Chana Masala {Chickpea Curry}

April 22, 2011

I hope somewhere along the lines of you reading this blog I have conveyed my fierce love of curry. If not, then I’ve been remiss and I’d like to address the situation right now. Curry to British people is like Mexican food to Americans. A foreign cuisine that feels so entrenched in your own country’s national eating habits that it’s as normal and traditional a thing to eat as say, burgers for you guys, or bangers and mash for us.

Curry feels British. Quite clearly though, it is not. You won’t find many traditional British recipes parading around with a list of spices as long as you’ll see below. Curry became really popular in the U.K. from the 1950s onwards as a result of British colonial rule and mass immigration to Britain from South Asia.

I actually didn’t discover chana masala until moving to the States and beginning to cook more myself. Back in the day at curry houses, I would rarely even glance at vegetarian dishes, thinking in tunnel vision, “I’m not a vegetarian, so…”. Little did I know that many of the best dishes live over there in vegetarian land. Chana Masala is just one of them and I’m so happy to share it with you because if you love curry then I think you’ll adore this.

We’ve been making this recipe for a year or two and have adapted it to suit our slightly milder tastes. I always thought of myself as a spice lover but the original of this recipe had me sweating at levels I wasn’t quite comfortable with. Hence I’ve toned it down but don’t be fooled: it still packs a punch. If you prefer it really spicy then double the amount of green chili pepper and cayenne pepper.

Chana Masala {Chickpea Curry}
adapted from Madhur Jaffrey via Smitten Kitchen


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon (juiced)


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, paprika and garam masala. Cook onion mixture with spices for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan.
  3. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice.
  4. Serve with fluffy basmati rice or naan bread (or both).
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