Black Chana Masala

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Black Chana Masala

Chana masala — or spiced chickpeas — is one of the most famous of traditional Indian dishes and a favorite of vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Some version of chana masala featuring yellow chickpeas can be found at almost any Indian restaurant in North America — it's a dish that I almost always sample when trying a new Indian restaurant to gauge the quality of the chef's spicing, and I've made many different versions of it myself over the years.

In India, a chana masala is frequently made with black chickpeas instead of yellow chickpeas. Also known as brown chickpeas or kala channa, these are a dark-skinned cousin of the yellow chickpeas that are more commonly used outside of India. They have a denser and chewier texture and stronger and earthier flavor, and are well suited to combinations with other robust spices in thick and hearty curries, which is just the thing one might want at this time of year to warm and nourish the body.

This is a chana masala that uses black chickpeas with chilies, onion and ginger simmered in a spiced tomato sauce. Dried black chickpeas are easily available in any Indian grocer or in the Indian section of larger supermarkets, but you can use yellow chickpeas in this recipe too if you wish to use them or cannot find the darker variety.

Black Chana MasalaBlack Chana Masala
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on November 19, 2019

A classic Indian dish of black chickpeas simmered in a spiced tomato, chili and onion sauce

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 35 to 40 minutes

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  • 1 1/4 cups dried black or brown chickpeas (kala channa) (3 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 green or red chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon amchoor (dried mango) powder (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 medium tomatoes, partially seeded
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, trimmed and chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • Rinse and soak the chickpeas in enough water to cover for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a medium saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender — 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain and set aside.

  • In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and stir for 60 seconds until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Toss in the asafetida if using, then add the onion and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion is soft and begins to brown. Stir in the ginger, garlic and chilies, and continue to sauté for another few minutes.

  • Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili powder, paprika, amchoor powder if using, and garam masala. Stir for another minutes, until the spices are fragrant.

  • Add the tomatoes and tamarind paste if using, and simmer for another 5 minutes to thicken, stirring often. Add the chickpeas and pour in 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes to thicken the sauce.

  • Stir in the salt and serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro, alongside a bed of hot fresh cooked rice or our favorite Indian flatbreads.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Chana Masala

Other recipes featuring black chickpeas to try from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Gujarati Black Chickpea Curry
Black and Yellow Chickpeas in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce
Black and Yellow Chickpeas with a Coconut-Chili Sauce
Black Chickpeas with Roasted Coconut and Fragrant Spices

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