Chana Masala, also known as Chickpea Curry or Chole, is the quintessential Indian soul food. Here is my simple recipe that achieves an authentic Punjabi Chana Masala flavor without a store-bought spice blend, and the sauce is full-bodied with bold garam masala and deep tomato flavors.
This is a sponsored post. I’m partnering with Kawan to help share recipes and meal ideas. All opinions expressed are my own.
Growing up I remember, mom serving big fluffy puris also known as Bhature served with tangy-spicy Chole. My mom grew up next door to a Punjabi family which was her second home. She grew up not only eating delicious North Indian food but also learning how to make authentic Punjabi dishes. Of course, she always likes to give her unique twist to recipes.
As much as I enjoy homemade Chole Bhature, making the fried Bhatura can be time-consuming.
Years ago I discovered the crispy flakey Kawan Plain Parathas sold in the frozen section of Indian grocery stores. These pre-rolled parathas cook in 3 minutes from frozen to crispy, flakey bread and were a blessing during my busy weeknights as a working mom with 2 little ones. The taste of these delicious buttery parathas reminds me of mom's Bhatura's and since then I always turn to my freezer whenever I make Chole.
Ingredients for Chana Masala / Punjabi Chole / Chickpea Curry
Here are some additional tips about the ingredients and spices I used:
- Chickpeas: Use dried chickpeas for the best flavor and nutrition. Soak them for at least 4 hours or overnight. If you want to use canned chickpeas, you'll have to adjust the cooking time in the Instant Pot. Add only ½ cup of water and reduce the pressure cook time to 5 minutes. After the cooking cycle completes you can quick release or allow natural pressure release.
- Onions: I used a yellow onion. If you want it to have a sweeter undertone, you can use red onion instead.
- Ginger + Garlic: For the best flavor, use fresh homemade ginger and garlic paste. You could substitute it with ginger and garlic powder, but it won't have as bold of a flavor.
- Cumin Seeds: Cumin has an earthy heat and a brightness that almost tastes like dried lemon peel. In a pinch, you can substitute ground cumin for whole cumin seeds.
- Ground Coriander: This has a citrusy flavor. There really isn't a good substitute for it since it adds so much to this dish.
- Kashmiri Red Chili Powder: You can use any mild red chili powder or paprika. If you want it to have a lot more heat, use a spicier chili powder or cayenne pepper.
- Ground Turmeric: This spice is incredibly good for your body with anti-inflammatory properties. Keep this on hand and use it in as many recipes as you can.
- Tomatoes: I used plum tomatoes, but you can chop up grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. You can also use one can of tomatoes with the juice.
- Garam Masala or Chana Masala Powder: Use homemade garam masala as it brings out the authentic flavors
What is Chana Masala Powder
Chana masala powder or chana masala spice blend is simply a spice blend or seasoning made with various spices that are used to make chickpea curry. I have an amazing chana masala spice blend recipe that makes restaurant-quality chickpea curry, but I also want to give you a few other options especially if you do not have time to make the homemade spice blend.
- Homemade chana masala spice blend - The key ingredient in this is amchur, which is dried raw mango powder that adds a tangy flavor to the dish. In a pinch, you can skip amchur and squeeze fresh lemon in the end. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons and skip the red chili powder, turmeric, ground coriander, and garam masala as called for in this recipe.
- Store-bought Chole masala - I like Everest Chole Masala. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons and skip the red chili powder, turmeric, ground coriander, and garam masala as called for in this recipe.
- Garam masala - This easy 5 ingredient garam masala adds the perfect flavors and spice to make quick Chana Masala. Add ¼ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon to this recipe.
- I also love using my mom's homemade masala. I know a lot of you have made this recipe so I want to make sure you know that it works great for chana masala too. Add 1 teaspoon to this recipe.
Stove Top Pressure Cooker vs. Instant Pot
Traditionally, soaked chickpeas are pressure-cooked first and then cooked with spices and other ingredients in a different pot. Here is my restaurant-style chana masala recipe using a traditional stovetop method that uses a homemade chana masala spice blend also known as chana masala powder.
Since I started using the Instant Pot this one-pot easy chana masala recipe from The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook has become my go-to! Not only is it hands-free, but you have only one pot to clean, hurray!
How to Make Instant Pot Chana Masala
- In a bowl, combine the chickpeas and 2 cups of warm water and let soak for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. Drain the chickpeas and set them aside.
- Select the high saute setting on the Instant Pot and heat the ghee (photo 1).
- Add the cumin seeds directly to the hot oil and cook until they start to sizzle, about 1 minute. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Cover the pot with a glass lid to speed up the process (photo 2).
- Add the ginger and garlic and saute until aromatic, about 1 minute (photo 3).
- Add the coriander, salt, chili powder, turmeric, and chickpeas; pour in the water, and stir well with a wooden spoon nudging loose any browned bits from the pot bottom (photo 4).
- Secure the lid and set the pressure release to sealing. Press the Cancel button to reset the cooking program, then pressure cook for 35 minutes. Allow natural pressure release (photo 5).
- Open the Instant Pot and stir in the tomatoes and garam masala (photo 6).
- Select the high saute setting and cook until the tomatoes soften about 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro (photos 7-8).
Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the Chana Masala and serve with homemade parathas, Roti, or Kawan Parathas. For gluten-free options serve with Basmati rice or Brown Rice. Add a side of cooling Cucumber Raita for a perfect vegetarian meal.
