This is a thick black chickpea curry, which is a tomato-based curry using black chickpeas. It's well-spiced from ginger, garlic, onion, green peppers and traditional Indian spices. Canned tan chickpeas can be used in place of the black chickpeas.
This dish is also known as Kala Chana Curry. In Hindi, "kala" means "black", and "chana" means "chickpea".Jump to Recipe
If you want a completely traditional chana masala, I warn you, this might not be what you're looking for. For starters, it's a Black Chana Masala. So, it uses black chickpeas, in place of the more familiar cream ones.
I also took a Mexican twist on it by adding slices of avocado, lime juice, and a squeeze of vegan sour cream. Oh, and I added roasted eggplant to the sauce to make it even meatier.
Whaaat? Ok, let's start with the Black Chickpeas.
🤷♀️ What are Black Chickpeas?
They're smaller than the more commonly found cream colored chickpea, and their skin is a little tougher. They have a fuller flavor that I actually prefer. It's slightly nutty and softly herbaceous.
But that might also be because I use Heirloom Black Chickpeas from Chili Smith. Heirloom beans tend to be much more flavorful than bland, mass produced beans.
For more information on why heirloom beans are so much better than the standard beans on your grocery shelf, check out this article I recently posted.
🙋♀️ What is Black Chana Masala?
Essentially Chana Masala refers to an Indian dish made with chickpeas (chana) that's well-spiced (masala). That doesn't mean it's hot-spicy. Just that it's well-spiced.
More than that, Chana Masala is a thick stew made in a tomato-based sauce, with ginger, garlic, peppers, plenty of spices, and of course chickpeas. Kind of like an Indian version of a vegan chili.
Black Chana Masala uses black chickpeas. And by the way, Chana Masala is generally vegan by default.
🧅 Main Ingredients + Notes
The secret to faster and easier meals often lies in the ingredients. For example, store-bought items and ingredients you make ahead and store in the refrigerator (or freezer) can turn a 60-minute recipe into a 30-minutes meal or less.
For the all of the ingredients, measurements and directions, go to the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post.
- Eggplant - This ingredient adds some great umami to the dish, and balances the tomatoes.
- Black chickpeas - or use the more common tan chickpeas. If you use black chickpeas, you will likely need to cook them from a dried form. They're not common enough in most places to find them canned or frozen.
- Yellow onion
- Brown mustard seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Ginger - Either use fresh ginger, ginger paste, or lightly dried ginger from Gourmet Garden. Their pastes and lightly dried herbs are found in the produce section of many stores with the fresh herbs.
- Garlic - Use either fresh or garlic paste from Gourmet Garden.
- Serrano chile
- Tomato paste
- Garam masala - This is a spice mixture often used in Indian cooking. It's found with the dried spices in your market. If you don't have it, or can't find it, substitute 1 part cumin to ¼ part allspice. This means that for every 1 teaspoon of cumin you use, use ¼ teaspoon of allspice.
- Tomatoes - I use canned tomatoes until it's summertime, when the tomatoes are really good.
- Optional garnishes: cilantro, avocado, sour cream (vegan)
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🔪 Recommended Equipment
- If you cook black chickpeas from dried, you'll need either a Dutch oven, or other heavy bottomed pot, a slow cooker, or electric pressure cooker.
- Dutch oven, or other heavy bottomed pot - to cook the chana masala.
- Mortar and pestle - for mashing the spices, garlic and peppers together.
- Chef's knife
- Wooden spoon
📝 Instructions Overview
Detailed instructions for making this black chickpeas dish are in the recipe card below, but here's a quick overview!
Roast. Roast the eggplant. Slice in half, remove the meat of the eggplant, slicing away the seeds. This roasted eggplant soup recipe gives step-by-step instructions with photos for roasting and scooping out eggplant meat.
Sauté. Sauté the onion in a Dutch oven until softened. While it cooks, grind the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, ginger and Serrano pepper in a mortar and pestle. This amps up the flavors. Add to the pot with the onion.
Add the garam masala, turmeric and tomato paste, and cook another few minutes.
Make the chana masala. Add the tomatoes, eggplant, cooked chickpeas, and some water. Simmer.
Serve. Serve with optional garnishes.
⏰ Tips to Simplify and Save Time
- Cook the black chickpeas ahead of time.
- Roast the eggplant ahead of time, or eliminate. If you choose to nix the eggplant, you don't need to make any other adjustments in the recipe.
- The Chana Masala can be completely made ahead and reheated when ready to serve.
💡Ideas for Possible Variations
Substitute jalapeño peppers for the Serrano chiles if you want this dish less spicy, or eliminate altogether. Be sure to remove the pith and seeds of the peppers, as they both contribute to the spiciness of peppers.
📇 More Chickpea Curries
Another chickpea curry I make often is this Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry. It's full of satisfying umami flavor from fire-roasted tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. And it only takes about 30 minutes to make.
Or try this roasted Moroccan eggplant stew with chickpeas, charred red peppers and tomatoes.
Black Chana Masala
- Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot
- Chef's knife
- Wooden spoon
- 1 roasted globe eggplant
- 1 ½ cups dried black chickpeas, or 3 cans cooked tan chickpeas (if you can't find black chickpeas)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups yellow onion, finely chopped (1 large onion)
- 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, or ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 tablespoons ginger paste, or finely mined ginger
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Serrano chile, finely diced (see ingredient notes)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons garam masala spice
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro optional (for garnish)
- 1 avocado optional, for garnish
- Vegan Sour Cream optional, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F, and slice the eggplant in half, lengthwise. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the eggplant halves face down on the parchment paper. Roast for 1 hour. Allow to cool, and remove the meat using the step-by-step instructions in this post. Set aside, and discard the skin. (This can be done a few days in advance.)
- If you're cooking your beans from a dried form, follow these directions for cooking them on the stove, the slow cooker or an electric pressure cooker.If you use the electric pressure cooker directions, add 15 minutes to the cook time for black chickpeas. Drain. (This can be done up to 1 week in advance.)
- Warm the olive oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot or large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, ginger and Serrano pepper to the pan with the onions. Sauté over medium heat until it all begins to brown and caramelize. This takes 5 - 7 minutes. It will be very aromatic.
- Pro Tip: Use a mortar and pestle to grind the brown mustard seeds, cumin seeds. Add the garlic cloves and Serrano chile and mashed them into the mix. Add the ginger paste, and mix together. Add to the pan of onions. Grinding them like this amps up the flavors even more.
- Add the tomato paste, garam masala and turmeric, and cook another 3 - 4 minutes until the paste thickens more. Add the tomatoes, roasted eggplant, cooked chickpeas and ¾ cup water. Simmer for 30 minutes to meld the flavors.
- Serve with slices of avocado, cilantro and sour cream if desired.