Channa Masala Recipe

Channa masala in a metal serving dish next to a plate of naan bread and a dish of palak paneer.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Adding baking soda to the onions helps them break down and caramelize faster.
  • Doctoring up store-bought garam masala with additional spices produces a flavor that's both complex and suited to the dish.
  • Simmering canned chickpeas lends them plenty of flavor.
  • Grinding the garlic in lemon juice helps prevent it from turning too sharp and pungent, while still allowing its aroma to shine.

As one of the most popular dishes in the world, both in and out of India and Pakistan, channa masala (or chana masala, chole masala, or chholay, depending on where you're from)—chickpeas cooked in a spicy and tangy tomato-based sauce—is the kind of dish that stirs passions in the recipe-writing community. My version might not taste like your grandmother's, but I promise that it tastes damn good.

Recipe Facts

4.9

(18)

Active: 50 mins
Total: 50 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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Ingredients

  • 4 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped

  • 1 (1-inch) knob ginger, peeled, roughly chopped

  • 1 to 6 green Thai chiles (to taste), roughly chopped

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) juice from 1 lemon, divided

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil or ghee

  • 2 teaspoons (8g) black mustard seed

  • 1 teaspoon (4g) whole cumin seed

  • 1 large onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups; 300g)

  • 1/4 teaspoon (1g) baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons (8g) ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon (2g) freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon (2g) ground turmeric

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (6g) store-bought or homemade garam masala, divided

  • 1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (1 ounce; 25g)

Directions

  1. Combine garlic, ginger, chiles, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a mortar and pestle or in the small work bowl of a food processor and pound or process until a fine paste is produced. Set aside.

  2. Heat oil or ghee in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. All at once, add mustard seed and cumin. They will sputter and spit for a few seconds. As soon as they are aromatic (about 15 seconds), add onion all at once, along with baking soda. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions start to leave a brown coating on bottom of pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon water, scrape up browned bits from pan, and continue cooking. Repeat this process until onions are a deep brown, about 10 minutes total.

  3. Immediately add garlic/ginger/chile paste all at once and stir to combine. Add coriander, black pepper, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon garam masala. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and crush them using a whisk or potato masher. Add drained, rinsed chickpeas and cilantro, reserving a little cilantro for garnish. Add 1/2 cup water.

    a collage

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  4. Bring to a simmer, cover with lid slightly cracked, and reduce heat to maintain a gentle bubbling. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced into a thick stew and spices have melded, about 30 minutes.

  5. Stir in remaining garam masala and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. Serve with rice and/or naan, sprinkling additional cilantro on top.

Special equipment

Mortar and pestle or food processor

This Recipe Appears In

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
306 Calories
9g Fat
47g Carbs
14g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 306
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 11%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 832mg 36%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 17%
Dietary Fiber 13g 46%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 16mg 79%
Calcium 120mg 9%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 672mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)