Kel’s Classic Chana Masala, or Chickpeas With a Kick

Kel's chana masala up close

Chana = chickpeas. Masala = a blend of ground spices used extensively in Indian cuisine. Mix them together with a few other ingredients for a heavenly vegetarian/vegan side or main dish.

So here’s a tip. When you purchase the spices and some of the other ingredients for this recipe (such as the ghee, garam masala, fresh ginger and cilantro), go to a specialty Indian/Asian store for the best deals. Not only do you have a wider selection of regional-specific ingredients, but the prices are usually much, much better than those in a traditional grocery store.

I used organic ghee (clarified butter, read more about it at for this chana masala, but for a vegan version just substitute extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil instead.

When serving chana masala as a side dish, you likely will be cooking rice as well (jasmine rice is my preference), and I like to make extra because it’s perfect for leftovers. The rice and chana masala, which gets better overnight in the fridge, heat well in the microwave for a fast lunch or dinner.

Ingredients (Serves 2 as main dish, 4 as side dish)

Kel's Chana Masala ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ghee (or vegetable/extra virgin olive oil for vegan chana masala)
  • 1 cup sweet onion, chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 serrano chiles, diced small with ribs removed (remove seeds as well for less heat)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes with juices
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro (or to taste), chopped
  • Kosher salt to taste


Heat the ghee (or oil) in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chiles, and salt to taste. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onions have softened, stirring occasionally.

Sautee onions, etc. in ghee

While the ingredients above are cooking, strain the tomatoes in a colander and reserve the juice. Coarsely chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Chopped tomatoes with reserved juices

Add the garam masala, coriander and turmeric to the sautéed onions, etc.,  and mix well. Your kitchen is smelling awesome by now!

Add spices to sauteed onions

Stir in the tomatoes and reserved juices, lemon juice, and chickpeas.

Add tomatoes, chickpeas, etc. to onion mixture

Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened and is no longer soupy.

Simmer Kel's classic chana masala

Stir in the cilantro, saving some for garnish. Taste and season with salt as needed.

Kel's classic chana masala

This is a great side dish to your favorite Indian entrees, such as the chicken vindaloo and jasmine rice shown in the photo below.

Serve Kel's chana masala with chicken vindaloo and rice

Of course the chicken vindaloo negates the vegan aspect, so to keep it meat-free and simple, just serve it in a bowl over jasmine rice for a meal on its own.

Kel's Chana Masala over jasmine rice

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

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2 Responses to Kel’s Classic Chana Masala, or Chickpeas With a Kick

  1. Jerry Jackson says:

    Hi, Kelley. Would this work with lentils or white beans? I dislike chickpeas…!


    Jerry Jackson Jackson Ventures LLC Mobile: 919 349-3635

    “Sentiment without action is the ruination of the soul.” …Albee


  2. Hi Jerry, I think either would work although the taste will be a bit different, of course. Give it a try and let me know, especially if you choose the lentils. Cheers back to you!

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