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What Is Chana Masala?
Chana masala is an Indian vegetarian stew featuring creamy chickpeas cooked in a fragrant and spicy tomato sauce anchored by a blend of spices called garam masala. It goes by many names—chole masala (the name for the conventional chickpeas found in the US), channay, and chholay among them—and can be found in restaurants, street stalls, and home kitchens alike. On its own, chana masala is gluten-free, but it’s often served alongside basmati rice or fluffy fry-breads like puri or bhatoora.
What Is Garam Masala?
Chana masala is centered around its spices. It features garam masala, a blend usually containing:
- Mace (a relative of nutmeg)
- Green cardamom
- Black cardamom
- Ground coriander
- Black pepper
- Cumin seeds
- Bay leaf
These spices are all toasted and ground together, although the exact proportions and ingredients of the blend differs from individual to individual, and region to region.
How to Cook Chana Masala in a Slow Cooker
To cook chana masala in an Instant Pot-style pressure cooker or slow cooker, first set to saute mode. Heat oil in the cooker and saute onions until beginning to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices (except for amchoor) and stir to combine, cooking the onions down until soft. Add the drained chickpeas, tomatoes, and ½ cup water. Season to taste. Set manual pressure for 20 minutes. Release pressure, and bring back to saute mode. Add the amchoor, and adjust with water and seasoning for preferred consistency.
Chana Masala Variations
Some recipes call for green chilies, some go without; some prefer a stew with more of a mashed consistency over a soupy one. It’s comfort food, so you should feel free to experiment with different ingredients and preparations. While it’s typically enjoyed at dinner, leftover chana masala with a dollop of Greek yogurt makes a great breakfast as well.
Quick and Easy Chana Masala Recipe
Prep Time30 min
Total Time1 hr
If you can’t find amchoor, don’t worry: while the dried green mango powder gives the final dish a more bright and tart character, lemon juice is a suitable and adequate substitute.
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tsp garam masala (a good quality curry powder will also do)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp. amchoor powder
- ½ tsp cayenne, or chili powder of choice, to taste
- 2 large tomatoes, diced, or 1 can diced/pureed tomatoes
- 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, and continue to cook until onion is golden-brown and soft.
- Add the chickpeas, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, amchoor, chili powder, tomatoes, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Lower heat, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened and chickpeas have begun to break down. If too thick, add a bit of water.
- Remove from heat, and serve topped with cilantro if desired.