Easy chana masala with whole spices

This is a quick and easy recipe for chana masala that works for a weeknight dinner, make-ahead meal and also an indulgent weekend lunch. Learn how to make chana masala gravy extra creamy with simple ingredients, whole spices and a little secret!

Easy chana masala in a metal bowl with a ladle.

About the recipe

Chana masala is one of the basic Indian curry recipes like chicken curry and spinach dal. It is an Indian chickpea curry made of chickpeas (or chana) in gravy (or masala) made of delicious aromatic spices. If you like chickpea-based Indian dishes, you’ll love the Indian chickpea salad.

Love pasta and chickpeas? Creamy pasta with spinach and chickpeas is a way to sneak chickpeas into pasta!

Chana masala is a healthy chickpea curry without coconut or any other form of saturated fat. It is also naturally vegan and gluten-free since we don’t add cream or any other dairy product, or flour. Using canned chickpeas also makes it a quick and easy one-pot chana masala.

In this easy recipe, you’re about to learn how to make chana masala with fresh whole spices, which is a substitute for chana masala powder, either homemade or store-bought. This method is not only time-saving but also results in a more flavorful dish.

We did the same for curried brown chickpea soup recipe. There’s nothing to match the aroma of fresh and instantly ground spices in a curry.

You’re also going to learn the trick of thickening the curry in an easy, healthy way.

Let’s get started!

Ingredients

Chickpeas

Either canned ones or the dry variety can be used. Canned chickpeas can be rinsed and added to the gravy.

If using dry chickpeas, soak them for 8 hours or overnight. If using pressure cooker, cook for about 6 whistles on medium heat. If using an instant pot, pressure cook at high pressure for 15 minutes and wait for the pressure to release naturally.

Other ingredients would be onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and a mix of spices for the gravy:

Chana masala spice mix

The choice and quantity of spices make all the difference to the chana masala.

WHOLE SPICES: Cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, dry red chilli, bay leaf, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns and green chilli (optional).

GROUND SPICES: Chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder- for added flavor.

labelled ingredients for chana masala.

Step by step instructions

Blend onions, garlic, ginger and all the spices together. Puree the tomatoes.

 Heat oil in a deep pan and sauté the blended onion-spice mix. Once it browns and gives a nice aroma, add tomato puree. Stir for a couple of minutes, then mix in the chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt. Sauté until the water evaporates and the gravy becomes thick.

Reserve 1/4 cup of chickpeas and add the rest to the gravy. If using canned chickpeas, rinse, drain and add water. If you’re cooking dry chickpeas, use water from the cooked chickpeas. Cover and let it simmer on low heat.

Blend the reserved chickpeas with 1/2 cup of water into a smooth paste. Add it to the simmering gravy with water as required (1 to 1.5 cups) and mix well.

Slit the green chilli horizontally and add to the curry (this is optional). Adjust water and salt as required. Keep it covered and let it simmer for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Creamy healthy chickpea curry in 30 minutes! Dig in with your favorite naan, roti, or rice.

Recipe tips

  • Wipe the cinnamon and bay leaves with a damp cloth before using, to remove dirt.
  • If using canned chickpeas, rinse and drain before use. You wouldn’t want the added sodium in the liquid.
  • Blend the reserved chickpeas very smooth. Smoother the paste, the curry will turn out creamier.
  • Since we are blending fresh whole spices, you only need less quantity than using the store-bought or even homemade spice mix. (The ground spices tend to lose their flavors over time.)
  • Want even more flavor? Try making this easy curry paste in advance and add a heaped tablespoon when you’re blending the onions and spices.

Common questions about chana masala

How can I soften chana quickly?

If you forget to soak dry chickpeas for chana masala, there’s a way to soften chana quickly. For 1 cup of chana, boil 4 cups of water and soak chana in it for 1 hour in a closed container. It softens quicker if soaked in a sealed container, pressure cooker or instant pot.
Cook the soaked chickpeas according to the recipe. However, the texture of chickpeas cooked this way may not turn out as creamy and soft as when you soak for 8 hours or longer.

Can you freeze chana masala?

