Traveling. Why do we travel?
It’s so challenging and tiring and I constantly have to manage my expectations before we ever get there. And especially when we arrive (like when we show up in Croatia and it’s cold and windy and loud) and I get sick.
That sounded negative. But no, it’s honesty. If you haven’t noticed, even though traveling is hard sometimes, we still love it, travel often, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to do so. In fact, we’re hopeful to spend more time traveling this year and I cannot wait.
Despite its challenges, traveling does one big thing for me: It inspires. Pretty much every meal we sit down to is an opportunity to learn about a new culture. How wonderful.
This recipe was inspired by a meal we stumbled upon in Oslo, Norway. Despite it being quite cold and windy and the shops being closed because it was a Sunday (manage expectations, Dana, manage expectations…), we found this amazing Indian restaurant where I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
Yes, big claims! And it’s all because of their chana masala (and mango chutney…oh my word).
About Chana Masala
Chana masala, also called chole masala, is believed to have originated in northern India. “Chana” means chickpea and “masala” refers to a blend of spices used in Indian cooking.
It’s a popular dish throughout India and Pakistan, with recipes varying by region. And it’s also gained popularity around the world. The following is our inspired version resembling what we’ve tasted in restaurants. You can find a more traditional preparation here from Veg Recipes of India.
How to Make Chana Masala
Our version is made with green chilies, onion, garlic, fresh cilantro, a blend of spices, chickpeas, and tomatoes. It can be prepared a number of different ways, but I chose the simple route: 1 pot and about 30 minutes required.
It starts with onion and cumin. Next comes a paste of green chilis, ginger, garlic, and fresh cilantro. The bulk of the flavor comes from coriander, chili powder, and ground turmeric. Chickpeas add plenty of fiber, texture, and protein, and puréed tomatoes add body and richness.
The magical step that takes this dish from love it to GIVE ME ALL OF THAT RIGHT NOW is the garam masala (I include a simple DIY blend below), and fresh lemon juice.
The result is a thick, stew-like curry that’s extremely flavorful, easy to make, not overly spicy, and the perfect hearty plant-based meal.
Enjoy this dish on its own, over rice, cauliflower rice, or – my personal favorite – over roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli (easy recipe below). I know, it sounds weird, but it’s SO good, and another way to get more plants into your diet.
If you try this dish, let us know what you think! Leave a comment, rate it, and take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram so we can see all your beautiful creations. Cheers, friends!
Easy Chana Masala
- 3 Tbsp grape seed oil (or sub coconut oil)
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp sea salt (divided // plus more to taste)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced (6 cloves yield ~3 Tbsp)
- 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2-3 fresh green chilies, sliced with seeds (I used serrano peppers)
- 1 Tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 28-ounce can pureed or finely diced tomatoes (if unsalted, you’ll add more salt to the dish)
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, slightly drained
- 1 tsp garam masala* (see instructions for DIY blend)
- 2-3 tsp coconut sugar
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice (plus more to taste)
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onion, cumin, and one-third of the salt (1/4 tsp as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size).
- Add garlic, ginger, cilantro, and green chilies to a mortar and pestle and grind into a rough paste (or use a small food processor to pulse into a paste. Alternatively, just finely mince.) Then, add to the pan with the onions.
- Next add ground coriander, chili powder, and turmeric and stir to coat. Add a little more oil at this point if the pan is looking dry.
- Next add pureed tomatoes and chickpeas and remaining salt (1/2 tsp as original recipe is written). If the mixture looks a little too thick, add up to 1 cup (240 ml) water (I added ~1/2 cup (120 ml) // amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). You’re looking for a semi-thick soup consistency at this point, as it will cook down into more of a stew.
- Increase heat to medium high until it reaches a rolling simmer, then reduce heat to low or medium-low and maintain a simmer (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes, or until thick and stew-like. Stir occasionally.
- In the meantime, if you don’t have garam masala seasoning, make your own by adding (amounts as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) 2 small dried red chilies, 1 tsp black peppercorns (or 1/2 tsp ground black pepper), 1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin), 1 tsp cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom), 1/2 tsp cloves (or 1/4 tsp ground cloves), and 1/8 tsp nutmeg to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind/mix into a powder. Set aside.
- When the chana masala is thickened and bubbly, taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt for saltiness, chili powder for heat, or a bit of coconut sugar for sweetness and to offset the heat of the chilies.
- Remove from heat and add lemon juice and garam masala. Stir to mix, then let cool slightly before serving. Fresh cilantro and lemon juice make an excellent garnish. Chana masala can be enjoyed as a stew on its own, or it can be delicious with white or brown rice (see my favorite method here), or cauliflower rice. Lastly, my favorite is over roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli (see notes for instructions).
- Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator up to 4 days, or in the freezer up to 1 month.
*To roast sweet potatoes and broccoli, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C), and chop broccoli into chunks and sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch rounds. Add to a bare or foil-lined baking sheet and top with 1 Tbsp grape seed oil and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Toss to combine, making sure sweet potatoes are evenly coated with oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes total, flipping/tossing near the halfway point to ensure even baking. Broccoli may cook faster than the sweet potatoes.
*Recipe adapted from The Guardian.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.