Chana Masala

This dish may seem complicated but you can trust me when I tell you that it comes together rather quickly. . . dare I even say that you could make it for a weeknight family dinner?  The biggest investment is really just making sure you have all of the necessary spices on hand. It may seem like a hassle, but the spices are really what make this dish what it is. Specifically, the chana masala spice (pictured below) is a combination of so many spices that helps to create the layers of flavor in this chana masala. Served over steaming rice with some roasted cauliflower or even a simple green salad would be pretty perfect.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 stick of cinnamon (note this is whole cinnamon stick not powdered cinnamon)
2 small yellow onions or 1 large, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
3 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons dhana jeera*
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (start with 1/4 teaspoon if you prefer a milder version)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons chana masala spice**
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 (15 ounce) cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
sliced scallions (optional)
chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium to large sized pot over medium heat. Add the whole cloves, cumin seeds and cinnamon stick. Warm for just a minute or so. Add the onions and sauté until golden brown (5-10 minutes). Next, add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about a minute or so . Add the finely chopped tomatoes and tomato paste; cook the mixture until the tomatoes have melted down a bit.

Add the remaining spices including the salt. Gently cook, stirring every now and then. The best way to describe when this stage of cooking is done is to look for the oil to begin to separate away from the tomato and onion mixture (or as my mom says — when the oil looks like it’s beginning to “bubble” away).

Add the chickpeas and about a cup of water. Gently simmer for half an hour to allow the flavors to combine. Add more water as needed.

Season with additional salt to taste. Garnish with sliced scallions or chopped cilantro and serve alongside a steaming bowl of rice.


* A combination of ground cumin and coriander, found at Indian grocery stores; alternatively, you could add 1 teaspoon ground coriander and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

** Again, found at most Indian grocery stores. You could omit this ingredient if you are unable to find (and increase the other spices a bit) but I think it is worth the extra step of procuring this spice mix! It adds that extra bit of flavor that I find is missing from many chana masala recipes.