Chana Masala, Take 5

It’s been almost two years since my last chana masala recipe and that seems like a dangerous length of time. I still have a large stock of Rancho Gordo’s desi chana—which I don’t think they are carrying anymore or planning to bring back. When I cook them, I tend to cycle between the three recipes for those chickpeas that I’ve previously posted (here, here, and here). Of late, however, I’ve hit upon a variation that I like quite a bit more than those. Part of it is that the preparation involves a not unusual method of cooking the chickpeas with a bit of baking soda. This helps them soften up very nicely (and much quicker than without even in my old-school pressure cooker). The masala meanwhile is made very tangy with a fair bit of tamarind and cumin (along with other spices). It’s very tasty indeed and I recommend it highly. If you don’t have a large stock of desi chana and don’t have easy access to an Indian store, you can just use regular Rancho Gordo garbanzos (but you may not need to use the baking soda in that case). Whichever variety of chickpeas you do use, I think you’ll like it.


  • 1 packet/1 lb Rancho Gordo desi chana or garbanzo beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 tspn baking soda (if using desi chana)
  • 6 cups water
  • A ping pong ball-sized ball of soft block tamarind, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 20 minutes and then squeezed by hand to extract all the goodness from the pulp.
  • The following whole garam masala: 2-3 tez patta/dried Indian cassia/bay leaves [affiliate link]; 5 cloves; 5 pods green cardamom
  • 2 cups chopped red onion
  • 1 tspn freshly crushed garlic
  • 1 tspn freshly crushed ginger
  • The following spices toasted over low heat in a cast iron skillet and cooled: 1 tspn coriander seed; 3 tspns zeera/cumin seed; 3/4 tspn methi/fenugreek seed; 1 tspn black peppercorn
  • 1 tspn black mustard seed
  • 1/2 tspn powdered ginger
  • 3/4 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
  • 1 tspn chilli powder of choice
  • 1 tblspn jaggery or dark brown sugar
  • Salt
  • 3-4 tblspns of neutral oil of choice
  • For garnish: 2 tblspns of chopped red onion; 1 tblspn julienned ginger; 1-2 slit Thai chillies


  1. Cook the drained chickpeas with the baking soda and 6 cups of water till softened but still holding their shape (30 minutes in my old-school whistling Prestige pressure cooker).
  2. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat and add the whole garam masala.
  3. As soon as the tez patta darkens, add the chopped red onion and saute for 10 minutes or so till beginning to brown.
  4. While the onions are browning, add the toasted and cooled spices and the next four ingredients to your spice grinder and powder.
  5. Add the freshly crushed ginger and garlic to the browned onions and saute till the raw aroma is gone.
  6. Add the ground spices, mix in and saute for another minute or two, stirring constantly to make sure nothing scorches.
  7. Strain the tamarind solution into the pan, pushing down hard against the strainer to extract all the tamarind flavour.
  8. Add the jaggery and salt. Mix everything in and bring to a high simmer.
  9. Add the cooked chickpeas with all the pot liquor to the pan, mix in, return to a high simmer and cook uncovered till at a thicker but still easily pourable consistency.
  10. Garnish with the chopped onion, julienned ginger and slit chillies and serve with rice or chapatis or just out of a bowl.


  1. If not pressure cooking the chana, add water along the way while cooking the chana, 1/2 cup at a time. When the chana is softened they should just be peeping over the pot liquor.
  2. You can use a hot chilli powder if you like but I typically use the very mild Deggi mirch [affiliate link].
  3. In a sense, what you are doing in this recipe is finishing the chana with a cumin-forward tamarind chutney (plus onions etc.)
  4. You can certainly garnish with a bit of cilantro too. And if you’re like the missus, you might not want very much or any julienned ginger on there. Me, I can’t get enough of it.
  5. Yes, there’s a Reel.


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