Meat Free Friday: Chana Masala (Curried Chickpeas)

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There’s an Indian restaurant around the corner from my house. In addition to having great food, they’re one of the few Indian restaurants in town that have a weekend lunch buffet — and sometimes they even have a coupon for buy one, get one free! Needless to say, we find ourselves there on Saturdays fairly often. All of the options are spectacular, but I always head straight for the chickpeas. They do them a few different way, but whenever I see “the one with the onions” I know I’ve hit the jackpot. This dish is glorious: hearty but not heavy and with the perfect amount of spice to make it noticeably hot without being too much. And the chickpeas — oh, the chickpeas. I’m always jealous of how they get their chickpeas to be so silky smooth.

So, me being me, I decided to try reproducing it at home.

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I searched for a while, but wasn’t able to figure out what exactly this dish is called. So I used a combination of recipes and memory to come up with this recipe. I’m calling it chana masala, which from what I can tell is a broad description that translates to something like “chickpeas in curry sauce.” It isn’t exactly the same as the restaurant’s, but it’s delicious nonetheless. Caramelized onions and tomatoes give the dish a great depth of flavor, and a combination of spices and cream give it a luxurious earthiness.

The trick to getting those velvety chickpeas is to start with dried beans. I have nothing against canned chickpeas. In fact, I use them all the time. But when you really think about the texture of them, they have sort of a grittiness or a sandiness to them. Dried beans take a lot longer to prepare, but the texture is entirely different — they’re soft and plump, with a smooth, creamy center that doesn’t have a trace of grittiness to it. I’ve tried making dried chickpeas a few times before but they’ve never come out quite right. You need to be patient with them. Soak them overnight in lots of water — they’ll plump up to at least double their original size. Then, simmer then slowly for at least an hour until they are tender and creamy.

If you’re in a rush, you can use canned chickpeas and have a delicious dinner in a few minutes. But if you have the time and patience to start with dried beans, you’ll be in for a real treat.

You may find chickpeas being sold under their other name — garbanzo beans.



Chana Masala

If you want a quick meal, you can substitute canned chickpeas. Garam masala is spicy, so use less if you don’t like as much heat. If you can’t find garam masala, you can substitute a combination of cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne, crushed bay leaf, a ground clove. Serve with rice and naan or pita.

  • 1-1/2 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • dash salt
  • 8 ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 tsp garam masala (use less if you don’t want it as spicy)
  • 2 Tbs heavy cream
  • Juice from 1/2 lime

Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak overnight.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until tender.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan. Turn the heat to low (level 2) and add the onion. Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until soft and golden.

Heat the oil in a large pan.Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spices and cook for another minute. Stir in the tomatoes along with any liquid from the can. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and the garam masala. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cream and the lime juice. Stir in the caramelized onions.

Serves 4.


  1. I love chickpeas!!! This sounds great. Usually I go with them plain mixed in with a salad, but I think this would be a good way to mix it up.

    I kind of have to laugh at the 2 TBSP of heavy cream – I never buy it (or milk for that matter), then I would feel like I have to find something to make with the remainder!

  2. you could leave the cream out or substitute milk if you have it. I bet plain yogurt would also be really good. It just adds an extra dimension and some weight to the sauce.

  3. plain yogurt would be easier, I always have that around! thanks for the suggestion!

  4. I have a new love for Indian inspired food since trying Chickpea Curry. This looks amazing! Mmmm…I think I can taste it :)

  5. i just ate dinner and all i want right now is a serving of the chana masala you made!!! that looks so incredible :)

  6. Curried chickpeas over rice sounds like such a nice delicious meal! Fantastic flavors!

  7. There used to be an Indian restaurant near my house that had something similar. Now I have t drive out just to have Indian cuisine. Though, i don’t mind driving out. I think I’ll be trying this at home.

  8. wow its looks perfect so proud of you

  9. I grew up in Singapore among Indians…yet I’ve never heard of this dish until I came to the states. I think it was because I refused to eat anything remotely vegetarian. well, looks like I totally missed out, but no longer! I’m gonna make this dish sometime…thanks, Laruen!

  10. Gorgeous–I love a good chana masala. So true about the chick peas–when I make the effort and use dry, even my hummus tastes better.

  11. I love chickpeas. I always cook it in the pressure cooker so it’s soft and nice. I just snack on them. Cooking in curry makes it even more delicious. Yours look really delicious….so good with rice.

  12. Channa is something w elove here at home, especially my daughter she loved them from when she was little, and when she was little she used to als me are you going tomake the indian balls , that is what she calle channa dishe :-)
    Love this, looks so so yumm.

  13. Your photos always inspire me, and this looks delicious!

  14. That looks really wonderful. We love cooking with garam masala. I’ll go meat-free today with you. Have a great weekend.

  15. I love the shot with the lime and all – what a great looking dish – this style of cooking is one of my all time favorites!

  16. the pics are gorgeous as usual!

    and I also have a slight obsession with chick peas

  17. this looks SO good! I think I need to get on an indian food kick again! I havent had it in SO long!

  18. I have not eaten a lot of Indian Food. This looks so good. What a great dish for meatless Friday!

  19. Indian buffets are definitely my downfall in life…I can’t help going back for seconds! This dish sounds delicious. Thanks for the info about the canned v. dried chickpeas! Dried are also cheaper which is a DEFINITE plus.

    • i can’t help going for seconds either, but I make it my main meal for the day and try to stay away from the bread. ;)

      Yes, the dried are MUCH cheaper! I paid something like 75 cents for the amount used in this recipe – and they were organic! Come to think of it, the whole dish was very cheap to make.

  20. That restaurant sounds awesome! I’d def hit that up on the regular if I lived there too :) Great recreation and I couldn’t agree more, fresh making chickpeas produces a very different result.

    Isn’t the design of the packaging on the bakery goods so so cute? I’m a sucker for packaging too

    Have a good weekend

  21. Polly Motzko says:

    How funny..this must be the day of “answered prayers” big and small. :-)

    A new friend on Food Buzz was telling me to take a look at her website/blog about Indian Cooking and so I did.

    The dish that I used to make that I liked is this dish. Mine didn’t have the onions or hot peppers in it. I don’t know if I have the original recipe anywhere, but this is a good one. Thanks for sending me this one in my email today!

    Paulette Le Pore Motzko
    Polly Motzko

  22. Loving your meat-free Friday posts! And you are right – the dried version soaked overnight are so much better than the canned variety. Though that DOES require some organisation….

  23. I just love chickpea recipes! :) thanks for sharing such a delicious stuff!

    There is another one that i came across recently :) and this one is also enriched in taste!


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