One of the first Indian dishes I learned how to make was chana masala, also known as chole. I learned how to make it because my sister knew how to make it, and I copied everything she did (except that she became a doctor and I did not!).
What is Chana Masala or Chole? Chana masala is a South Asian dish that varies within each region. I personally have adapted mine to keep it kid friendly. The spice level on this is mild (depending on your tolerance), and my kids absolutely love it. Chana masala is basically a chickpea masala recipe that a tomato and onion gravy, spices, and masala powder with chickpeas.
- Canned chickpeas. I am all about convenience in this phase of my life. There is no shame in using canned beans for your recipes. I like to use no salt added to decrease my sodium intake.
- Onions and tomato gravy. I blend these separately in a blender like this one. If I’m in a time crunch, I also like to add ginger and garlic to the onions.
- Garlic and ginger. If I don’t blend this with the onions, I will fine grind this with this chopper.
- Masala & Seasonings: You can buy Indian masalas at any Indian grocery store. Many other grocery stores now carry basics such as garam masala, turmeric powder, or cumin powder (possibly not seeds).
- I like to use MDH chana masala or Badshah Chana masala powder with this one. The Badshah one is slightly spicier for my kids, so I stick to the MDH. If you don’t have this, you can use garam masala, which can now be found at most grocery stores. Don’t have any of those options? You can add some cardamom, black pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon for added flavor to your recipe.
- Turmeric. This is essential to enhance the flavor of the dish.
- Jaggery. This is optional. Adding sweetness to a dish enhances the flavors and brings the recipe together. You can opt to use brown sugar or regular sugar or omit it altogether. Both taste great! I like to use the pastier version versus the dry version, which you can find at the Indian grocery stores.
- Salt to taste. This varies per recipe depending on which powder you use, as the masalas are already seasoned with salt. I recommend starting with half a teaspoon and then increasing it when the dish is complete.
- Cumin seeds. I temper these with the oil at the beginning to release the properties of the seeds. If you don't have cumin seeds, you can use cumin powder.
Why Do You Temper Spices?
You are welcome to use powder for the flavor. However, tempering is the way to unlock the spices' healing properties. Many South Asian cuisines temper seeds and spices. Tempering can be done at the beginning or the end of your dish, depending on the dish. The significance behind the tempering is that when these ingredients are added to hot oil, the spices' natural oils and healing properties are released. It gives you the most important properties of the spices and adds extra flavor to the dish!
Serve this with warm naan or basmati rice. Shruthi at Urban Farmie has a great Traditional Naan recipe as well as a Jeera Rice recipe that will go wonderfully with this! I also like to serve with samosas and chutney as a samosa chaat. Or wrap it in a paratha and make a Kathi roll with the chana masala as the filling. My favorite side to go with Chana Masala is Cucumber Raita. Chana masala can be stored for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. You can also prep this in advance and use it with your meal prep throughout the week.
More Indian Recipes
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Chana Masala Recipe
- 2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, I use no salt added, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 inch ginger, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium onions, finely diced or crushed
- 2 medium tomatoes, finely diced or crushed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons chana masala or garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons jaggery, Optional
- ½ teaspoon salt + more to taste
- ¼ cup dried fenugreek leaves
- optional garnishes: jalapeños, onions, or cilantro
- Heat oil in a medium pan. Temper the cumin seeds until they pop and are fragrant.
- Add garlic and ginger. Then add the onions and cook until they began to brown, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook until the water starts to absorb and it becomes a gravy like consistency, about 5 minutes.
- Mix in the chana masala powder (or garam masala), turmeric, jaggery (if using), and salt. Combine well.
- Add the drained chickpeas and fenugreek leaves, cover the lid, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- If you prefer a heavier liquid, I recommend adding about ¼-1/2 cup water and letting it simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat serve with warm basmati rice or fresh naan.