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.
But 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 a vegan chili with chickpeas.
Black Chana Masala uses black chickpeas. And by the way, Chana Masala is generally vegan by default.
Large heavy-bottomed pot for the black chana masala
Medium – large mortar and pestle, if you choose to mash the spices, garlic and green peppers (optional)
Sharp chef's knife
Note: Go here for a complete list of the tools and equipment that I use in own kitchen to make meal prep easier.
Black Chickpeas are primarily available over the internet. I haven't seen them in the bins of my local store. I buy heirloom beans and get mine from Chili Smith.
If you don't want your chana masala too spicy, use jalapeño peppers, and be sure to remove the pith and seeds. The pith in particular adds heat to a dish. If you like yours a little more spicy, use Serrano peppers.
Traditional chana masala finishes with lemon, but I also like a lime finish. Use whichever you prefer.
I roasted an eggplant and added it to the sauce for an extra hit of umami. It keeps the sauce for being too much about the tomatoes. If you choose not to use it, no other adjustments are needed.
The Vegan Sour Cream drizzle is totally optional. My favorite is Kite Hill Sour Cream Alternative (plant-based). It's the best one I've tried so far!
Black Chana Masala
- 1 roasted globe eggplant
- 1 1/2 cups dried black chickpeas, or 3 – 4 cans cooked chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 tablespoons ginger paste, or finely mined ginger
- 4 – 5 large garlic cloves
- 1 – 2 green chilis, see ingredient notes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1 avocado optional
- Vegan Sour Cream optional
- If you plan to add roasted eggplant to the dish, roast it ahead of time. 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.
- Prep Note: I used a mortar and pestle to grind the brown mustard seeds and cumin seeds. I then added whole, peeled garlic cloves, and mashed them. Next, I sliced the peppers in half, and mashed them into the mix. Last, I squeezed in the ginger paste. I then added it all to the sautéing onions. Grinding them like this amps up the flavors even more. If you don't want to take the time to do that, mince the garlic, ginger and peppers and add straight to the pan with the onions with the spices.
- Whichever above prep method you use, sauté the garlic, ginger, peppers and spices with the onions over medium heat until everything begins to brown and caramelize – about 5 – 7 minutes. It will be very aromatic.
- 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 3/4 cup water. Simmer for 30 minutes to meld the flavors.
- Serve with slices of avocado, cilantro and sour cream if desired.