Chana masala can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. If you want to use it beyond 2 days, it can be frozen. It freezes well and stays fresh up to a couple of months in the freezer. So

Is chana masala good for weight loss?

Chana (chickpeas) are rich in protein and fibre, which helps keep you full longer. They have no cholesterol. All of these factors make chickpeas one of the foods that help in weight loss.
This recipe is healthy since it does not use saturated fats like butter, cream or coconut milk to thicken the gravy.

What is chana masala served with?

Chana masala is usually served with naan or roti. You can also serve it with rice, either plain boiled rice or flavored rice like jeera rice or pulao with a vegetable side like roasted tandoori cauliflower or microwave-fried okra. For low-carb options, pair it with coconut cauliflower rice. If you’re a meat-lover, pair chana masala with rice and tandoori chicken or easy baked chicken legs.

Health benefits of chickpeas

  1. A cup of chickpeas provides almost one-third of an adult’s daily protein requirements.
  2. Chickpeas contain no cholesterol. They’re also rich in B-vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium and selenium- all these factors support heart health.
  3. Chickpeas are rich sources of fibre that can help people with diabetes and those trying to lose weight.
  4. The iron, calcium and other nutrients in chickpeas contribute to healthy bone structure.
  5. Chickpeas have high levels of potassium that can help manage high blood pressure.

(Source)

Closeup view of easy chana masala in a metal bowl.

More easy delicious curries like this

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Closeup view of easy chana masala in a metal bowl.

Easy chana masala recipe with whole spices

This is a quick and easy recipe for chana masala made with whole spices and simple ingredients. Learn how to make chana masala gravy extra creamy with a simple trick!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course curry, dinner, LUNCH, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 267 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2.5 cups canned or cooked chickpeas (or 1 cup dry chickpeas)
  • 2 onions diced
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger chopped
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil (or any cooking oil)

Spices

  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder (or cayenne pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Whole spices

  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 2 or 3 cloves
  • 2 or 3 cardamoms
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dry red chilli
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns

Others

  • 1 green chili (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves chopped (for garnishing)

Instructions
 

To cook chickpeas

  • If using canned chickpeas, rinse and drain.
  • For dry chickpeas, soak for 8 hours (or even overnight, if time permits). Drain the chickpeas and add 4 cups of water.

Cooking chickpeas in instant pot

  • Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.

Cooking chickpeas in pressure cooker

  • Cook on medium heat for about 6 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

For the chana masala gravy

  • Prepare the gravy while the chickpeas are cooking.
    Blend together onions, garlic, ginger and all the ingredients listed under "whole spices" into a smooth paste.
    Puree the tomatoes.
  • Heat oil in a deep pan or wok. Sauté the blended onion and spice mixture on low flame until browned.
    Add the pureed tomatoes and stir for 2 minutes. Add the chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt.
  • Reserve 1/4 cup of cooked chickpeas and add the rest to the gravy. Add 1 to 1.5 cups of water.
    If you used soaked dry chickpeas, use the water from cooking the chickpeas.
  • Blend the reserved chickpeas with 1/2 cup of water into a smooth paste. Mix into the curry. Optionally, slit the green chili lengthwise and add.
    Cover and cook on medium flame for about 10 minutes or until the gravy is thick and creamy.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.

Notes

  1. Blend the onion-spice paste as well as the reserved chickpeas to a smooth paste. This will make the chana masala smooth and creamy.
  2. Ensure that you wipe the dry spices (especially cinnamon and bay leaf) with a damp cloth before using to remove any dirt.
  3. The optional green chili towards the end of cooking adds to the spicy flavors. You can remove it before serving if you don’t want to run into the risk of biting into it. Or skip it entirely.
  4. Cooking time:
  • The total cooking time for this recipe is based on the assumption that you use canned chickpeas. If using dry chickpeas, add 8 hours of soaking time and 30 minutes of cooking time.
  • Another assumption is that you prepare, blend and sauté the gravy while the chickpeas are cooking.
Easy chana masala with whole spices
Keyword Easy chana masala, Healthy chickpea curry, How to make chana masala, vegan chickpea curry

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Thank you and happy cooking!

– Sheeba.

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