Chana masala recipe – Chana masala is a delicious & flavorful Indian curry made by cooking chickpeas in a spicy onion tomato masala gravy. It can be eaten with basmati rice, roti, naan, poori, Bhatura and plain parathas or even with flavored rice like jeera rice or ghee rice.
Chana masala is a common Indian term used to mention a chickpea curry where each region has their own way of making it. So there are different ways of making chana.
This restaurant style chana masala is one of the best you can make at home for your everyday meal. I make this almost every week & it is one of our favourite curries for lunch.
The recipe shared here will yield you a very delicious and flavorful curry that is moderately spicy.
Most times I choose to cook up faster meals so we eat this with basmati rice or jeera rice. Sometimes for the weekend brunch I also make this chana masala with poori.
How is chana masala made?
The first step to make chana masala starts by soaking the chickpeas overnight. Then pressure cooking them until tender.
The base of this curry is made by roasting onions and tomatoes first. This roasting step completely elevates the taste of this chana masala.
Then the mixture is blended and cooked with spices to make the gravy. Lastly precooked chana is simmered in the curry.
What is special about this Chana masala?
Yes this chana masala tastes extremely delicious. The roasted & pureed onion tomato masala brings in a unique flavor, texture & taste to the gravy. This step will not take any additional time as it can be done while you pressure cook the chana.
If you do not like chunky curries then you will love this.
This is kids’ friendly recipe as it is not the very spicy kind.
You can split the recipe and make the onion tomato masala ahead and refrigerate.
Which spice powder or garam masala to use?
I use a homemade garam masala but you can use any that is aromatic. You can also use readymade chole masala if you have one. But the recipe as such does not require chole masala it just needs an aromatic garam masala.
If you do not have both, just go ahead using a curry powder. However the flavor will not be the same.
Reduce or skip red chilli powder if your readymade powder already has chilli in it.
Can I make chana masala without soaking chana?
Yes 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. Use in the recipe as mentioned.
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 make this one pot dish?
Chana when cooked with acidic ingredients takes much more time. Also all chana are not the same. Some take longer time to cook while some cook up with the normal timings.
So cooking chana masala in one pot is an experiment with every batch of chana you buy.
Most times the cook time triples. I feel the gravy loses its flavor due to over cooking.
So to make the best chana masala it is good to soak them well, then precook until tender and add to the gravy.
Can I use canned chickpeas?
You can use canned chick peas if you do not prefer to soak and precook them. The texture of canned chickpeas is not the same always. Some brands have very soft chickpeas while some are good enough to be simmered in a gravy.
So adjust the cook time depending on the texture of canned chickpeas. Drain them completely and use.
How to make this in instant pot?
Follow the recipe as is and skip precooking the chana. Make a onion tomato masala and then add the chickpeas. Pressure cook on high pressure for 35 minutes.
Tips to make chana masala
- Soaking chana overnight reduces the cooking time and avoids flatulence.
- Pressure cooking chana with a pinch of cooking soda or soda-bi-carbonate helps to cook them softer. However you can also skip it and just cook the chana for longer or for more whistles.
- This chana masala is made with regular garam masala. Just ensure you use a good one as it is the key ingredient that flavours the dish.
Chana masala recipe
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- ¾ cup chana (chickpeas raw) (or 2¼ cups soaked or canned)
- 1½ cups water
To saute & blend
- 1 tablespoon oil or as needed
- 2 to 3 large onions (1½ cups thinly sliced)
- ¾ to 1 tablespoon ginger garlic (chopped or paste)
- 2 medium tomatoes (1½ cups chopped or tomato puree)
- ½ to ¾ tablespoon red chili powder (adjust as desired)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
For chana masala gravy
- 2 tablespoon oil or as needed
- 1 medium onion (optional) (⅓ cup chopped finely)
- 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
- 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)
How to make the recipe
Preparation for chana masala (skip if using canned)
- 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 & blend
- 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 recipe
- 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.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
- 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.
If you are a beginner or new to Indian cooking, I highly suggest you to check the supporting step by step photos for best results. Step by step photos with description available below after the recipe card.
Chana masala recipe originally published in May 2013, Republished in May 2019.
Preparation for chana masala recipe
Skip this section if using canned chickpeas.
1. Wash and soak chana for about 8 hours. Discard the water and give a good rinse.
2. Pressure cook chana with 1.5 cups water for 5 to 6 whistles on a medium flame. You can also add a generous pinch of soda & cook for 2 to 3 whistles.
You can also cook them in a pot adding more water as needed.
Once done your chana must be soft cooked. Squeeze it and check it must be soft but not mushy. It should still hold shape.
3. While the chana cooks, add 1 tbsp oil to a pan. When the oil heats up, add onions and fry until they turn golden. Keep stirring to fry them evenly.
4. Add ginger garlic paste. Saute until the raw smell disappears.
5. Add tomatoes and salt. Fry until they turn completely mushy and soft.
6. Add turmeric and red chili powder.
7. Saute until the raw smell of chili powder goes away for a minute or two.
8. Cool it and blend to a smooth or slightly coarse paste. Optional – you can also add 1 tbsp of cooked chana and blend to smooth. This yields a thick gravy. No water is used for blending.
This is my latest step and found it really makes the gravy delicious.
How to make chana masala recipe
9. Add 2 tbsp oil to the pan. Saute 1 small bay leaf, 3 green cardamoms,3 cloves and a small cinnamon piece. You can also skip all of these.
10. Optional – Earlier I used to add 1 finely chopped onion and saute until lightly golden or transparent. I no more use onions at this step. I refined this step as my boys don’t like the chunky gravy.
However if you like the chunky gravy then yes do use 1/3 to half cup fine chopped onions and saute well until golden.
11. Add the blended puree and green chilli.
12. Stir and mix well. We don’t need to cook for long since we roasted the onions and tomatoes before. Add garam masala and coriander powder.
13. Cook until the mixture begins to leave the pan.
14. Add the soft cooked chana and stock (chana cooked water). Make sure channa is soft cooked before adding here. Stir and add more water if needed to bring to a consistency. I add more water here.
15. Mix everything well and bring it to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes or until it reaches a desired consistency. Taste the gravy.
Add more garam masala and salt if needed. Cook for 3 to 4 mins if you have added more garam masala. Just before turning off the stove add crushed kasuri methi and amchur (if using).
Stir well and Turn off the stove. Add few chopped coriander leaves. Cover the pot to retain the flavors.
Serve chana masala with rice or roti.