30-Minute Chana Masala

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I’ve received a number of requests for Indian-inspired recipes lately. Since you know I aim to please, I went down a serious Google rabbit hole and after perusing a ridiculous number of blogs and cooking sites in search of simple Indian recipes that were healthy, flavorful, and reasonably quick, I eventually settled on a hearty chickpea curry.

Several cans of chickpeas and half a jar of garam masala later, a new favorite recipe arrived in my kitchen. I give you: Cheater’s Chana Masala.Let’s be very clear on one thing, friends: This is NOT an authentic chana masala. Chana Masala is a Northern Indian chickpea stew with tomatoes, and this is very much a cheater’s version. I shamelessly took every possible shortcut because I love me a healthy, one-pot meal that’s ready in 30-minutes. (For more history on chana masala and a delicious authentic recipe, please check out Swasthi’s post here.)

Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-3Although I have absolutely zero bases for comparison, I’m going to go ahead and say that this is a fabulous cheater’s chana masala. The combination of chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, and a heady blend of spices creates a complex, satisfying curry with a killer kick. 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.

Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-5That 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 less common 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 don’t cook many curries or Indian-inspired recipes, 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.


Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-6Let’s talk about the many serving possibilities for this glorious curry! My first recommendation is to go a more 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 super light? Spoon your curry over spinach or kale sautéed in a little coconut oil, and call it a day. As always, you do you.

Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-7For the record, this cheater’s chana masala is an excellent Dude Diet meal, and it received a very enthusiastic review from the Dude himself. 

30-Minute Cheater’s 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 juices
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
For garnish: (optional)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Greek yogurt

Preparing your Cheater’s 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.)

Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-step-1-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.

Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-step-2-Turn down the heat to medium-low, and add the spices. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly.

Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-step-3-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.

Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-step-4-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.)

Easy-Vegan-Chana-Masala-9-Spoon the Masala into bowls (I like to serve it over basmati rice) and garnish with a generous sprinkling of chopped cilantro and lemon wedges.


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  1. Dixya Bhattarai RD on October 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    this recipe is making me so happy!!!!

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