Chana Masala

Indian vegetarian Chickpea curry

This vegetarian chickpea curry is easy to make, delicious and healthy.

It’s National Curry Week.

This is such a great idea (although I think curry needs a month of celebration to do it justice) as it celebrates curry and raises money for great charities. I have not had time to organise anything but wanted to share one of my favourite curry recipes in recognition of great Indian cuisine.

I am not a vegetarian but prefer to eat meat as a treat, rather than every day. However, I am a glutton and like to eat tasty, satisfying food all the time. This is one of the reasons I love this curry so much. It is really healthy and it is a fantastic meal. It will leave you feeling totally satisfied because the flavour is really rich. Also the ingredients are nutritious and will fill you for a long time. I even tried this on my dad who is a carnivore and he loved it.

Chana Masala Indian Chickpea Curry

I often wonder why people go out to eat curry but don’t make it at home. I think that often curry house meals can be greasy and a little one dimensional. One of the best reasons to cook them at home is to play with the spices. Everyone has access to decent spices these days in the supermarkets so we can all have a go. I often start with a recipe from a book, Madhur Jaffrey & Julie Sahni have been my curry making guides for years. Once I have tried their way I feel free to mess around and try other things. I really think this is how to learn about spicing, tasting is the key.

There are a few basic techniques when making curries which are easy and once you know them it is possible to make a large range of amazing dishes. I think the two most important things for beginners are how to prepare the spices and the onions. The browning of onions makes a huge difference to the flavour of a curry. I think I may do a blog just about that one day.

If you are new to Indian cooking and trying out different recipes, I recommend you pay particular attention to how the onions are cooked. In this dish they are softened for quite a long time, make sure you spend a good twenty minutes getting the onions really soft but don’t brown them.

Chana Masala Indian Chickpea Curry

The original recipe for this dish had about 8 hot fresh chilies and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I found it pretty vicious and I felt that the chili obliterated the other spices. I do love hot chilies (I can happily eat the hottest raw chilies) but often prefer my Indian curries to be milder and more aromatic. I want to taste the cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and cumin in this recipe so I only use a small amount of chili but this is just my preference. If you want it hotter either add more dried chili or blend fresh ones into the curry paste.

This curry is also a great way to use up any vegetables you have hanging around. I have added carrots, peppers and potatoes to this recipe but you can throw in almost anything. It really needs the onions for flavour and I really like the texture of the peppers. In the past I have added aubergine, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, sweet potato and green beans and they were all great. Sweet potato, pumpkin and butternut squash will all make great additions for their sweetness.

Chana Masala Indian vegetarian Chickpea curry

Chana Masala

To make about 4 portions you will need:

2 bay leaves
6 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp nigella seeds
2 inch piece of cinnamon
2-3 onions
75ml vegetable oil (or ghee if you like a richer flavour)
2 peppers (whichever colours you prefer)
8 tomatoes
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
4-5 cloves garlic
a large piece of ginger (about 2 tbsp)
a large bunch of fresh coriander (about 50g)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1 tap turmeric
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 large carrots
1 large potato or a few small ones
2 tins chickpeas (or about 400g cooked chickpeas)

1. Heat the oil in a large (preferably heavy bottomed) pan and add the bay leaves cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and nigella seeds. After about 30 seconds when the spices are giving off their aromas add the chopped onions (they should be cut into cubes of 1.5 cm). Fry them gently so that they soften but do not get brown.

frying onions and spices

Fry then onions gently and do not brown them

2. Chop the peppers to a similar size and add them after about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, to make the curry paste, toast the coriander and cum in seeds in a dry frying pan.

4. Roughly chop the tomatoes and put them in a blender with most of the fresh coriander (save some for garnish), garlic, ginger and the toasted seeds. Blend all of this with a little water until it is very smooth. Try to use as little water as possible.

blending curry paste for chana masala

5. Once the onions and peppers are soft add the blended curry paste and turn up the heat.

6. The paste needs to cook out a little to get rid of the raw garlic and ginger flavours. This will take 5-10 minutes depending on how much water you added. Keep tasting to see when it is ready.

7. Now add the rest of the spices, a teaspoon of salt and sugar, the remaining vegetables and just enough water to cover everything. Boil until the vegetables are tender. I usually pre-cook the carrots as they take longer than everything else.

8. As the vegetables cook the sauce will become thicker. Now add the chickpeas and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Chickpea curry

Add the chickpeas once the vegetables are almost cooked

9. Check the seasoning, it may need more salt or sugar. Basically the curry is now ready to serve or be reheated. I prefer to make it in the morning or the day before I want to eat it as the flavours develop with time. Garnish with a handful of chopped, fresh coriander.

I love to eat this with an Indian bread, such as a roti (the texture is perfect with chickpeas) and some chutneys and pickles.A creamy raita is a great accompaniment especially if you have made it with a lots of chili.

Roti, Indian Flatbread

I have a massive weakness for Indian breads. These Roti are easy to make and perfect for mopping up curry sauce

Indian vegetarian Chickpea curry

I hope you have enjoyed this curry recipe. We have some other Asian recipes on the blog including:

This Tomato Chutney spiced with onion seeds

A delicious Cashew Curry

And a fresh Green Chutney – a delicious accompaniment to Indian meals

Check them out and thanks for reading. Why not leave us a comment with your favourite curry – in honour of National Curry Week?

by Sally

6 responses to “Chana Masala

  1. Pingback: Chana Masala/ Khatte Punjabi Chane/ Tangy Chickpeas | Keli Paan·

  2. Pingback: Chana Masala (spicy chickpeas) | Garden of Good Eatin'·

  3. Hi Sally!!! I have really been enjoying your blog but honestly I am not the cook in the family, so I have never tried any of your recipes until this week, when I made your Chana Masala, Portuguese Potatoes and flatbread for Jorge. I was reluctant to try to hunt for the ingredients, thinking it would be a waste of time, but since we live in Lima now, we could find just about all of them in the market! The masala was unbelievably tasty, so full of flavor yet not overpowering, and the Portuguese potatoes were perfect with it! Your flat bread is so soft and delicious, it’s been on our table for breakfast lunch and dinner now for four days straight, with no end in sight..we are addicted!! Thanks again Sally, I can’t wait to see what you’re going to cook up next! Sending you love and big hugs from Peru..Chau

    • Hola Lynda. Thanks so much for your kind words. I am so glad you liked the curry, this is our most popular recipe on the blog & I am really proud of it.

      We used to serve those flatbreads in the Real McCoy & people loved them. I used to eat them almost everyday myself. I love that you are really into them. The bread in Peru is ok but there was never enough choice for me so missed good bread.

      Big love to you & Jorge. Hope you are both enjoying Lima & married life xx

  4. Just made this with eggplant and pumpkin and stirred a bit of butter through to finish it (since I wasn’t using ghee). It was really lovely, my go to vegetarian curry from now on. Thank you for this.

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