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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Make Your Own Indian Food

By Andrea Geary

Chana masala can be a quick and easy dish, but it doesn’t have to taste like it was thrown together. We started by using the food processor to grind the aromatic paste that formed the base of our dish. We opted for canned chickpeas because their flavor and texture were nearly indistinguishable from those of chickpeas that are cooked from dried, and we didn’t drain them because the canning liquid added body and savory depth to the dish. The canned chickpeas still retained a bit of snap, so we simmered them in the sauce until they turned soft. Adding stronger foundational spices such as cumin, turmeric, and fennel seeds at the beginning of cooking ensured that they permeated the dish, and reserving the sweet, delicate garam masala until near the end preserved its aroma. A garnish of chopped onion, sliced chile, and cilantro added so much vibrancy, texture, and freshness that you’d never guess that most of the ingredients in the recipe were from the pantry. Because the sodium contents of canned chickpeas and tomatoes vary, we include only a small amount of salt in this recipe; season with additional salt at the end of cooking if needed.

Chana Masala
• 1 small red onion, quartered, divided
• 10 sprigs fresh cilantro, stems and leaves separated
• 1 (1½-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped coarse
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped coarse
• 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded, and sliced thin crosswise, divided
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
• ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
• 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, undrained
• 1½ teaspoons garam masala
• ½ teaspoon table salt
• Lime wedges

1. Chop three-quarters of onion coarse; reserve remaining quarter for garnish. Cut cilantro stems into 1-inch lengths. Process chopped onion, cilantro stems, ginger, garlic, and half of serranos in food processor until finely chopped, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, about 20 seconds. Combine onion mixture and oil in large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until onion is fully softened and beginning to stick to saucepan, 5–7 minutes.

2. While onion mixture cooks, process tomatoes and their juice in now-empty food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add paprika, cumin, turmeric, and fennel seeds to onion mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chickpeas and their liquid and processed tomatoes and bring to boil. Adjust heat to maintain simmer, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Chop reserved onion fine.

3. Stir garam masala and salt into chickpea mixture and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are softened and sauce is thickened, 8–12 minutes longer. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to wide, shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle with chopped onion, remaining serranos, and cilantro leaves and serve, passing lime wedges separately.

Recipe and photo originally published in Cook’s Illustrated (September–October 2020) and used with permission from America’s Test Kitchen. See for more information.