Quick Chana Masala

One of my favorite menu items in Indian restaurants is chana masala. It’s a filling, saucy dish of chickpeas, tomatoes, and warming spices. The components to make this simple homemade version are probably already in your pantry.

We’re all spending more time at home, so I wanted to share this dish again from 2014. The 20 aromatic minutes I spent cooking this meal over the stove were quite enjoyable.

You’ll need onion, ginger, garlic, and a number of healthy spices, including as coriander, cumin, and turmeric, to make this chana masala. The classic spice mixture for chana masala is garam masala, but if you don’t have any on hand, you’ll discover substitutes below.

I want to start preparing Indian dishes more frequently. Which one do you want to watch next? Visit my collection of healthy pantry recipes for more meals that work with your pantry.

Authentic Chana Masala vs. This Simple, Quick Procedure

The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon has a recipe for quick and simple chana masala, so I was delighted to find it there (affiliate link). I made a few adjustments to Angela’s recipe and preparation technique. I’ll be the first to admit that this dish is a little unusual.

The traditional ingredients for making authentic chana masala are entire spices and dried mango powder (amchur). For the finest flavor, we’ll sauté the ground spices used in this recipe in oil. We’ll garnish the meal with a wedge of lemon for a tangy flavor instead of dried mango powder.

Optional Canned Tomatoes

This dish uses crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, which are a quick way to get a taste that has been simmering for a long time. Don’t worry if you don’t have them.

Alternatively, you can use whole, canned tomatoes in their juices and crush them with the back of a stout spoon as they cook. Alternatively, use diced tomatoes for a more chunky outcome (you could blitz them a few times in a food processor or blender beforehand, to achieve crushed tomatoes).

Spice choices

Traditionally, chana masalas contain garam masala. In English, garam masala roughly translates to “hot spice combination.” It contains a mixture of spices that varies by location and desire, including coriander, cumin, cardamom (both green and black), cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and others. There are variations between each masala.

Here are a few unusual alternatives if you don’t have garam masala and don’t want to make another trip to the market. I’m positive that tikka masala is good (tikka masala has brighter notes of chili powder and paprika).

A teaspoon of yellow curry powder would also work well, however the flavor wouldn’t be the same. You could probably just omit the spice mixture if you don’t have either of those ingredients and, if you do, add a pinch of ground clove and cardamom to the cooking pot instead.

Also read: Colorful Veggie Sesame Noodles


  • 1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice, for serving (rice is optional, I like to cook extra to have on hand for other meals)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium serrano or jalapeño pepper*, minced (remove ribs and seeds to tame the spice level)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (about a 1-inch piece)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala**
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional!*)
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) chickpeas (or 3 cups cooked chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)


  1. Cook the rice (if you want to serve the chana masala on rice): Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove and rinse the rice in a fine-mesh colander. Once boiling, pour in the rice and give it a stir. Boil the rice for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and drain the rice. Return the rice to the pot and cover the pot. Let the rice steam for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork and season with sea salt to taste.
  2. Cook the chana masala: In a medium Dutch oven or large saucepan, warm the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, serrano and salt. Cook until the onion is tender and turning translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the garam masala, coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and cayenne (if using), and cook for another minute, while stirring constantly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and their juices. If using whole tomatoes, use the back of a wooden spoon to break the tomatoes apart (you can leave some chunks of tomato for texture).
  5. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, reducing the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, for 10 minutes or longer to allow the flavors to develop. Season to taste with additional salt, if desired. If it’s not spicy enough for your liking, add another pinch of cayenne.
  6. Serve over basmati rice, if desired, and garnish with a lemon wedge or two and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves.