In my Easy Chickpea Masala, the chana or chickpeas, are simmered in a rich blend of spices like cumin, garam masala and turmeric along with garlic, ginger, onions, chopped tomatoes and chilies. Easy to make and a great side dish or add shredded chicken for a complete meal.
I wanted to do my take on a traditional Chana Masala (Chickpea Masala), which has chickpeas and tomatoes simmered with a mixture of garlic, ginger, onions, and Serrano chiles plus traditional Indian spices. A sour component like a sweet-tart pomegranate molasses is usually added as well, or amchur (powdered under-ripe green mangos). I didn’t have any pomegranate molasses on hand, but I did have some amchur powder and sprinkled that in the mix. You could just as easily substitute the amchur with lemon juice if you don’t have or can’t find it.
This Chana Masala is a traditional Indian vegetarian dish, but with the addition of chicken, you could make this a meal. A quick rough chop of cilantro on top to garnish with lemon wedges to squeeze all over and we were good to go.
The trick in making this authentic in flavor is taking the time to hunt down and find the correct spices. I go to a local Indian spice market here in San Diego, but I am sure you could order any online, too. I’m also a big fan of toasting the spices prior to grinding, it brings out the natural essential oils and adds another dimension in flavor. In a lot of Indian cooking the spices are also toasted in hot oil. I usually purchase the spices in small quantities and store them in airtight containers. Doing these little things will definitely take your basic cooking skills to the next level and you will see and taste the difference, trust me.
If you are a regular reader here you know I like to make my own spice blends. And yes, I do make my own Chana Masala Spice Blend, but you can also buy it online. This one suits my taste needs and is a little spicier!
The exotic smells wafting through the house as this simmers is so comforting. I love Indian cuisine and have been lucky enough to travel there and took part in the Holi festival and you can read all about my adventures here in my post, New Delhi or Bust – Memories from India, the Spicy Sub-Continent.
A previous co-worker friend of mine named Gouthami is from there and once invited me to a family wedding!
She said, as I have heard, that the Indian wedding is a very big affair which lasts 7-10 days, sometimes longer. When I asked how long she would be going for she replied, ” a full month.” WOW! That’s a lot of preparation and fun. I asked her if she had been married there as well, and she said her family put together quite the large celebration. It consisted of many days of preparation, the different ceremonies and feasting for about 5,000 people. Yes, you read that right, five-thousand-people attended. I was amazed and asked to see pictures, which she brought in the next day. Huge town halls are used to accommodate such parties. Now that’s a party!
What glorious colors and clothes from the wedding party to the food hall and everything in between. The traditional ceremonies as well as the family feasting were all caught on digital and I was transported to an amazing event.
She is going back home in November and said I could easily be a family guest to observe and she would later show me or have an elder in her family show me her country. The generosity and desire to share her country with me warmed up my soul as does this amazing dinner.
Gouthami said she would like to cook with me one day and share her family recipes, which I gladly will enjoy and will report back here our creations.
A helpful note to mention: If you prefer to use dried chickpeas instead of canned, but forget to soak them the night before like me, here is a little trick I use to quickly soak them. Feel free to use canned for this though, it’s much easier.
This Easy Chickpea Masala recipe first appeared on Kevin Is Cooking August 2014 and has been updated with new photos and a video.
Easy Chickpea Masala
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil (See Note 1)
- 2 red onions chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger paste
- 3 small fresh Serrano chili seeded and diced
- 2 tbsp chana masala spice blend (optional)
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp ground garam masala
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 28 oz can diced tomatoes (See Note 2)
- 2 15 oz cans chickpeas (See Note 3)
- 1 tsp amchur (dried mango powder) (See Note 4)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
- Chopped cilantro for garnish
- In a large stock pot or skillet add the oil and sauté the onions until almost golden.
- Next add the garlic, ginger paste, chiles, chana masala (optional), cumin, turmeric, garam masala and salt in a food processor. Pulse until chopped fine, but not pureed. Scrape mixture into onions.
- Add diced tomatoes and chickpeas (reserve 1 can chickpea liquid) to the onions. Slowly simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the mango powder, lemon juice and stir to incorporate completely. Season to taste. If the mixture is too thick feel free to dilute with water or chickpea liquid.
- Serve with garnish of chopped cilantro and lemon wedges.
- You can substitute traditional ghee for the oil if you choose.
- If using fresh Roma tomatoes: To remove the tomato skins cut a small X on the opposite end of the stem side and drop in boiling water for 3 minutes, remove and cool in cold water. Using a paring knife peel back the skin from the X cut, discard the skins and dice the tomatoes.
- If you choose to use dried chickpeas instead of the canned (2-15 oz cans): Rinse and clean the 1 cup dried beans. Cover with cool water and soak overnight (or used canned if preferred). Drain and set aside. Rinse beans and place in a large stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the chickpeas are tender, about 90 minutes.
- Lemon juice may be substituted for amchur, the sweet and sour mango powder, if unavailable. Substitute three tablespoons of lemon juice for one teaspoon of amchur.