Chana Masala

Though I didn’t eat much Indian food until after I started college, I’ve grown to love it. I remember the first time I ate at Chapati in Northfield, while I was a student at St. Olaf College. The mango lassi was delicious and the entrees were pretty good, too. I’ve been hooked ever since. I just happened to find a pretty simple recipe for chana masala in a book I was reading and decided to give it a shot.

Chana Masala

Chana Masala

Makes 4 servings.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander (I ground up coriander seeds, as that’s what I had)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala, plus more for serving, if desired
  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • water
  • one 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped; more for serving, if desired
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed, with any stray skins removed
  • 1/3 cup yogurt (optional addition at the end; omit to make  recipe vegan)
  • lemon wedges (optional addition at the end)


  1. Heat olive oil in dutch oven or another large pan. Add onion, and cook until caramelized. I am terrible at this – my onions usually end up browned/burnt. I place some of the blame on my stove, that seems to think low heat = medium, and medium heat = burn everything in the pan.  Here’s a helpful slideshow if you too struggle to create perfectly caramelized onions.
  2. Reduce heat to low, and add the garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, garam masala, cardamom pods, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated.
  4. Pour in the juice from the can of tomatoes, then pour in the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as you do so. Beware of squirting tomatoes! I made a bit of a mess when I started breaking up the first tomato. Be sure to get rid of any tough parts, too, like the area near where the stem was attached. I like bigger chunks of tomato, but if you don’t you can always mash them up with a fork or potato masher.
  5. Raise the heat, if needed, to bring the mixture to a boil. Adjust the heat so everything’s a-simmerin’, then add the pepper flakes and cilantro. Cook, stirring as needed, until the mixture starts to thicken.
  6. Add the chickpeas, and mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for 5 minutes longer, then add another 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for another 5 minutes.*
  7. Stir in the yogurt if desired (it got a little weird looking at this point – probably some curdling action going on), or squeeze some lemon juice over the dish. I personally think it tastes fine without any additions, but feel free to do whatever suits your fancy. Top with a bit of cilantro and a sprinkle of garam masala, if desired.

*The original recipe notes that this process of adding water and cooking it off “helps concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome.”

One goal that I have with this cooking blog is to push myself to try cooking new things, particularly more dishes from different cultures (Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc). I think the onigiri I made last month and this chana masala are a good start; I’m excited about the possibilities.

Source: Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg, the culinary  genius behind the Orangette blog