most popular vegetarian curries & is a staple in Indian homes & restaurants.
About Chana Masala
Chana masala is a North Indian curried dish made with white chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, spices and herbs. ‘Chana’ is a Hindi word for ‘Chickpeas’ and ‘Masala’ here refers to a ‘spiced gravy’. So Chana Masala is nothing but chickpeas simmered in a spicy onion tomato masala.
Though the dish originated in the Punjab region of India, it is made in numerous ways across the Indian sub-continent. So Chana masala is a common term that refers to a chickpea curry.
You will find anywhere from extremely spicy to mild toned down versions. The recipe shared here will yield you something in between the both but you can easily up or cut down the spices further to suit your taste.
Update: You can find the old recipe at the end of this post.
This recipe follows the traditional method of making chana masala with dried chickpeas. So we start with soaking the chana overnight and then cook them until tender. In a separate pan we make the masala, just like any other Indian curry where onions are sautéed and then cooked with tomatoes and spices.
Lastly the tender cooked chickpeas are simmered in the curry so they absorb all of the flavours. The finished dish is equally healthy and delicious with a burst of flavors.
For a quicker preparation you can opt for the canned chickpeas, so you don’t have to soak and cook them. But the texture of canned chickpeas is not the same always. You will find anywhere from slightly undercooked to mushy chickpeas. So for a perfect chana masala, ensure you use perfectly soft cooked but not mushy chana. More on this in the Faq section below.
In Indian homes, soaked chickpeas are pressure cooked to save some time. If you do not have a pressure cooker and want to make the recipe with dried chickpeas, refer my Faq section to cook them in pot.
No time to soak or forgot to soak the chana?
No problem! You can give them an instant soak by pouring 6 cups of boiling water to 1 cup of chana. Cover and keep for an hour. Later pressure cook them as instructed in the recipe. But the texture & flavor of the chana is not the same. Soaked chana are lighter in texture and cook up well easily. They are easier to digest when soaked & prevents tummy upsets.
How to cook chickpeas in a pot?
Cooking chickpeas in a pot takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight with 1/3 teaspoon baking soda. The next morning drain the water and rinse them well. Bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil and add them. Cook until tender, discarding any froth that comes on top.
How to use canned chickpeas?
Due to the acidic ingredients in the gravy, chana won’t cook further after adding it to the masala. So make sure your canned chickpeas are soft and tender enough yet hold shape. Test by squeezing a chana in between your thumb and index finger, it should mash easily.
If they are still hard, drain the liquid and rinse them well. Add them to a pot and cook them with 1 cup water until tender. This is an essential step for soft chana.
How to Make Chana Masala (Stepwise Photos)
Add 1 cup dried chickpeas to a large bowl and rinse them well a few times. Pour 3 ½ to 4 cups fresh water and soak them overnight or for at least 8 hours. Later drain the water & rinse them well.
Pressure cooker: Pour 1 ½ cups fresh water to the chana and pressure cook for 5 to 6 whistles on a medium heat. If using Instant pot, cook them for 18 minutes on a high pressure. Once the pressure drops naturally, open the lid.
Regular pot: Cook the soaked chana with 3 cups water in a heavy bottom pot. Please check the faq section for more details.
Test the texture
Test if the chana is soft cooked, tender and holds its shape (not mushy). When you squeeze a chana it should get mashed completely. If it is still firm, it is undercooked and you need to cook it longer.
Make Onion Tomato Masala
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pot and add the whole spices (optional). You will need 1 bay leaf, 1 inch cinnamon, 2 cloves and 2 green cardamoms. If you do not have them simply skip.
When they begin to sizzle add 1 ½ cups fine chopped onions and saute until golden. If you want you may add a slit green chili for heat but I do not use it.
Add 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute, making sure not to burn it.
Add 1 ½ cup tomatoes (or tomato puree) and ¾ teaspoon salt. Continue to cook until the tomatoes break down and turn mushy. You may cover and cook to quicken the process.
Next add all the ground spices
1 to 1½ teaspoons Kashmiri Red chilli powder (I use 1½)
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons coriander powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
Saute on a medium flame until the masala smells aromatic. This takes about 3 to 4 minutes.
This step is optional and you may skip if you want your gravy to be chunky. You have the option to skip this step or blend the onion tomato masala to a coarse or smooth paste depending on how you want your chana masala gravy.