How to cook Kawan Plain Parathas
- Heat a non-stick griddle pan.
- Remove the paratha from the plastic wrapping and place it on the griddle.
- Cook on medium-high heat for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until both sides are golden brown, pressing gently with a spatula. Enjoy hot!
Tips for The Best Chickpea Curry
- Use 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder for a milder curry, or 2 teaspoons for a spicier curry. You can also add one green chili along with the dry spices.
- Add extra garam masala for a spicier curry. I also love using my mom's garam masala in this recipe for a more homely taste.
- A black tea bag can be optionally added during the pressure cooking cycle to get a more deep brown color to the curry. I prefer the curry to be vibrant red/orange so I skip this step. But in traditional recipes, a tea bag is often added while pressure cooking and discarded after. Adding the tea bag does not alter the flavors of the final dish.
- While the Instant Pot can cook dried beans quickly (see FAQ below), for this recipe, I find soaking the chickpeas creates a softer and more even texture.
- Organic or older beans may need an extra 5 to 10 minutes of pressure cooking time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Simply substitute cooking oil for the ghee.
Canned chickpeas work well in this recipe. Simply reduce the amount of water to half a cup water and reduce the pressure cook time to 5 minutes. After the cooking cycle completes, quick release or allow natural pressure release.
You have 2 options:
1. Bring 3 cups of water to a full boil and turn the heat off. Add the dried chickpeas and allow them to soak for 30 minutes. Make sure the pot is covered. Follow the recipe.
2. Add dried chickpeas with 2.5 cups of water. Increase the pressure cooking time to 55 minutes and allow full natural pressure release.
Glad you asked! Adding tomatoes, in the end, adds a unique freshness to the dish and also brightens the flavors. Give it a try, I promise you will love the idea. But if you wish, feel free to add tomatoes along with the chickpeas and pressure cook them.
To double the recipe simply double all the ingredients. Pressure cook time remains the same. It will simply take longer for the Instant Pot to come to pressure.
Yes. Chana Masala freezes well. Simply allow it to cool completely and then store it in the freezer. To reheat, allow the chana masala to thaw in the refrigerator and then reheat in the microwave, stovetop, or using the Instant Pot saute function.
This Chana Masala recipe is medium spicy. Chili powder and garam masala make this dish more or less spicy. I use Kashmiri red chili powder that adds a brilliant hue to the curry without making it too hot. If you are using other chili powders add them to taste. You can always stir in more red chili powder or garam masala in the end to suit your taste.
Chole masala and chana masala are both popular Indian dishes made with chickpeas. Chole Masala is a brown curry as it uses less tomatoes and often teabag is used when cooking chickpeas. Chana Masala on the other hand is a more vibrant orange curry cooked with more tomatoes. Pindi Chole is another variation of this dish that does not use onion or tomatoes in the gravy and is spiced with ground and whole spices.
Using older spices can make your Chana Masala taste bland. The good part is that you can easily adjust the spices to taste. If you need more heat, add extra red chili powder, and for more warm flavors add extra garam masala or chana masala. Using freshly ground homemade garam masala or chana masala will always give you the best flavor.
More Chickpea Recipes
- Quick and Easy Instant Pot Chana Saag
- Stove Top Creamy Spinach and Chickpeas
- Chickpeas and Rice - Instant Pot Chickpea Biryani
Curries to Serve with Kawan Parathas
- Palak Paneer - Restaurant favorite Creamy Spinach with Indian Cottage Cheese
- Easy Dum Aloo - Quick and easy Instant Pot potato curry
- Batatyachi Bhaji - Maharashtrian spicy potatoes
- Aloo Gobi Masala - 15-minute Instant Pot recipe
- Daal Makhani - Copycat Madras Lentils recipe
- Need more ideas? Check out these 40+ delicious Indian Curries
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Instant Pot Chana Masala (Punjabi Chole)
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 3½ cups water divided
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 yellow onion finely diced
- 1 teaspoon ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 to 2 teaspoons kashmiri red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 plum tomatoes finely diced or 1 cup canned tomatoes with juice
- ¼ teaspoon garam masala
- ½ cup cilantro chopped
- Rinse and drain dry chickpeas. In a bowl, combine the chickpeas and 2 cups of warm water and let soak for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. Drain the chickpeas and set aside. (Note: For canned chickpeas simply rinse and drain out the liquids)
- Select the high saute setting on the Instant Pot and heat the ghee. Add the cumin seeds directly to the hot oil and cook until they start to sizzle, about 1 minute. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Cover the pot with a glass lid to speed up the process.
- Add the ginger and garlic and saute until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the coriander, salt, chili powder, turmeric, and chickpeas; pour in the 1.5 cups water; and stir well with a wooden spoon nudging loose any browned bits from the pot bottom. (Note: For canned chickpeas add only half a cup of water)
- Secure the lid and set the pressure release to sealing. Press the Cancel button to reset the cooking program, then select pressure cook/manual(hi) and set the cooking time to 35 minutes. (Note: For canned chickpeas pressure cook for 5 minutes)
- Allow natural pressure release. Open the Instant Pot and stir in the tomatoes and garam masala. Select the high saute setting and cook until the tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro
- Use 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder for a milder curry, or 2 teaspoons for a spicier curry.
- Organic or older beans may need an extra 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time.
- To make the recipe vegan, use oil instead of ghee.