Weeknight Chana Masala Rice Bowls
An easy one pot chana masala recipe, quick enough for weeknights! I’m turning this into a rice bowl and serving it topped with creamy greek yogurt to cool off some of that chana masala heat!
Okay, okay, here it is! Let’s do meatless Monday some justice with a quick slash more approachable weeknight recipe for the ever popular chana masala. It’s bold, spicy-ish, and we balance that with greek yogurt to add all that luscious creaminess, and the crispy pita wedges and cool cucumbers. It’s a weeknight dinner dream.
For those that are a little unsure of what i’m talking about – chana =’s chickpeas masala =’s well, that ones easy! To give you a little more insight, it’s fresh green chilies, coriander, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and an array of spices to make almost a thick, stew-like base for the chickpeas. Bonus points: It’s a one pot chana masala! But i’ll get to all that good stuff in just a wee second.
First I want to know, how was your weekend? Was there a ton of snow in your area? I had a reader message and say she was snowed in and couldn’t get to the store but found my butter chicken recipe, actually ended up having all the ingredients for it, gave it a go, and LOVED it. Guys, it makes me giddy with joy when you make the food and come back and tell me all about it. Seriously, I love it! I love it!
Here in Houston we hit a low of 28ºF.. finally! It was freezing cold and I had a blast. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely froze my tail off at all points of the day. But then there are perks to cold weather too, like chana masala aka hot food, warm cocoa, and fuzzy socks. Friday night was spent huddled by the fireplace with lots of garlic parm popcorn for munching, giant blankets for coziness, and Zooptopia for entertainment. Have you seen it? How cute is that movie?
This weekend we also sealed the deal and booked a flight/car/hotels for the west coast trip that has been at the very top of my bucket list for-freakin-ever. We leave in 10 days! Ekk! [insert happy dance]//[insert stressed face]//[insert face palm] So much to pack/ get done/ research. Help me out friends, what do I NEED to see/eat/do in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and everywhere in between. We’re taking the PCH and making, shall I say, frequent stops (but seriously, like every five seconds) because I refuse to miss a single. thing.
So today i’m happy to share an easy, weeknight take on chana masala. I hope what i’m about to say is fairly obvious, but there isn’t one single, authentic recipe for chana masala. It varies greatly from region to region. And then there’s the whole thing about family recipes. And so what i’m really getting at here is that there are so many different takes on the homemade chana masala. Some recipes call for amchoor powder, which is just ground mango, while others use lemon juice. I’ve gone with the lemon juice version for this recipe because hey! This is a WEEKNIGHT friendly recipe after all. And theres no need for you to be hunting for mango powder at your local grocery store on a weeknight! Not if I can help it, friends.
My hope of you is that you’ll embrace my take on the weeknight chana masala — major emphasis on weeknight here. And serve it up on a big mound of fluffy basmati rice with fried pita wedges, whipped greek yogurt, and chopped veggies. And speaking of whipped greek yogurt. I don’t know about you, but I’m really into this whipped version of greek yogurt. Something about just putting it in a bowl and stirring it with a spoon to incorporate some air into it just makes it so light and dreamy.
Indian food seems really daunting to make, even for someone like me, who is like, ⅛th Indian.. or err.. something like that. But chana masala can be easy enough to make on a weeknight if you just follow the step by step directions. I promise, you’ll pick this one up really easily.
Let’s jump into the recipe. It all starts with onions. Browning onions properly is essential to most Indian recipes and chana masala is no exception. It’s really the heart and soul of most south asian cuisine. When I say browning, I mean working the onions in enough ghee//butter// oil and cooking them over a medium high heat for 8-10 minutes or until the onions are a rich, orangy-brown color. When the onions are halfway done, we’ll add in whole cumin seeds, a bay leaf, and half a small cinnamon stick. Whole spices really add so much fragrance to the oil which then carries them throughout the whole chana masala.
We’ll add the ginger and garlic paste and let it cook for a few seconds until it’s nice and fragrant. Then we’ll add all the spices – turmeric, coriander, ground cumin, chili powder, and salt along with a can of crushed tomatoes. You can also use diced tomatoes if you’re in a bind but know that this will increase the cooking time a bit, about 15 minutes. Slice up your serrano pepper and roughly chop your cilantro, it’ll go in along with the tomatoes. You’ll also add a ½ cup of water and allow the sauce to simmer for another 8-10 minutes or until the tomatoes have a chance to take in all those spices.
Then in go the chickpeas along with another ½ cup of water. You’ll let the chana masala come to a simmer before covering and allowing it to cook on low for 15 minutes. Finally, we’ll remove the pan from the heat and add garam masala and lemon juice and stir everything together. Grab a bowl of rice because we about to have a chana party goin’ on.
What you get is this thick, stew type of curry that’s just loaded with all these Indian flavors. It’s spicy but totally on the tolerable side. Plus with that greek yogurt, you can take it.
Depending on where you’re from, chana masala is sometimes served with fried bread. Seriously. It’s literally on the top 10 list of best things ever. And for a quick take, I cut some store-bought pitas into wedges and fried them in a few tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt while they’re hot and fresh and use them as a scoop for the chana masala.
It’s so fantastic!
- 3 tablespoons ghee (oil or butter)
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- ½ cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf AND ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons EACH ginger paste AND garlic paste
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½-1 teaspoon chili powder (use cayenne for more heat)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup cilantro, roughly chopped (plus more for garnish)
- 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained (or garbanzo beans)
- 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
For the bowls:
- cooked basmati rice, whipped greek yogurt, chopped cucumbers, mango chutney, sliced onions, diced tomatoes, fried pita wedges (or pita chips)
- Heat the ghee or oil in a medium sautépan over medium high heat. Add the onions and allow them to brown for 8-10 minutes stirring every 30-45 seconds so the onions brown evenly. After 5 minutes, add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and whole cumin seeds. Continue to brown the onions until they are an orangey-brown color.
- Add the ginger and garlic paste and let cook for 30 seconds before adding the spices - turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Add the tomatoes along with the sliced serrano, cilantro, and ½ cup of water. Allow the sauce to simmer for 8-10 minutes. If the gravy starts drying out too much, add another ¼ cup of water.
- In go the chickpeas along with another ½ cup of water. Allow the chana masala to come to a full simmer before covering, reducing the heat to low, and allowing it to simmer for 10-15 minutes. You want the chana masala to be thick and stew-like.
- Remove from heat and add the lemon juice (we used all 3 tablespoons) along with the garam masala. Add additional salt or chili powder to taste. Add additional chopped cilantro if desired. Serve on top of basmati rice with greek yogurt, chopped cucumbers, and pita chips or fried pita wedges.
- To make your own fried pita wedges: heat ¼ cup of oil in a small skillet. Add the pita wedges and allow them to brown on each side, about 1-2 minutes per side. Season with a pinch of salt while warm.
- Leftover chana masala can be covered and stored for up to 5 days.
- 1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes can be used in place of the crushed tomatoes. Allow an additional 15 minutes (so 25 minutes in total) for step #2. You will also need that additional ¼ cup of water.
Is this a good choice for you?
Nutritional content is for chana masala only assuming 6 servings.