This quick and Easy Chana Masala recipe is loaded with hearty chickpeas and an Indian-spiced tomato onion sauce. A dollop of the refreshing vegan Raita (yogurt sauce) on top cools every bite and makes this Indian-inspired dish extra indulgent.
Thick and hearty chana masala is a comforting menu item you’ll find at almost every Indian restaurant. Protein-packed chickpeas are cooked in a spicy tomato and onion sauce before being served with rice and naan bread. It’s always a filling and flavorful experience!
If you want to make a restaurant-worthy version at home, then give this quick and Easy Chana Masala recipe a try. Using a handful of budget and pantry-staple ingredients, you achieve the same great flavors and layers of spice in about 30 minutes!
One of my favorite ways to serve vegan chana masala is with a dollop of vegan Indian yogurt sauce, or raita, on top. It’s a cooling Indian condiment made with yogurt, cucumbers, and spices. Vegan raita is easy to make with store-bought yogurt and cools down every bite of the spicy masala.
What is chana masala?
Chana masala is a North Indian curry dish. “Chana” is the Hindi word for “chickpeas” and “masala” means “spiced gravy”. Essentially, it’s chickpeas simmered in a spiced tomato onion sauce.
My recipe is quick and easy and not authentic, using pantry staples and served with vegan raita. For a truly authentic chana masala recipe, check out this recipe from Tea For Turmeric: Authentic Chana Masala.
Ingredients needed (with substitutions)
- Olive oil
- Yellow onion
- Garlic – Fresh cloves, preferably.
- Ginger – Again, fresh ginger is best. If all you have is ground ginger, use 2 teaspoons instead.
- Serrano peppers – These hot chili peppers add a nice spice to the masala. Use jalapenos as a substitute or leave them out if you don’t like spicy food.
- Garam masala – This is an Indian spice blend made with a mix of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, and more. It’s very warm and comforting, and necessary in this recipe and many other Indian-inspired dishes.
- Cayenne pepper – Although cayenne powder is quite common in North America, I recommend using Indian chili powder (lal mirch) if you can find it. Indian chili powder, according to SpiceandLife.com, has an intense heat that isn’t as sharp as cayenne and gives the masala a more vibrant red color.
- Diced tomatoes – Use a can of diced tomatoes WITH the juices to give the masala a bright, acidic base. Canned crushed tomatoes or whole canned tomatoes can be used as substitutes.
- Chickpeas – Canned chickpeas are convenient and delicious in this recipe. Or, if you’re up for it, cook dried chickpeas yourself and use them instead.
- Lemon juice
- Vegan yogurt – Plain vegan yogurt is needed to make the vegan raita (yogurt sauce). I’ve had great results with cashew and coconut yogurt, but you can use the kind you already enjoy.
- Cucumber – Similar to Greek tzatziki sauce, diced cucumber stirred into the spiced yogurt sauce gives it a refreshing and cooling element. It’s one of the best toppings for the warmly spiced chana masala.
How to make vegan chana masala with raita
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add in the onion and cook until it’s translucent. Next, add the garlic, ginger, and peppers. Saute until fragrant.
Stir in all of the spices and salt next. Let everything cook for about 1 minute to bloom the spices (this brings out their amazing flavors!).
Pour the diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and water into the pot. Give it a stir, then bring the mixture up to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and leave it to cook until the masala starts to thicken.
Make the vegan raita while you wait. Stir the yogurt, cucumber, cilantro, cumin, and salt together in a bowl, then set it aside until it’s time to serve.
When the masala is just about done, stir in the sugar, some cilantro, and lemon juice. Give it a taste and adjust the spice level and acidity, or add more spices and seasonings as needed.
Serve a scoop of the vegan chana masala in a bowl with rice and top with a dollop of vegan raita. Sprinkle the remaining cilantro on top to finish, then serve!
Rice is a must with chana masala. Basmati rice is a fantastic choice, or you can use brown basmati rice, jasmine rice, quinoa, or the grain of your choice. Ladle the chana masala over top of the grains in a bowl.
From there, top each bowl with vegan raita, fresh cilantro, or diced chili peppers for more heat. Serve vegan naan bread or puri (poori) on the side, then enjoy!
Frequently asked questions
No. Vegan tikka masala is made with a creamy curry sauce and either tofu or chickpeas as the main protein. Both chana masala and tikka masala feature fragrant sauces, but tikka masala is richer and has a looser consistency compared to stew-like chana masala.
Chana masala can vary in spice level. My version does have some heat, thanks to the serrano peppers and cayenne. However, the spice level is very easy to adjust by omitting the spicy peppers, using less cayenne, or leaving the two out completely.
You can store chana masala and vegan raita in separate containers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Yes, the cooled leftovers freeze well for about 3 months.
Want more Indian-inspired recipes?
Easy Chana Masala with Raita
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
- 2 serrano peppers, finely diced optional
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices
- (2) 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 medium lemon, juice squeezed
- 1 1/2 cups plain vegan yogurt I like cashew or coconut
- 1 cup finely diced English cucumber
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until translucent.
- Add the minced garlic, grated ginger and diced peppers, if using, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add all the spices and salt and stir them into the onion mixture. Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Add a little more oil if it seems dry.
- Pour in the diced tomatoes, chickpeas and the water. Stir well and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes until it thickens somewhat. Stir occasionally to prevent anything sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the sugar, some chopped cilantro (save some for serving) and lemon juice. Taste; add more salt, cayenne pepper for heat or any other seasonings as desired.
- For the raita: Combine the yogurt, cucumber, cilantro, cumin and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
- Serve warm with basmati rice, vegan raita and perhaps some Vegan Naan. Sprinkle with a little cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!
- It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
- It freezes very well. Let it cool completely before freezing. Reheat on the stovetop until warm.
- If you can, use Indian chili powder instead of cayenne pepper.
- May also substitute crushed tomatoes or whole canned tomatoes for the diced.
Looks so delicious. Thank you for sharing my recipe!
Just made this deliciously different dinner — all three of us enjoyed. (Tableside hot sauce subbed for the spicy pepper.) Oh, the Raita– piece de resistance (w squeeze of lemon)! This came together more quick-ish than arduous. Added a few mushrooms, broccoli florets, as well as olives and extra diced tomato (open cans to finish). Thanks for sharing this healthy, lush dish, Nora!
I’m really glad that you ventured out into a different dinner type, and that you enjoyed it! Thank you for taking time to share your ideas, and your fabulous feedback and review! Wishing you happy cooking!
Just made it. Served with white rice. Excellent! The wife and I both loved it. I confess I left out the Serrano peppers but still it had just the right balance of spices. Thanks Nora!!
You are welcome! It’s great that you and your wife loved the recipe! Thanks for sharing your wonderful feedback and review!
I cook a lot of Indian food although since we switched to plant based I have changed what I cook. This looks excellent. Thank you.
One comment about the chili – I recently read an article that said there were chilis that had a different mouth effect. Habanero chili, for instance where you feel the heat at the back of your throat instead of the burn on your lips you get from cayenne. I’ve started using it in chili because my adult daughter who lives with me doesn’t like really hot curries but can handle more heat with the habanero. Haven’t done a deep dive into chilis for this but the Habanero has been a game changer for us.
Thank you for your comment. I love spicy food but my lips are really suffering. They burn, swell up, crack and then peel. I love jalapeños and cayenne so much, I never really fully heal. I’m going to try habanero and see if it relieves my poor burning lips.