Quick and Easy Chana Masala

This traditional Indian Chana Masala is made in just thirty minutes with simple ingredients you already have at home. You will absolutely love these chickpeas in a spicy, deeply flavored, tomato sauce.

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This traditional Indian Chana Masala is a hearty chickpea dish that is so incredibly flavorful that you won't believe you made it at home in about thirty minutes. It's just as good as your favorite takeout. We like to make it along with this Slow Cooker Saag Paneer for an Indian feast at home along with some basmati rice and Naan bread.

When I used to work in an office, one of my favorite office lunch breaks was to the local Indian lunch buffet. As someone who didn't have a lot of experience with Indian food growing up in a small town in Massachusetts, I quickly fell in love with all the intense flavors and delicious dishes they offered.

However, I would be lying if I didn't tell you how intimidating it was to start. While all my coworkers were well versed in all the different stewed dishes, I had no idea what anything was. I would stare at the options, try to decipher the names, and then just blindly try things or copy the person in front of me. 

It was during these blind taste testings, I fell in love with chana masala. This stewed tomato and chickpea dish was so rich and delicious. I loved the punchy sauce flecked with spice and smoke. It's just so good. It was actually the dish that made me fall in love with chickpeas. 

For a long time I was scared to try Indian food at home, but after some experimenting, it's actually pretty easy to make a delicious at home version. This one uses a store-bought garam masala powder combined with cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, garlic, ginger, and fresh jalapenos. The key to make a flavorful dish without hours on the stove is cooking down the onions, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and spices. This brings out all the flavors and creates a deeply flavored tomato sauce without needing hours on the stove. Then since the chickpeas are already cooked, they take on flavors as soon as they are in the sauce.

One note, while this dish is ready in just thirty minutes, you can defintiely cook it longer. The longer it cooks, the more intense the flavors will become. In fact, this dish is even better after spending a night or two in the fridge. If you have time, make it on the weekend and then enjoy it a few nights later. 

Chana Masala recipe in a wooden bowl with cilantro and white rice.

What is chana masala?

Chana masala is a traditional Indian dish made with chickpeas that are simmered in a tomato sauce flavored with garam masala, garlic, ginger, cilantro or coriander, and chili peppers. It is made in both India and Pakistan and is also called channa masala, chole masala, or chholay, depending on where you are from. There are tons of variations of this dish that range in heat level and use a variety of spices to complement the flavors of the garlic, ginger, and green chili peppers. 

Is Chana Masala spicy?

Traditionally chana masala is a spicy dish that uses a variety of green chili peppers. Depending on what's available it is usually made with either green Thai chili peppers or serrano peppers. This can be customized depending on how spicy you like things. Use more peppers for a spicier version and use seeded, less hot peppers for a more mild version. Since the small, Thai bird chilies are hard to find in the US, many people add a touch of cayenne pepper as well to kick things up. 

How to make garam masala spice blend?

Garam masala is a traditional Indian spice blend that is used in Chana Masala. It normally contains coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper. If you don't have garam masala in your spice cabinet, you can use the recipe below to make your own blend at home:

  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1.5 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp mace (or allspice)
  • Pinch cayenne

Can I make this in the slow cooker? Instant Pot?

Absolutely! Chana masala is one of those dishes that only tastes better the longer it cooks and the longer the flavors have time to deepen and meld. 

  • Slow Cooker: Start by cooking down the onions, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and spices in a skillet as directed in the recipe below. Cooking these will deepen the flavor and add richness to the dish. If you don't have time, you could skip this step but the flavor won't be quite as rich. Then add that mixture to the slow cooker along with the tomatoes and chickpeas. Cook on low for 4 hours. You can also cook up to 8 hours on low.
  • Instant Pot:  Start by turning the Instant Pot to saute. Add the oil and once it is hot add the onions. Cook until they soften and add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the spices. Once the spices are fragrant, about one minute, add the chickpeas and tomatoes. Cover the Instant Pot and cook on manual mode for 12 minutes. 

Can I use dry chickpeas?

The best way to use dried chickpeas in this recipe is to cook them beforehand. Tomatoes can interfere with the cooking of the chickpeas, so it is best not to cook the dried chickpeas in the tomato mixture. The easiest way to do this is by soaking the chickpeas overnight. Then add them to a large pot with enough water or broth to cover the chickpeas with a couple of inches of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about two hours until the chickpeas are tender. 

The Recipe
Easy chana masala recipe with a bowl of basmati rice and a fork.

Quick and Easy Chana Masala

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  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (double for spicier, seeded for less heat)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • 28 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

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Heat the olive oil in a large pot.


Add the onions and cook for 4-6 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Cook for 1 minute. Add the garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Cook for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.


Add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes. Taste and season as needed. You may need to add more garam masala, depending on the strength of the spice blend you used. They can vary quite significantly.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1.25 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 371
Calories from Fat 88
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 10g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 535mg
Total Carbohydrate 59g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 7g
Protein 17g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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