Channa Masala

I can be very much a “where’s the beef?” kind of guy, but every now and then, a truly vegetarian dish somehow slips under my nose and wins me over without me realizing it. This chickpea-centric dish, called channa masala, is one of the first Indian dishes I’d ever had and it’s kept me coming back for seconds ever since.

Channa masala is essentially a strongly spiced curry (the “masala” part) with chickpeas for the protein (the “channa” part) rather than meat. Calling any curry “strongly spiced” is a big generalization, but this is strong even among other curries. This isn’t too say that it’s overwhelmingly hot–just really flavorful (there’s some heat, of course, but it is a bit milder). A big distinction in my mind is that this curry has both a distinct tang and a certain sourness that makes for an incredibly delicious result. Plus channa masala is fun to eat and quick to make (especially compared to many other Indian dishes).

Oh and one odd bit to this recipe worth mentioning. I tend to always start from scratch for most things, but you’ll notice this recipe includes a bit of channa masala powder. Why? This is a case of me not wanting to buy extra spices I’ll never use again. Earlier I mentioned sourness and tang–a part of this is due to the use of both pomegranate seeds (not the juicy fruit part–just the white seeds) and dried mango, which I don’t need in a big spice jar (hey maybe you do!). Just be aware of what is in your masala powder though so you can adjust your seasoning accordingly (and make sure it’s not just all dried oil, salt, and turmeric! There are many cheap spice mixes that have no place in your pantry). Don’t worry about being precise in trying to tweak the seasoning–everybody does it a little differently, and I think you’ll love the dish however you approach it.

  • 2 shallots
  • 2 big tomatoes
  • 4 serranos
  • few cloves garlic + big chunk ginger –> ~1/8-1/4 cup garlic & ginger paste
  • bay leaf
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • anise seeds
  • fennel seeds
  • 1 dried chili
  • turmeric
  • ground cumin
  • ground coriander seeds
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2-3 tsp channa masala powder
  • 900 g/2 cans chickpeas
  • water
  • handful cilantro leaves
  • juice of 1 lime
  • big pinch of dried methi leaves

Prep the veggies and spices

In a sturdy pot, heat up the oil and then fry the whole spices for about a minute or two. Then, finely mince the shallots and add that to the oil with a dash of salt for about 3 minutes. Finely dice the peppers and chop the tomatoes, adding them for another 3 minutes.

Sauté the vegetables and spices

Ar this point, add in the garlic and ginger paste, cooking for an additional minute. Finally add all of the remaining ground spices, cooking until thick and like a paste (which will take at least 10 minutes).

Cook until thick and paste like

And now, while it seems counter-intuitive, you’ll want to deglaze the pan with a bit of water (enough to bring the thickness of the mixture to something more saucey that you’re happy with). You might be thinking “but wait, we just cooked all the water out–why add it back in?” The key is that for a while, you’re not just making the paste, but you’re frying the paste. It gives a flavor to the curry paste that you simply couldn’t get any other way. Adding the water just brings us back to a more consumable consistency, at which point, you should simmer for a bit longer in case you added too much water (it happens!).

Thin with water and simmer the chickpeas

Once you’re happy with the consistency and thickness, add the chickpeas and stir them gently into the curry. Simmer for roughly 15 minutes and fish out any whole spices. Squeeze in the lime juice and mix in the diced cilantro and crumbled, dried methi. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking (salt, pepper, chili powder, methi, etc).

Be sure to have some appropriate Indian bread to go with this. I had mine with a few pieces of paratha. Enjoy!

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26 Responses to “Channa Masala”

  1. sunita Says:

    The Channa masala looks absolutely perfect, Mike..we had some yesterday :-)

  2. Kevin Says:

    I have been looking for a good channa masala recipe and I will have to try this one.

  3. Joan Nova Says:

    I could almost smell the fragrance of the dish.

  4. noble pig Says:

    Chickpea-centric…I liked that. Very nice dish, I don’t give Indian food nearly enough tries. But I loving having a good reccomendation. It sounds awesome.

