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How to Make Chana Masala

Chana masala

[UPDATE: After publishing this post, I saw how the picture at the end of it ran straight into the picture of our chili mole. What can I say? In the winter we make a lot of food that is served in bowls (stews, soups, chili). I guess this is our standard pic!]

We know we’ve been a bit MIA lately. Lindsay was travelling again M-Th for work (as she has been for most of 2011 to date). I was also away for 5 days, and when I got home I was horribly ill for another 3.

We’ve managed to keep up our eating habits, but mostly through quick and easy meals. Between that and the fact that we’ve been using the same basic Dark Days ingredients since December, that means we didn’t make much worth posting about or that we haven’t already posted. One more month and we will be out of Dark Days, and we can already see the light at the end! We’re trying to figure out what to do for April, which is going to be another busy Dark Days month for both of us.

In the meantime, we DID make a nice chana masala that’s worth posting. Granted, our chickpeas are not local, so it’s isn’t a pure Dark Days recipe. Also, if you don’t have tomatoes canned from the summer, those be local. But after 4 dark months, we’re willing to bend the definitions a bit. Enjoy!

Chana masala
Makes 4-6 servings


Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
2 cups Yellow onion Diced Paffenroth Gardens *
5-6 cloves Garlic Minced Keith’s Farm *
~2 TBsp Fresh ginger Grated or minced Fresh Direct
4 cups Cooked chickpeas
0.5 cup Broth from cooking the chickpeas Or other broth or water
1 pint Canned whole tomatoes Or 2 cups diced fresh Canned this summer from Cherry Hill Orchards *
1 TBsp Sunflower oil Or any vegetable oil Stolor Organics *
1 tsp Brown mustard seeds Whole seeds, not ground
1 tsp Cumin seeds Whole seeds, not ground
0.5 tsp Ground cloves
0.5 tsp Ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp Ground cardamom


  1. If you are using dried chickpeas (which we recommend), cook the chickpeas, overnight if needed. Even though they sound exotic and look weird, chickpeas are a legume just like any other bean, so you can follow our instruction on how to cook dried beans. If you make a bulk of beans in the slow cooker, you can refrigerate or freeze the rest for later use.

    If you do this in advance, be sure to set aside 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid when the beans are ready because it will add a nice starchiness that brings the chana masala together, as opposed to water or broth. Measure out 4 cups of the cooked chickpeas.

  2. Dice the onions, mince the garlic, and then add the ginger. Our trick is to always keep a few whole ginger roots in a ziploc bag in the freezer. It’s easy to then use a Microplane to grate the frozen ginger. If you’ve ever tried to grate soft, fresh ginger, you know what a horrible experience that can be because it is so fibrous. This makes it a lot easier.

    Ginger root frozen in a ziploc bagGrate the frozen ginger

  3. Heat a Dutch oven or large skillet over high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, stirring frequently, until they start popping. It’s important to use whole seeds here, and not ground.

    When they start popping, lower the heat to medium, add the oil, and stir for about 1 minute. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until the onions soften, about 5 minutes.

    Heat the mustard seeds and cumin seedsBrowning the onions, garlic, and ginger

  4. Add the remaining ingredients (chickpeas, tomatoes, water/broth, and spices). Give it a good stir and reduce the heat to low / medium-low. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring it every now and then.

    Chickpeas1 jar of whole tomatoesGround cinnamon, cloves, and cardamomCooking the dish

  5. Chana masala is nice served over rice. We had leftover rice from Chinese takeout earlier in the week. The way it reheats (a little stale and crunchy) is perfect. Just give it a quick fluff-up with a fork.

    Leftover Chinese takeout rice (perfect!)Fluff the rice

That’s all there is to an exotic-sounding and healthy Indian dish!

Chana masala

1 comment to How to Make Chana Masala

  • Jen

    Looks yummy. Keeping ginger in the freezer is a great idea, thanks for the tip – never would have thought of that!