If you prefer to blend it, discard the bay leaf and cinnamon first. Cool the mixture and blend to a paste. Optionally I also prefer to add 2 tablespoons of cooked chana to the blender. Later add the puree back to the same pan.
Add the chana along with the stock in which you cooked it. You will be left with 1¼ cup stock which you will add it. Pour more water as needed to make a gravy. I use about ¾ to 1 cup more water. If you don’t puree the onion tomato masala you will require lesser.
Canned chickpeas: Drain the liquid in the can, rinse the chana well with fresh water and use here. Pour 2 cups water.
Mix everything well and taste test. Add more salt if required.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until the gravy turns thick.
Add ½ teaspoon amchur powder (optional) and 1 teaspoon kasuri methi. Crush it in your palms first and then sprinkle.
This is the right consistency – thick. Chana masala will thicken slightly further upon cooling.
At this stage I always feel the need to add more salt as the chickpeas absorb some amount of it from the gravy. So taste test add more salt and squeeze some lemon juice if you have not used amchur.
Serve Chana Masala with plain rice, Jeera rice, Naan, Roti or Paratha.
Whole Spices are optional and you may leave them out. But they infuse an extra layer of flavors.
Garam masala & other spices: Make sure you use a good aromatic Garam masala like this one. Every brand of spice powder is different. So adjust the quantities slightly according to your spice powder and your taste. Start with lesser garam masala if you are using a strong one. If required add more before you finish the dish.
Dried Chickpeas: It is very important to use fresh stock of the chickpeas. Old legumes do not cook up to a softer texture and may take forever to cook. However if you are skeptical about the age of your chana, add a pinch of baking soda while you cook them in the pressure cooker.
But let me warn you the stock will have an aftertaste of the baking soda so you may discard it and use fresh water for cooking the gravy.
Chana Masala Recipe
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup chana (dried raw chickpeas) (or 3 cups soaked or canned)
- 1½ cups water (more to make gravy)
For Chana Masala Gravy
- 2 tablespoon oil or as needed
- 1 small bay leaf (optional)
- 1 inch cinnamon (optional)
- 2 cloves (optional)
- 2 green cardamoms (optional)
- 1½ cups onions (fine chopped, 2 large)
- 1 green chili slit or chopped (optional)
- ¾ to 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (or ½ tbsp each fine chopped)
- 1½ cups tomatoes (fine chopped, 3 large or 1½ cup tomato puree)
- ¾ teaspoon salt (+ more to adjust to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1½ teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon amchur (dried mango powder) (optional)
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves (cilantro chopped finely)
Prepare Chickpeas (Skip this section to use canned chickpeas)
- Rinse dried chickpeas at least thrice. Soak them in 3 ½ to 4 cups of water overnight or for at least 8 hours.
- Drain the water and rinse them well. Pour 1 ½ cups water and pressure cook for 5 to 6 whistles on a stovetop cooker. You may also cook in an instant pot for 18 minutes on a high pressure. Let the pressure drop naturally.
- Make sure your chickpeas are soft and tender. Squeeze a chickpea to test, it should get mashed fully. If not cook them for a little longer.
How to Make Chana Masala
- Heat a large pot and pour oil. When the oil turns slightly hot, add the whole spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms and bay leaf.
- When they begin to sizzle add the onions and saute until they turn light golden.
- Add ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute without burning.
- Add tomatoes and salt. Let cook until mushy, pulpy and thick.
- Stir in red chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala, coriander powder and cumin powder. Saute until the masala begins to smell good, for about 3 to 4 mins.
- Optional – If you want a smooth curry, cool this, discard the bay leaf and cinnamon. Blend in a blender to a smooth or coarse paste to suit your liking. I prefer to blend in 2 tbsps cooked chana along with the onion tomato masala. Add that puree back to the pan.
- Add the chana along with the chana stock (1¼ cups). Pour another ¾ to 1 cup water. If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them before adding with 1 ¾ cups water.
- Mix well. Taste test and add more salt. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- When the consistency is thick (check pics), add amchur powder (optional) and kasuri methi.
- Garnish Chana masala with coriander leaves. Sprinkle some lemon juice if required.
