Chana Masala with Cucumber Raita- Vegetarian Chickpea Curry

This chana masala is a traditional North Indian dish. You’ll always find it with tomatoes and chickpeas, but the spice mix will vary depending on who is preparing it for you. It’s rich, intensely spiced, fragrant and has a note of tang that I find irresistible in nicely layered curries. The cucumber raita adds a lovely, fresh, cooling element that acts as a perfect foil for the bold stew. It can be mild, or it can be as spicy as you can handle. It’s all up to you, and the goodies you have stashed in your pantry. If you have some chickpeas and diced tomatoes in your pantry, you’re 20 minutes from a perfect weeknight meal.

I crave Indian food all the time. There is something about the fragrant curries, intense chutneys, and stewed proteins that speaks to my soul. Okay, maybe that was a little dramatic, but it’s late and I will surely be dreaming of curry tonight. I almost always give in when the urge for curry arises, and because I (apparently) have selective memory I am continually disappointed by the fare you can get from local eateries. It truly is amazing how many times one can experience the same thing and not come to expect it. I find myself eating a bowl full of mediocre and thinking “I can do this better.”

I whipped this quick curry up on a random Monday afternoon. It was the day after Ovi’s birthday, and we had over indulged a bit on gin and tonics the night before. Grocery shopping was out of the question, obviously. This chickpea curry is a great recipe to have in your back pocket for meal emergencies. I can almost always wrangle a can or 2 of chickpeas and tomatoes from the back of the pantry and get something nutritious into our hungry bellies. Even when we’re a little bit hungover, and could definitely go for some cheap burgers. Score 1 point for me. Nutrition and frugality wins over instant gratification. I’m a little proud.

Ingredients:

For the Curry:

  • 2 cans chickpeas, 16 oz (drained and rinsed well)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 can diced roasted tomatoes, 16 oz
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish
The Spice Mix:
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon prepared garam masala (optional)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper for spice (optional)
For the Cucumber Raita:
  • 1 cup finely diced cucumber (about 1/2 of a hot house)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro or mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed (briefly toasted in a small pan if you desire)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  • Preheat oil to medium in a large straight sided skillet
  • Add onions and saute until translucent
    • If you have the time, turn down the heat on the onions and allow them to develop some color, about 10 minutes. This adds a beautiful depth of flavor to the curry. I like to do this when I have the time.
  • Add garlic, and spice mix and allow to toast briefly, about 2 minutes. The spices should become fragrant
  • Add tomato paste and work into spices and onion mixture till well combined
  • Add 2 cups water and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. This will become a delicious gravy
  • Add chickpeas, diced tomato, half of the lemon zest and salt and allow to simmer for 15 minutes to allow flavors to combine
  • Finish dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and adjust salt to your taste preference
  • Serve garnished with fresh cilantro and and additional lemon zest if desired

We served this hearty curry up with scoop of steamed long grain rice and a healthy dollop of cucumber raita for a nutritious vegetarian meal that even my carnivorous spouse loved. Skip the raita, and it’s vegan. Completely by accident, I might add.

I found this curry to be even better the next day! Very exciting leftovers. Be warned though, if you stick this baby in the microwave at work, everyone in a 8 cubicle radius will certainly be alerted to the presence of curry.

I love the intense colors in this dish! The oranges and reds make me hungry.

Hope you’re all having a great week!

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7 thoughts on “Chana Masala with Cucumber Raita- Vegetarian Chickpea Curry

  1. Beautiful! I adore chana masala – I like to add spinach to it too :D. However, the raita I’m never sure about since I hate cucumber, but it doesn’t taste exactly like it. It always confuses me.

    • Thanks! I adore it too. The spinach would make a lovely addition! I’ll keep that in mind next time I whip up a batch. I’m not the biggest fan of cucumbers either, but I do love them as a cooling element in dips. I won’t eat them alone though. It’s the texture I think. I don’t care for water chestnuts either for the same reason.

    • Yes! The great thing about curries is that you can really customize them to what you have in your cupboard and spice rack. Curry powder, of good quality, could also be used instead of the garam masala.

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