Chana Masala/Indian Chickpeas Curry

This blog of mine went live ten months ago.  Initially my idea was to just post recipes of dishes I have made for years and those that are established favorites with my family but as months went by I started to make up recipes and experiment. I assumed that there are already so many other food blogs that post recipes of standard dishes and I wanted to make dishes that I could tamper and change according to my own preferences.  In the beginning I did not post very many Indian recipes but then to my surprise I received a lot for requests for dishes that people (non-Indian readers of this blog) had eaten in Indian restaurants but did not know how to cook them. So in keeping with the basics of demand, I have started to “supply” recipes for Indian dishes.
When I moved to the US 25+ years ago, very few people knew about Indian cuisine. The few that had tasted it had done so in restaurants but now even mainstream grocery stores carry Indian ingredients in the “international foods” aisle and some even have frozen Indian entrees.  Chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have done their share of work in making Indian food accessible to a lot more people.  Some of their dishes like Chicken Tikka Masala and Chana Masala have become household names in parts of America that don’t have much of a Indian population.  Recently I received three separate requests for Chana Masala, so today I gave in and made this ubiquitous north Indian dish.


1.    1 lb of dry chickpeas or 3 cans of cooked chickpeas
2.    2 teaspoons of Garam Masala (I make mine by combining 3 teaspoons cumin seeds, 3 teaspoons black peppercorns, 4 large black cardamoms, one large stick of cinnamon, 10 cloves and grinding them to a powder in a spice grinder).
3.    2 teaspoons cumin seeds
4.    1 tablespoon coriander seeds (need to be freshly ground while the dish is cooking)
5.    2 teaspoons of turmeric powder
6.    1 teaspoon of red chili powder
7.    1 teaspoon of Tamarind paste/concentrate (you can buy this in any Indian/South Asian Store)
8.    1 tablespoon of Tomato paste
9.    One large red onion (or two medium sized ones) and two ripe juicy tomatoes
10.    4-5 cloves of garlic
11.    A pieces of ginger root about 1.5 inches long
12.    Two green chilies (if they are spicy, use only one)
13.    3 tablespoons of cooking oil (I used light olive oil meant for cooking – try not to use extra virgin olive oil because its taste doesn’t sit well with Indian food/spices)
14.    2 teaspoons of sugar
15.    2 teaspoons of salt (or to taste)


1.    Wash the chickpeas under a stream of cold water.
2.    If you are using canned chickpeas, move on to Step number 4. But if you are using dry chickpeas, soak them in a large container with 4 cups of warm water for 4-5 hours.

3.    When the chickpeas begin to sprout and get bigger, drain the water out and place them in a slow cooking crock pot for 5 hours on low heat with 4 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt.  Let the chickpeas get cooked till they are totally soft. I usually leave them in the crock pot overnight.

4.    In a large container (which has a heavy bottom) pour the oil and add the cumin seeds and let the oil get hot on low heat.

5.    While the oil is getting heated, peel and dice the onion as finely as you can.

6.    Pour the diced onion into the large heated pot and stir.

7.    While the onions are cooking, peel and finely dice the garlic cloves.

8.    Let the onions cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or so. Stir them after every 3-4 minutes so that they continue to cook and get caramelized.

9.    Add the diced garlic to the onions and stir. Let these get cooked for 4-5 minutes.

10.    Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pot. Also add the tomato paste and stir.

11.    Add the green chilies, turmeric powder, red chili powder and Garam Masala to the pot and stir.   Then grate the piece of ginger into the pot.


12.    Add the cooked chickpeas to the pot and stir. Continue to cooking the chickpeas on medium heat for 4-5 minutes.

13.    Dissolve the tamarind paste and sugar in 5-6 tablespoons of cold water and add that to the pot and stir.
14.    Let the chickpeas cook for another 10-15 minutes or so, or until the sauce looks thick. Taste for a balance of sweet, tart, and savory. Adjust according to your taste.

15.    At the very end grind the coriander seeds in a spice grinder and add the powder to the pot and stir. Cook for an addition 3-5 minutes.
16.    Serve hot with a side of Basmati rice pilaf or a flat Indian bread like Tandoori Roti or Naan.


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  1. Permalink Submitted by mjskit on Sat, 15/12/2012 - 19:17

    I’ve ordered this a couple of times when I’ve gone out for Indian. Love it! It’s great having access to a recipe! Thanks for sharing! It’s a gorgeous dish!

  2. Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Sat, 15/12/2012 - 22:34

    thanks! I hope you try this recipe – I promise it will be better than what you get at any Indian restaurants 🙂

  3. Permalink Submitted by Surbhi on Fri, 11/01/2013 - 22:24

    Shabnam, if you use the canned cholae do you precook them a bit in the slow cooker or can simmer them in the gravy?

    • Permalink Submitted by Surbhi on Fri, 11/01/2013 - 22:25

      Making cholae for tomorrow so just wanted to see your recipe too. Hmmm.. I dont add the crushed coriander. Also I add anardana to mine.

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