M Is for Chana Masala

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Kelsey McClellan)

With a spiced curry sauce that we sop up with abandon, chana masala, one of the most popular vegetarian curry dishes you’ll find at Indian restaurants, is full of tender chickpeas. It’s become a comfort-food classic for many home cooks and still manages to feel wholesome. Best of all, it’s a dish easily made at home — as long as you keep a few key ingredients in your pantry.

What Is Chana Masala?

While the dish originates in India and Pakistan, where it can also be known as channa, chole, or chholay masala, it’s loved all over the world. That’s likely because it’s simple: chickpeas are cooked slowly in a tangy, tomato-based sauce that’s enhanced by a mix of spices like coriander, cumin, chiles, fresh ginger, and the sweet and fragrant spice blend, garam masala. A bit of amchoor, a dried green mango powder, is the secret to that mellow tartness the dish has, but a squeeze of lemon juice can be substituted in a pinch.

Chana masala is the kind of vegan dish that all eaters can get behind. It’s hefty enough to take center stage at the dinner table, over white or brown basmati rice to catch the flavorful sauce, or it can play well on the sidelines to round out other vegetable or meat dishes.

One more reason to love it? It’s one of those dishes that gets better with age. It’s good on day one, but even better on day two or three, once the simple ingredients have had plenty of time to mingle.