Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry)

I have been spoiled, in that until recently I have always lived near at least one really good Indian restaurant. Now that the closest one with decent food is about 30 minutes away, I have been making do with a lot of Trader Joe’s frozen Indian dishes. That is, until about a month ago, when I decided that it was time to learn to make a few of my favorites myself. 
This recipe is the product of that project. I can’t speak to its authenticity, but it certainly tastes better than its frozen counterpart, and it’s made with ingredients that can be readily picked up at any grocery store, making substitutions like lemon juice for amchoor. In this recipe, I chose to use Penzey’s garam masala blend, but if you’re feeling ambitious, you can always try making your own from scratch. I have also used halved cherry tomatoes instead of canned diced tomatoes, and while the texture is different, the flavor is excellent. You can also tweak the heat by using any combination of hot curry powder, hot peppers, cayenne, or none depending on how much heat you want. Tonight, I used a jalapeno, the cayenne, and a half tablespoon of hot curry powder along with a half tablespoon of sweet, and it was enough to make your head sweat. Consider yourselves warned.
Chana Masala
  • 1 T oil or ghee
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1 T ginger, minced
  • 1 chile such as a jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 T garam masala
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 C water
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt
  • scallions 
  • cilantro

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chile pepper if using. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown a bit. Stir in the garam masala, curry powder, mustard seeds, and cayenne pepper. Let cook 1-2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and their juices, and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in a pinch of sugar to the tomatoes, then add the chickpeas, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature and let simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Before serving, season with salt. Taste and add more salt or more lemon juice if a little more sharpness is needed. Garnish with chopped scallion greens and cilantro. Serve with naan, bhature, or rice.

Serves 4.


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