Chana  Masala
Recipe courtesy of Nidhi Jalan for Food Network Kitchen

Chana Masala

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 9 hr 45 min (includes soaking time)
  • Active: 1 hr 15 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
Chana masala or chickpea curry, often called Amritsari Chole, originates from Punjab but is popular all over India. There are many versions of this dish and every house has its own take on it. This super authentic recipe from my mother-in-law’s kitchen is my favorite, with the chickpeas smothered in a delicious thick, piquant and spiced gravy. First, they are cooked and infused with black tea and black cardamom, then simmered with a masala made with supremely aromatic roasted spices. This dish gets its tang from dried pomegranate seeds and raw mango powder. Though it’s a little bit of work, it is the real McCoy and once you’ve had this version, nothing else will live up to it!


Roasted Chana Masala Spice Blend:


  1. Drain the chickpeas, then combine them in a large Dutch oven with the baking soda, bay leaves, black tea bag, black cardamom, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups of water. (To pressure cook the chickpeas, see Cook’s Note.) Bring the mixture to a boil in a large Dutch oven, then reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered with a lid, until the chickpeas are tender, about 1 hour. If the liquid is evaporating too quickly before the chickpeas are tender, pour in an additional 1 cup of water and continue to cook. Discard the tea bag, bay leaves and cardamom. Drain the chickpeas and put them back in the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the ghee and/or oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring and scraping occasionally, until the onions are very soft and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. 
  3. Add the ginger, garlic and green chiles and cook until the raw smell goes away, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until well cooked and pasty, about 8 minutes. Add the Roasted Chana Masala Spice Blend along with 2 tablespoons of water and saute until well mixed and the flavors have melded, 3 to 5 minutes.  
  4. Add the spice mixture to the chickpeas with 1 cup of water (see Cook's Note), mix well and bring to a simmer over medium heat; simmer until the curry thickens and coats and infuses the chickpeas, about 5 minutes. Adjust salt to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with lime wedges or julienned ginger slaw, if desired. 

Roasted Chana Masala Spice Blend:

  1. Combine the whole spices (coriander, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom) in a small heavy skillet (preferably cast iron, if you have it) and roast over medium-high heat, shaking the pan often to ensure even roasting, until the spices start getting darker, 3 to 4 minutes. Lower the heat to low and add the powdered spices (pomegranate powder, mango powder, black salt, chile powder, turmeric and asafoetida) and cook, shaking or stirring constantly, until slightly darker, about 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn the spices. Immediately transfer the spices to a bowl and cool. Once cooled, grind the spices. You can double or triple this recipe and keep it in an airtight container for future use.

Cook’s Note

I like to use the small Thai or Indian green chiles, but serrano or jalapenos will also work. When I say 1 to 4 chiles, that refers to the smaller chilies, which are more potent. If using serranos or jalapenos, use 1 to 2. To make julienned ginger slaw, peel and julienne fresh ginger. Combine with lime juice, salt and chopped green chiles if you like spicy food. To pressure cook the chickpeas: Combine the drained chickpeas with the baking soda, bay leaves, black tea bag, black cardamom, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups of water in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high for 8 to 10 minutes, following the manufacturer's instructions. Release the pressure manually (quick release). Traditionally, this dish has a very thick gravy that wraps around the chickpeas. If you want, you can add a little water to increase the amount of gravy, but the flavors won’t be as intense or have the same impact as when the dish is drier. Although the dish is often paired with a bread called bhatura, I love serving it with naan or aloo roti. Plain yogurt or a simple raita goes great with it.