Instant Pot Chana Masala
- To make the recipe in Instant pot, make the onion tomato masala on saute mode. Optionally If you want you may cool and blend this. Add the soaked chickpeas with 2 cups water. Deglaze and Pressure cook on high for 35 minutes. When the pressure drops, open the lid. Cook on a saute mode for a few minutes until thick. Add kasuri methi and amchur.
- This recipe has been updated recently to make it simpler. If you prefer a chunky gravy do not blend the onion tomato masala. For a little texture, make a coarse paste & for a smoother curry blend it to a smooth paste.
- Use a good fragrant garam masala to make a flavorsome curry. Adjust the quantity of ground spices to suit your taste. If your garam masala is too strong, you may cut down by 1/4 teaspoon.
- Whole spices can be skipped but they add an extra layer of flavors. If you wish to blend the onion tomato masala, discard bay leaf and cinnamon.
- Ginger and garlic to be used in equal quantities. You can also use only 1 tbsp ginger and skip garlic.
- If using bottled tomato puree, You may need more ground spices to balance the extra tart flavor.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Chana masala recipe originally published in May 2013, Republished in May 2019.
Chana Masala (old recipe)
¾ cup chana (dried raw chickpeas) (or 2¼ cups soaked or canned)
1½ cups water
To Saute & Puree
1 tablespoon oil or as needed
1½ cups onions (thinly sliced, 2 medium onions)
¾ to 1 tablespoon ginger garlic (chopped or paste)
1½ cups tomatoes (fine chopped or tomato puree, 3 large)
½ to ¾ tablespoon red chili powder (adjust to taste)
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
For Chana Masala Gravy
2 tablespoon oil or as needed
⅓ cup onion (fine chopped, optional, 1 small onion)
1 small bay leaf (optional)
1 inch cinnamon (optional)
2 to 3 cloves (optional)
2 to 3 green cardamoms (optional)
1 green chili slit (optional)
1 to 1½ teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
1½ teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) (optional)
2 pinch amchur (dried mango powder) optional
2 tbsp coriander leaves (cilantro chopped finely)
Rinse dried chickpeas thoroughly and soak for 8 hours in lots of water.
Drain the water and add them to a pot or pressure cooker & pour 1½ cups water.
Pressure cook the chana until soft for 5 to 6 whistles on a medium heat. If using instant pot, pressure cook them for 18 minutes on high pressure setting. or If cooking in a pot add more water as needed.
When the pressure releases completely open the lid.
Check for doneness : Squeeze the chana and check it must be soft enough yet firm and not mushy.
Saute & Puree
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Saute onions in oil until golden. Add ginger garlic & saute for 1 minute.
Next add chopped tomatoes and sprinkle little salt.
Saute until the tomatoes turn soft and the raw smell goes away.
Next add chili powder and turmeric. Cook till the raw smell of tomatoes and onions goes off.
Cool this completely and blend it to a smooth paste.
Optional – To make a thicker gravy add 1 tbsp cooked chana to the mixture and blend to smooth with out water.
How to Make Chana Masala
Heat 2 tbsps oil and saute cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and cardamom for 30 to 60 seconds.
Optional – Add the fine chopped onions & saute until they turn golden.
Next add the onion tomato paste, green chili, garam masala powder & coriander powder.
Saute until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan & turns fragrant.
Add the cooked chickpeas and then the stock (chana cooked water) as needed.
You may need to use up all. If needed pour little more water to bring it to a consistency.
Bring it to a boil & simmer for about 5 to 6 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency.
Taste the gravy and add more garam masala and salt if needed. Cook further for another 2 to 3 mins.
Add kasuri methi and amchur (optional). Add chopped coriander leaves. Cover and set aside until served.
Chana masala is ready to serve with rice or roti, onion and lemon wedges.
The real flavor comes from the garam masala so use a good fragrant one. If using store bought use more if needed.
Ginger and garlic to be used in equal quantities. You can also use 1 tbsp ginger alone and skip garlic.
You can skip “1 medium onion” mentioned in the gravy. It is used to give a texture to the gravy. If you do not like very smooth gravy then using this extra onion provides some texture.
You can add 1 pinch of soda-bi-carbonate or cooking soda to cook the chana easily. If using soda then pressure cook just for 2 to 3 whistles.
Sometimes chana does not get cooked well even after 10 whistles if they are too old. So in that case you need to add soda.
Do not use more soda-bi-carbonate than 1 pinch as it leaves a aftertaste.
For best results make the recipe from scratch and avoid canned chickpeas.