One-pot chana masala is an Indian-inspired recipe that features tender chickpeas in a complex, aromatic tomato sauce. It’s easy to make in about 30 minutes and packed with protein!
If you love paneer tikka masala or butter chicken, you’ll for sure fall for this vegetarian chana masala recipe as well! It’s one of the best ways to use up the can of chickpeas in your cupboard while indulging in rich Indian spices. It’s savory, filling, and just plain delicious!
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What is chana masala?
Chana masala is a very popular North Indian recipe made by simmering chickpeas (chana) and aromatics in a spiced tomato stew or gravy (masala). Sometimes known as chickpea curry, it’s commonly served in bowls with basmati rice and naan.
The best chana masala recipe
Chances are you’ve seen chana masala on the menu at Indian restaurants. The hearty, nicely spiced bites of chickpeas in tomato gravy make it an easy-to-love dish that’s perfect for both vegetarians and meat eaters.
- Made with whole spices. I strongly recommend sticking to the recipe and using whole cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, cardamom pods, and cloves to season the tomato sauce. There’s no comparison to their dried alternatives; the flavor is unmatched!
- Easy one-pot recipe. Making a big batch of chana masala is simple and done entirely in one pot.
- Vegetarian and gluten free. Like air fryer tofu, this recipe is perfect for meatless Mondays or any time you’re craving a flavor-packed vegetarian and gluten free meal.
The ingredients list is a little long but for good reason. All of the spices and herbs are crucial to the close-to-authentic flavors, making this chana masala recipe stand out from the rest. This is what you need:
- Onions. Onions, garlic, and ginger are the magical trio that starts the chana masala with a divine, aromatic base.
- Garlic. Fresh garlic cloves.
- Ginger root. This adds a complexity that can’t be found in ground ginger.
- Oil. Use any neutral vegetable oil you like.
- Cinnamon stick. Cassia cinnamon is easier to find in North America but, if you can find it, opt for the stronger flavored Ceylon cinnamon.
- Bay leaf. It’s warm, aromatic, and complements the clove and cinnamon perfectly.
- Green cardamom pods. An essential in Indian cuisine.
- Cloves. You only need two cloves. Any more and they can overpower the dish.
- Tomatoes. Freshly chopped tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes.
- Salt. To help round out the rest of the flavors and balance the acidity in the tomatoes.
- Turmeric. Ground turmeric adds a vibrant yellow color, anti-inflammatory properties, and another layer of warmth.
- Garam masala. A warming Indian spice blend.
- Chili powder. For just a touch of heat and smoke.
- Cumin. Another warming staple in Indian cuisine.
- Coriander. This infuses a pop of bright citrus into the tomato gravy.
- Chickpeas. Canned chickpeas work great or you can cook dried chickpeas ahead of time.
- Garnish. Fresh cilantro and lemon.
How to make chana masala
Remember to have all of your ingredients ready to go before you start this recipe. While it’s easy to make in one pot, the steps move quickly and it’s always best to be prepared. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1 – Blend the aromatics
Add the onion, garlic, and ginger to a blender with a little water. Blend into a smooth paste.
Step 2 – Toast the spices
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom, and cloves. Toast until they start to sizzle, then add the onion/garlic/ginger paste.
Step 3 – Add the tomatoes and spices
Pour the tomatoes into the pot along with the spices.
Step 4 – Simmer with the chickpeas
Stir the chickpeas and water into the pot. Bring it up to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.
Step 5 – Serve over rice
Scoop the thickened chana masala into bowls with cooked basmati rice. Garnish with lemon juice and fresh coriander, then enjoy!
- Try to use whole spices, like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. They have an unmatched flavor and give this dish close to authentic flavors.
- Blending the aromatics will leave you with a smoother masala. Feel free to skip this step if you’re low on time or prefer a chunkier consistency.
- Make a spicy version of this recipe by adding a diced green chili pepper to the blended aromatic mixture or substituting Indian red chili powder (Kashmiri chili powder) for the regular chili powder.
To store. Keep the leftover chana masala in an airtight container in the fridge. The leftovers should stay fresh for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze. Divide the leftovers into individual airtight containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Let them thaw in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat. Reheat the individual portions of chana masala in the microwave or a pot on the stove. Feel free to stir in a splash of water if it’s too thick.
Meal prep idea
Like chili, chickpea masala is high in protein, and fiber, and makes a well-balanced meal. It’s a fantastic meal prep option and because it stores well, you can prep a batch on the weekend and have quick and easy lunches sorted for the week ahead.
More Indian-inspired recipes to try
Lamb Rogan Josh
They’re similar, but not the same. Tikka masala is most commonly made with chicken that’s been marinated in yogurt and Indian spices before being simmered in a creamy tomato sauce/gravy. It can also be made with vegetables, chickpeas, or paneer.
Chana masala isn’t made with cream and puts chickpeas on display rather than meat or other vegetables.
No need for a variety of side dishes here. You can spoon the chana masala over cooked basmati rice, coconut rice, or the grain of your choice and scoop up the bites with a piece of naan bread.
It depends. My version is more complex than spicy, thanks to the variety of Indian spices. Some recipes are made with green chilis in addition to the other aromatics, which really pack in the heat.
- 2 small onions quartered
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 inch ginger peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cardamom pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 14 oz canned tomatoes diced
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam marsala
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 18 oz canned chickpeas
- 400 mls water
- Add onion, garlic, and ginger in a blender with two tablespoons of water and blend into a smooth paste.
- Place a large pot over medium heat. Once hot add oil, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom, and cloves. Cook until the oil starts sizzling. Add onion paste and sauté for five minutes.
- Pour the tomato in and cook for another five minutes, occasionally stirring. Add spices and mix well.
- Add chickpeas, along with the water, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once the mixture has thickened, remove it from the heat and serve with some lemon juice along with rice, sprinkled with fresh coriander.
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I made this using the cardamom pods and that made all the difference in the world. Super easy and a keeper recipe!