This easy version of Chana Masala, the well-known Indian curried chickpea dish, is so simple and delicious. It’s quick to throw together with pantry items, on the table in less than 30 minutes, and makes a nourishing and healthy meatless meal or side dish. Serve it with flatbread or rice today, and make the leftovers into a soup tomorrow! (Skip to recipe.)
Our world seems to be crazily tilting on its axis right now – nothing is normal and life as we knew it just a few short weeks ago may never be the same again.
We’re hunkered down in our home as we try to do our part to help stop the spread of this devastating virus. We’re relearning how to be grateful for small and large blessings; all of our family members are presently in safe places, whether they are abroad or just in other parts of Canada, we can connect via technology to see their faces and hear their voices, we can go out into our yard (still in knee-deep snow) to go for walks in the sunshine, we have enough food on our basement shelves to last us for a long while, and we have a great country, dedicated health professionals, and good government who are rallying together and doing all they can to help keep us safe and survive this world-shaking pandemic.
Yes, we have many blessings, but that doesn’t make it easier to find ways to just get through the days without letting this situation overwhelm us. I’ve been having trouble getting focused on all the projects I want to be doing, all the closet-cleaning, drawer-organizing, and craft-project-finishing that has piled up for years. It’s been hard to sit down at the computer to write a blog, but I have been doing kitchen therapy. Cooking and baking and puttering is what helps ground me.
This is a time to use creative thinking to make delicious meals from the huge stockpile of food in my pantry and basement. Two fridges, two freezers, and many sets of shelving are packed to the brim with frozen food, canned goods, and pantry staples. I always tell myself it’s because I’m a blogger and recipe developer that I need to have a wide range of ingredients on hand so I can come up with all kinds of recipes at any moment (especially because we live in the country and I can’t run to town every time I need an ingredient for recipe testing). But I know that the real root of my problem is that I was raised by parents who were both children during WWII and then refugees during the rest of their childhood, finally finding a safe haven in Canada at age 18. Their stories and fears, worries about having enough to eat and a safe place to live, and deep uncertainty about worldwide stability had a strong and direct impact on me. I’ve always felt an underlying urgent sense of needing to be prepared – for what exactly, I didn’t really know. I just knew that I felt less anxious when I had enough food to feed our family for a long time if I ever needed to; that we could survive on what we had on hand in the event of any emergency.
Well, the emergency has come, and we still have access to food in the stores and we’re not going to starve. So, it is time to use up my pantry stores and maybe have a little more space in our basement! As the rest of the world is hoarding and stockpiling, I am finally at a point where there’s motivation to do the opposite and try to deplete my stockpiles. It’s time to use it up. It will be a great challenge for myself to come up with creative meals using what we have on hand. As my kids tell me, this is what I’ve been training for my whole life!
So I’ll do my stretches, flex my muscles, and get cooking!
The original recipe for chana masala, a beloved comfort food dish from India, uses chopped garlic and ginger, and a whole array of separate spices. It takes time to make and attentiveness to the steps. My simple version, based on instructions given to me by my sister, is not exactly authentic in method, but it does taste fantastic. The beauty of it is that you can toss it together in no time with what you have on hand. It’s nutritious and filling and makes a tasty meal by itself. If you combine chickpeas (or any legume) with a grain like rice or flatbread (made from grain) you have a complete protein.
It’s Quick to Make This Simplified Version of Easy Chana Masala (And it uses mostly pantry staples)
Toast some whole cumin seeds in a little oil until they are bewitchingly fragrant (you can use ground cumin if that’s all you have). This helps bring out the full depth of flavour in the spice.
Add curry powder and a sliced onion and cook for a few minutes. Then add a big can of diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted tomatoes in this batch).
Cover and let simmer for a short time, and there you have it; a nutritious and delicious dinner to fill your bellies and warm your heart.
Dress up this easy Chana Masala with a drift of chopped cilantro and a spoonful of yogurt if you like. Serve it with rice, quinoa, cauliflower-rice, or flatbread for a hearty and nutritious meal.
Be safe and be well everyone. Stay home and hug your loved ones, take time to regroup and refocus your priorities.
And eat simple, delicious meals from your pantry.
* * * * *
Kitchen Frau Notes: To cook chickpeas in the Instant Pot; put 1 lb (454gms/about 2¼ cups) of dried, unsoaked chickpeas into the instant pot. Add 6 cups of water. Seal the lid, press ‘Manual’ and set the timer to 50 minutes. Let the chickpeas cook, then allow the pressure to release naturally once the cooking time is up. Cool the chickpeas in the water if you have time (to prevent skins splitting), and then drain. Makes about 6 cups cooked chickpeas.
Or use drained canned chickpeas, three cans of either the 400 or 54o gram (14 or 19 oz) size – about 5½ to 6 cups of beans in total.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (or 2½ teaspoons ground cumin)
- 2 – 3 tablespoons curry powder (or garam masala)
- 1 large onion, halved and sliced
- 3 cans (400-540gms/14-19oz each) chickpeas/garbanzo beans (5½-6 cups, cooked)
- 1 large can (800ml/28oz) diced tomatoes (or whole tomatoes, broken up)
- salt to taste
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet or a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until they start to pop. Add the curry powder and cook for 30-60 seconds more, until it is fragrant. (If using ground cumin seeds add it to the oil at the same time as the curry powder and cook them both together for 60-90 seconds, until fragrant.
Add the sliced onion, and cook it with the spices for 4 – 5 minutes, until translucent.
Drain the chickpeas and add them to the onions. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Taste and add salt if the dish needs it (if you used cooked chickpeas rather than canned chickpeas, you will need more salt).
Bring the beans to a simmer, then cover, and let them stew over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with rice, flatbread (naan, roti, pita, etc.), or potatoes. Or serve over pasta or open buns (like sloppy joes) or tucked inside pita breads. Serve with yogurt, chopped cilantro, crumbled feta cheese, chopped sweet onions, or diced avocado if desired.
*Easy Chana Masala freezes well. Pack into freezer-safe containers or heavy zip-top bags and freeze for up to 6 months. Leftovers reheat well. You can also add some vegetable or chicken stock to the leftovers and make a delicious soup; add in any leftover bits of cooked vegetables you have in the fridge, too, if you like.
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