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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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

mylittlecelebration April 22, 2011 at 7:39 am

Well written and beautifully photographed. I’ve never tried making curry but this recipe may have me convinced to get over my fear.

Happy Friday, friend.


Angharad April 22, 2011 at 8:53 am

Thanks so much! This was such a lovely comment to see first thing. Go, go, go for it with making curry – it’s a lot easier than the ingredient list would have you believe.


Amy P. April 22, 2011 at 7:56 am

I really like chana masala too, it’s a good dish for using chickpeas and having a meatless meal. Usually I’ve just gotten pre-made sauces; will have to take a crack at cooking this from scratch.


brandi April 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

I love chana masala, but I’ve yet to try making my own. Soon!


Natalie S. April 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

Oh god, I love chana masala. I could seriously eat it every day of my life. What is that dolloped on top? I’ve never stirred any yogurt or anything into mine but now that I see something creamy on yours, my chana masala is jealous!


Angharad April 22, 2011 at 8:52 am

Ha ha, Natalie this made me laugh. It’s just plain, nonfat Greek yoghurt. I find when curry is really spicy, like this one can be, it cools everything down and adds a creamy touch. Try it! Your chana masala will love it ;)


minneville April 22, 2011 at 9:55 am

on the contrast, indian curry didn’t really take flight until the british colonial rule ended! now there’s a dedicated area to eat indian curry and it’s a tourist must-see!


Angharad April 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Brick Lane is a tourist must-see but it’s also still really popular with Londoners! Great place to find a good curry if you’re ever in London.


Larry Lewis April 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm

You are so right about how Indian food is entrenched into British culture. I am a healthy lifestyle blogger but hands up, i admit to loving going to my local curry house. This recipe looks rather tempting, so i dare say i’m going to give it a go .


Angharad April 22, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Hi Larry! This recipe is totally healthy too! Chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, garlic, spices…and that’s it! Uber good for you and uber delicious.


Marialuisa (decocinasytacones) April 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm

From an European to another.
Those chickpeas look great!. I love curry and last Nov I had the chance to travel to Rajasthan, something that made me love indian spices even more.
Besides, London is my favourite city in the world for different reasons. I lived there, studied there in a boarding school and years later, my daughter went to University there and lived there so I´ve been visiting the city quite often.
So Hi to you for different reasons, mainly because food reunited us all. Anything you want from the other side of the Atlantic, let me know.
Love from the north of Spain.


Angharad April 24, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Wow, what a lovely message to receive! Thanks Marialuisa. My parents actually live in Spain now – close to Benissa – which gives us one more connection :)


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