Chana Masala, Take 4

This is my third recipe for chana masala made with the smaller, darker desi chana. Here, in case you missed them, is the first, made with regular desi chana and here is the second, made with Rancho Gordo’s desi chana. I have quite a lot of the Rancho Gordo chana in the pantry and so have been experimenting with cooking times/methods and masala mixes for a while. I think I have now got things to where I like them best. Of course, I’m going to keep tinkering with the mix and proportion of spices because that’s the kind of asshole I am. But I’ve been coming back to this version often—which says something. The thing that I have settled on though is the mode of cooking the chana itself. I started out doing them entirely on the stove-top—as I do with my all other Rancho Gordo bean preps—but the desi chana just take too long. Now that I am in the middle of a teaching term I can’t constantly get up to check and stir and add water and so forth; and so I’ve been deploying my workhorse Prestige pressure cooker—one of those terrifying, shaking-whistling ones. And I’ve been pressure cooking this chana quite a bit longer than I would normally pressure cook beans: about 50 minutes total (see the first note below). I’m sorry I don’t have conversion instructions for whatever new-fangled pressure cooker you might have but the recipe will provide excellent results no matter how you get the beans ready for the show.


  • 1 lb/1 packet Rancho Gordo desi chana, soaked overnight or for 8 hours
  • The following whole garam masala: 4-5 cloves, 4-5 pods green cardamom, 2 tez patta (dried cassia/bay leaves)
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • About as much ginger as garlic
  • 3/4 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
  • The following spices lightly toasted in a cast iron skillet over low heat, cooled and ground to a fine powder: 1 tspn black peppercorns, 1 tspn dhania/coriander seeds, 1 tspn jeera/cumin seeds, 1/2 tspn methi/fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tspn black mustard seeds, 2-3 small pieces of cassia bark/cinnamon, 3-5 mild dried red chillies
  • 1 tspn powdered ginger
  • 1 tspn amchur/dried mango powder
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 tspn jaggery/brown sugar
  • Salt
  • Oil—something neutral like grapeseed or avocado oil
  • Extra water off the boil as needed
  • 1 tblspn chopped dhania/cilantro + 1 tblspn chopped red onion for garnish


  1. Cook the chana till yielding easily to the tooth using your preferred method (see the first note below). Leave on a low simmer while you prepare the masala.
  2. Heat a few tblspns of oil over medium heat in a skillet and add the whole garam masala.
  3. As soon as they become fragrant (very soon) add the chopped onion and saute, stirring often till nicely browned.
  4. While the onion is browning pound the ginger and garlic together to a coarse paste; add to the browned onion and saute for another minute.
  5. Add all the powdered spices, mix in thoroughly and saute for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato, salt and jaggery and saute till the tomato breaks down completely and the oil separates.
  7. Add the contents of the skillet to the cooked chana, mix in thoroughly and cook covered till the chana is softened further (see the first note below). If necessary add another cup of water when you add the wet masala. When done the chana should be just peeking over the gravy.
  8. Garnish with the chopped dhania and onion and serve with hot rice or chapatis or just straight up in a bowl.


  1. As noted above, I have settled on pressure cooking the hell out of the chana after first soaking it. In my old school whistling pressure cooker this means I pressure cook the chana with plenty of water for 40 minutes over medium heat. I prepare the masala while the chana is cooking, add it to the pressure cooker once the pressure has released, mix in, add a little more water and pressure cook for another 4 whistles or 10 minutes or so. I’m not sure what the Instant pot conversion would be but you can experiment and report. Or if you want to just do it on the stove top this is what I would recommend: cover the chana with plenty of water, bring to a boil and hold it there for 10 minutes or so, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, till done, topping up with water as you go. But this might take a while.
  2. Sometimes I mash a ladle’s worth of the cooked chana against the side of my bean pot while mixing in the masala, sometimes I don’t.
  3. I use Byadgi chillies for the most part. If you don’t have them, Kashmiri chillies will do [affiliate links]. In the absence of either whatever mild chilli you have will be fine. You could also use hotter dried chillies, I suppose, but I like having the heat come mostly from the black pepper. You could also add more heat by adding a minced Thai chilli to the garnish.
  4. You could up the tomato to two cups if you like but try it with less first.
  5. The missus ate this batch out of a bowl with sliced avocado on top. She insists it’s a very good combination; to be safe, I have begun to inquire into divorce proceedings.



6 thoughts on “Chana Masala, Take 4

  1. I used an Instant Pot – 40 minutes on high and they were perfect. I think they seized up some once they hit the sauce because they weren’t as soft when I tested them later. Next time, I might go longer with the time in the Instant Pot.


  2. 13/10, will make again.

    I soaked regular chickpeas for ~8 hours followed by 15 minutes at high in an Instant Pot resulting in creamy chickpeas. The end result was very tasty despite a couple substitutions and 1 omission (amchar), although much less dark than the photo above.


    • Very glad you liked it. Did you make it with desi/kala channa or garbanzos? If the latter, that would explain why the final dish was much less dark than in the photo. And is this Instapot time with baking soda added?

      The amchur adds sourness; so next time you could try adding a tspn of vinegar.


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