  5. heather Says:

    i’m married to one of those “where’s the beef?” kind of guys, so maybe this will be a good one for me to try out on him. i love chickpeas, especially in indian food. some of my favorite indian is vegetarian. muttar paneer or that eggplant dish i can never remember. although, i also love murg makhini, so t’s not all vegetarian :)

  6. Peter Says:

    Mike, just last week I had the best Naan ever, done on the spot in a tandoor and now I want your dish with the Naan!

  7. Hélène Says:

    That would be a winner for me. I never made a Channa Masala before, but would not mind to try with a recipe like this one.

  8. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    One of my promises to myself this year is to learn to love chickpeas. Maybe I’ll start with this dish.

  9. grace Says:

    if all vegetarian dishes were as flavorful as this, i might not have a problem giving up meat.

    mmm. just kidding. :)

  10. nithya at hungry desi Says:

    Mike, great blog and beautiful pictures of the masala cooking. You really captured the texture of good masala! My husband (sadly!) hates channa masala but after seeing your recipe, I’m craving some and just may have to force it on him :)

  11. Aparna Says:

    Looks perfect, Mike. And yes, there are many ways of making this dish. But I have never tried adding dried fenugreek leaves to mine. That’s an idea.

    Best wishes for a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

  12. mikky Says:

    very interesting… and mike, good luck to your move, hope you’ll find a great place soon… and hope wife is doing great with the baby fast growing inside… looks like it’s going to be an exciting and happy new year!!! :)

  13. Deeba Says:

    YAY for you Mike…from ‘where’s the beef’ to ‘here are chickpeas’, good for you. Looks delicious to me Mike, & am suddenly craving some! have a really really wonderful 2009!!

  14. shayne Says:

    A friend of mine was asking about what looks like this dish just this morning. I sent her the link.

  15. Dragon Says:

    You must be psychic. I needed a vegetarian dish to serve this weekend and this is the one. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks!!

  16. Navita Says:

    Hi,
    first time here.m new to blogosphere.

    u sure have made ur self proud….the dish looks awesome.

    care to stop by my blog..if you want a few more easy indian dishes…:)

  17. Meeta Says:

    i have not made this in a while! you reminded me how i love this one! Mike this is such a perfect looking dish!

  18. Hayley Says:

    This looks and sounds incredible. I will have to try this one very soon. I LOVE Indian foods. Thanks for the recipe!

  19. Dana Zia Says:

    YUM! I love this dish! i will have to try it this week. This weather is perfect for it. Thanks for the post and the great pictures. I just did a post on Beer and beef stew, speaking of “where’s the beef.”
    http://danazia.wordpress.com/

  20. Midwest Mom Says:

    Thanks for this recipe — I’ve been looking for one, and your photo on TasteSpotting drew me in. Great work. Can’t wait to try your recipe. Best, MM

  21. Carrie Says:

    Ok, it’s my lucky day, I was looking for a vegetable-only dinner idea — and then I found your site after you stole that free food photography course from me over at WhiteOnRice. Bad Sierra, she if I show her the love next time I see her!

    Actually, I do have a question. When you say Cardemom pods, do you mean the whole husk w/ the seeds inside?

  22. Jennifer Says:

    Mmmmm this looks so flavorful and delicious! I love channa masala.

  23. We Are Never Full Says:

    i feel bad for the girl who doesn’t like chickpeas! i love them and i love this dish! this is a great, healthy weeknight meal.

  24. Jolene Says:

    This looked so good I wanted to make it for dinner last night. It wasn’t until I’d gotten everything out and figured I had all the ingredients on hand that I realized you hadn’t provided the measurements for most of the spices. I winged it, and it turned out very well, but there was ONE SPICE (maybe the coriander or turmeric?) that I’d put just a little too much of in, and it made it oh-so-slightly more bitter than I would have wanted. I’m a newbie chef so I’m still working out spices and their flavors, and their interactions with other spices, so I was pretty proud of myself for doing so well overall; but if you could add the measurements, I would be eternally grateful! This was a very fragrant, lovely dish that I’m definitely going to be making again.
    Thank you!
    Jolene

  25. Swirling Notions » Warming Trends Says:

    [...] Channa Masala from Mike at Mike’s Table [...]

  26. Patrick Says:

    Do you have measurements for the spices in this recipe? A tablespoon of each?

    Looks good, thanks.

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