I can’t trace my extreme distaste for Indian cuisine to a particular experience, so I’m assuming it’s a carryover from my absurdly picky childhood. Exotic colors, smells and textures offended my delicate young senses, and at some point I must have decided that Indian food was gross and vowed never to eat it. Ever. (Keep in mind that I felt this way about most things that were not pizza or grilled cheese.)
There have been many occasions over the years when I’ve considered giving Indian cuisine a second chance, but then I’d walk past a particularly smelly Indian buffet, or my roommate would regale me with one of his favorite stories about the time he got “Delhi Belly” (in excruciating, gory detail), and I’d think, “Mmm…better not.”
Honestly, I probably would have been content to go on shunning Indian food for the rest of my days, but some of you threw a monkey wrench in my plans…
About six months ago, I started receiving emails demanding that I post Indian recipes on Domesticate ME! Needless to say, I was horrified. I responded to the first few Indian inquiries with vague curry promises, jotted down a handful of half-hearted recipe possibilities in the “Scary” category of “Badass Blog Ideas,” and then promptly forgot about them. There were tacos and cocktails to be made, and I just couldn’t be bothered to experiment with things like masala and vindaloo.
But the recipe requests kept coming (who knew so many peeps were jonesing for homemade curry?), and my anti-Indian resolve began to crumble. I really do hate to deny your requests—especially when they’re sandwiched between lots of compliments—so I begrudgingly decided do some curry-themed research.
Down the Google rabbit hole I went, and after perusing a ridiculous number of blogs (and a few Bollywood music videos) in search of simple Indian recipes that were healthy, flavorful, and didn’t make me want to cry, I eventually settled on a hearty chickpea curry. Several cans of chickpeas and half a jar of garam masala later, my very own Indian masterpiece was born. I give you: 30-Minute Vegan Chana Masala.
Although I have absolutely zero bases for comparison, I’m going to go ahead and say that this is a seriously epic chana masala. The combination of chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, and a heady blend of spices creates a complex, satisfying curry with a killer kick. I dig it. Plus, this vegan curry is low in fat, packed with fiber and protein, and it can be made from start to finish in half an hour flat. I want to put on a sassy Bollywood outfit and do a celebratory dance for all of you.
That said, there is one potential issue that I’d like to head off at the pass. I know that many of you are going to freak when you see that this recipe calls for some slightly obscure spices. You must chill. Turmeric, garam masala and coriander are available at most well-stocked markets, and while they may put you out about six bucks each, I promise they’re worth the investment. Even if you’re not that into Indian food (I feel you, duh), the spices can be used both individually and together to flavor an endless variety of dishes, from chicken soup to roasted vegetables. You can even add turmeric to your smoothies to help fight inflammation and detoxify your liver. Boom.
Let’s be very clear on one thing, friends: This is NOT an authentic chana masala. I didn’t use whole cumin seeds and lovingly toast them before adding the other ingredients to the pan. There’s no ghee involved, and I was far too lazy to embark on a wild goose chase to find amchoor powder, which is some sort of unripe green mango powder that’s apparently popular in Indian cuisine (?). (I’m admitting these things in case the authenticity police come to town and try to stir up some controversy in ze comments.) This is a cheater’s version of chana masala. I shamelessly capitalized on every possible shortcut because I’m not trying to spend hours and hours making dinner, and I love me a healthy, one-pot meal that’s ready in 30-minutes. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Now that we’ve got that confession out of the way, let’s talk about the badass serving possibilities for this glorious curry. My first recommendation is to go the traditional route and ladle your chana masala over basmati rice (I used brown basmati) with plenty of freshly chopped cilantro and lemon wedges. Non-vegans, I strongly suggest getting some yogurt involved for a creamy tang, and maybe outsource a big old stack of of naan. Heaven.
If you’re comfortable going off the beaten path (and offending both vegans and curry traditionalists), get creative with your chana masala. Serve it over quinoa, on toast, or topped with fried eggs. Try it as an awesome side dish with your favorite meat or fish, or bulk it up by stirring in some roasted chicken or browned sausage at the end. Want to keep things supa dupa light? Spoon your curry over spinach or kale sautéed in a little coconut oil, and call it a day. As always, you do you.
For the record, this chana masala is an excellent Dude Diet meal, and it received a very enthusiastic review from the Dude himself. Having no idea that it was vegan (I never provide unnecessary details), he crushed an entire bowl, called me his Bengali princess, and then told me that we would eat this with our left hands if we were in India. “Really?” I asked. To which he replied, “NO!! That’s your poop hand!!!” before giggling to himself for five minutes and launching into more terrifying travel tales. He makes me so proud…
30-Minute Vegan Chana Masala: (Serves 4)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil (Yes, you can use olive oil or vegetable oil if you like.)
1 yellow onion, minced
1 jalapeño (or Serrano) pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with their juiced
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
For garnish: (optional)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Preparing your Vegan Chana Masala:
-Place the ground cumin, paprika, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Please do this first. You don’t want to be sweatily measuring a bunch of spices once you start cooking your chana masala. (That’s the grated ginger on the left. Not sure why I put that in the picture, but whateva.)
-Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, jalapeño, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 5 minutes until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant.
-Add the tomatoes and their juices. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then break up the tomatoes using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. Leaving some larger chunks of tomatoes is fine, people. It adds texture.
-Stir in the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle. Season with salt to taste. (If you want a more saucy chana masala, puree 2/3 cup of the chana masala in a blender/food processor and return it to the pot.)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (Yes, you can use olive oil or vegetable oil if you like.)
- 1 yellow onion, minced
- 1 jalapeño (or Serrano) pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with their juiced
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Greek yogurt
- Place the ground cumin, paprika, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, jalapeño, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 5 minutes until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant.
- Turn down the heat to medium-low, and add the spices. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then break up the tomatoes using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. (Leaving some larger chunks of tomatoes is fine, people. It adds texture.)
- Stir in the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle. Season with salt to taste.
- Spoon the chana masala into bowls (I like to serve it over basmati rice) and garnish with a generous sprinkling of chopped cilantro and lemon wedges.
*If you want a more saucy chana masala, puree 2/3 cup of the finished chana masala in a blender/food processor and return it to the pot.