Easy Chana Masala (curried chickpea dish) made with pantry staples

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This easy version of Chana Masala, the well-known Indian curried chickpea dish, is so simple and delicious. It’s quick to throw together with pantry items, on the table in less than 30 minutes, and makes a nourishing and healthy meatless meal or side dish. Serve it with flatbread or rice today, and make the leftovers into a soup tomorrow!

Our world seems to be crazily tilting on its axis right now – nothing is normal and life, as we knew it just a few short months ago, may never be quite the same again.

We’re staying home as much as possible and being mindful of social distancing when we need to head out. We’re relearning how to be grateful for small and large blessings; we can go for walks in the sunshine, we have enough food in our stores, and we have a great country, dedicated health professionals, and good government who are rallying together and doing all they can to help keep us safe and survive this pandemic.


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Many of us have used this time to rediscover old hobbies or complete forgotten projects. Getting into the kitchen is my therapy, and by the looks of social media, I’m not alone in this. Cooking, baking and kitchen-puttering are helping ground a lot of people during these times.

The original recipe for chana masala, a beloved comfort food dish from India, uses chopped garlic and ginger, and a whole array of separate spices. It takes time to make and attentiveness to the steps. This simple version is not exactly authentic in method, but it does taste fantastic. The beauty of it is that you can toss the dish together in no time with what you have on hand. It’s nutritious, filling and tasty. If you combine chickpeas (or any legume) with a grain like rice or flatbread you have a complete protein.

Kitchen Frau Notes: You can use canned or cooked chickpeas in this recipe. To cook chickpeas in the Instant Pot; put 1 lb (about 2¼ cups) of dried, chickpeas into the instant pot. Add six cups of water. Seal the lid, press ‘Manual’ and set the timer to 50 minutes. Let the chickpeas cook, then allow the pressure to release naturally. Drain. Makes about six cups cooked chickpeas.

Easy Chana Masala (Simple Curried Chickpea Dish)

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (or 2½ teaspoons ground cumin)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons curry powder (or garam masala)
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 3 cans (400-540gms each) chickpeas/garbanzo beans (5½-6 cups, cooked)
  • 1 large can (800ml) diced tomatoes (or whole tomatoes, broken up)
  • salt to taste


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Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they start to pop. Add the curry powder and cook for 30-60 seconds more, until it is fragrant. (If using ground cumin add it to the oil at the same time as the curry powder and cook them both together for 60-90 seconds, until fragrant.)

Add the sliced onion, and cook with the spices for 4–5 minutes until translucent.

Drain the chickpeas and add them to the onions. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Taste and add salt if the dish needed (cooked chickpeas may require more salt).

Bring the beans to a simmer, cover, and let them stew over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with rice, flatbread or potatoes. Or serve over pasta or open buns (like sloppy joes) or tucked inside pita bread. Serve with yogurt, chopped cilantro, crumbled feta cheese, chopped sweet onions, or diced avocado if desired.

Chana Masala freezes well. Pack into freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to six months. Leftovers reheat well. You can also add some vegetable or chicken stock to the leftovers to make a delicious soup; add in leftover bits of cooked vegetables, if you have them.

Serves six.

Margaret Bose-Johnson

For more great recipes visit my food blog at www.kitchenfrau.com.

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