This authentic chana masala recipe works for a quick weeknight dinner, make-ahead meal and also an indulgent weekend lunch. Learn how to make this Kabuli chana recipe extra creamy with simple ingredients, aromatic spices and a little secret!
About the recipe
Chana masala or chole masala is one of the basic Indian curry recipes like Kerala dal curry, chicken curry, mung bean coconut curry and spinach dal. It is an Indian chickpea curry made of chickpeas (chole or chana) in gravy (or masala) with delicious aromatic spices.
This South Indian chana masala is a healthy chickpea curry without coconut cream 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 curry.
In this easy recipe, you’re about to learn how to make creamy chana masala with fresh whole spices, which is a substitute for chana masala powder, either homemade or store-bought.
This simplified method is not only time-saving but also results in a more flavorful dish. And you don’t have to hunt for very specific ingredients to enjoy this simple curry.
We did the same for the black chana soup recipe and Mangalorean fish curry. There’s nothing to match the aroma of fresh and instantly ground spices in a curry. Also, you get to control the ingredients when you make the spice mix yourself.
You’re also going to learn the trick of thickening the curry in an easy, healthy way.
Let’s get started!
Watch How To Make It
Ingredients required for South Indian chickpea curry
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. The quantity of water should be 2 cups for every cup of dry chickpeas.
If using a 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.
(For detailed instructions on how to cook dry chickpeas, see the Indian chickpea salad recipe.)
Other ingredients would be onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and a mix of spices for the gravy:
Instead of roasting and grinding chana masala spices, we’re going to do it the easy and effective way: Grind the spices with the aromatics like onions, ginger and garlic and saute them directly for the gravy.
This saves time and effort without any compromise on taste.
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.
How to make authentic chana masala- step by step
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 the curry covered and let it simmer for about 10 minutes on medium heat.
Squeeze about 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (according to taste) and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Creamy South Indian chickpea curry in 30 minutes! Dig in with your favorite naan, roti, or rice.
Tips to make the best creamy chana masala
- 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. (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 this South-Indian 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?
This authentic 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.
Is chole masala good for weight loss?
Chana (chickpeas) are rich in protein and fibre, which helps keep you full longer. They have no cholesterol. These factors make chickpeas one of the foods that help in weight loss.
This recipe for chole masala 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
- A cup of chickpeas provides almost one-third of an adult’s daily protein requirements.
- Chickpeas contain no cholesterol. They’re also rich in B-vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium and selenium- all these factors support heart health.
- Chickpeas are rich sources of fibre that can help people with diabetes and those trying to lose weight.
- The iron, calcium and other nutrients in chickpeas contribute to healthy bone structure.
- Chickpeas have high levels of potassium that can help manage high blood pressure.
Love pasta and chickpeas? Creamy vegan garlic pasta with chickpeas is a way to sneak chickpeas into pasta!
Printable curry paste recipe
Grab a printable copy of the curry paste that helps home cooks like you cook different curries in 30 minutes or less:
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Hi! I’m Sheeba, welcome to Go Healthy ever after!
I have a passion for cooking delicious nourishing food that’s easy to cook with fresh natural ingredients free from additives or preservatives. The easy healthy recipes you find here will inspire you to cook with passion and creativity.