Chickpea and sweet potato masala is an Indian-inspired curry with warm spices served with rice or naan for a cozy vegetarian meal.
We have been on a legume + curry kick this spring. Lentils, chickpeas, every type of bean have been finding their way into our soups and the Instant Pot curry that Frank has been making nearly every week. There is something so comforting about protein-packed meals that are made from ingredients that are already in the pantry.
Chana masala fits right in the trend. Made in one pot, it takes about as long as ordering Indian takeout and is much cheaper. Give yourself enough time to gather spices and to let the tomato puree cook way down (that’s the key to rich flavor) and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic dish that tastes even better as leftovers.
What is Chana Masala?
Chana Masala is an Indian-style curry with warm spices and a tomato-based gravy. Chana means chickpea and masala refers to the blend of spices used in the gravy. Heavy cream (or coconut milk) can be added the warm spices.
How to Make Chana Masala
- Season chickpeas - Mix chickpeas with spices and set aside for a few minutes. This will infuse them with flavor.
- Cook aromatics and spices - Onions, garlic, ginger, and dried spices make the foundation of the curry.
- Cook tomato puree - This step is the key to the flavor in the base. Add tomato puree (tomato sauce will work too) and cook it way down in the spices.
- Simmer curry - Add stock, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes and simmer until tender.
- Add cream - Stir in heavy cream or coconut milk.
- Serve with Basmati rice or naan.
Garam Masala is a spice blend used in Indian cooking. There are nearly as many variations as there are kitchens in India, but they will all add depth and fragrance to curries and other Indian-inspired dishes. Some are spicy, some are not. Look for pre-mixed blends at your favorite spice store (even grocery stores usually carry some version) or make your own. The Kitchn has a good, DIY recipe.
Many versions of chickpea masala have a simple spiced tomato base, but adding heavy cream or coconut milk will mellow out the spice and add a richness to the masala gravy. This creamy finish is totally optional and can be reduced or increased according to how rich and creamy you would like the dish.
Variations on Chickpea Masala
- Make it dairy-free / vegan - Use your favorite plant-based butter substitute or just use olive oil in place of the butter. Skip the heavy cream or use coconut milk or coconut cream in its place.
- Use a different protein - Tofu, paneer, cubed chicken, or another sturdy bean work well in place of the chickpeas.
- Add vegetables - Like most curries, this one is a great place to add in or swap vegetables. Bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli would all be great. Be sure to adjust the simmer time to be sure that the vegetables are tender and cooked through.
More Vegetarian Curry Recipes
- Thai Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry
- Green Curry Vegetable Ramen Bowls
- Instant Pot Thai Panang Curry
- Instant Pot Chickpea Curry
Chickpea and Sweet Potato Masala Recipe
- Dutch Oven or Large Saucepan
- Mixing Bowl
- 1 (15 ounce) can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
- 4 teaspoons Garam Masala, divided
- 1 teaspoon Ground Turmeric
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Butter or Ghee
- 1 cup Minced Onion
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon minced Fresh Ginger
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
- ¼ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes, more or less to taste
- 1 (14 ounce) can Tomato Puree (can substitute tomato sauce)
- 2 ½ cups Vegetable Stock (can use water, but be sure to season with some salt at the end of cooking)
- 1 pound Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
- ½ cup Heavy Cream (see note)
- Cooked Rice and / or Naan, for serving
- Plain Yogurt, for serving
- Cilantro, for garnish
- In a mixing bowl, stir together chickpeas and cooking oil. Add 2 teaspoons garam masala, ground turmeric, and salt and stir gently. Set aside.
- Heat a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Add butter / ghee. When oil begins to shimmer, add onion and saute until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, 2 teaspoons garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute more.
- Pour tomato puree over onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomato puree cooks down and turns rich, dark red, 10 to 12 minutes. (Don’t rush this step - cooking the tomato down until it starts to caramelize on the bottom of the pan will add rich flavor to the dish.)
- Stir in water or stock, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes. Cover with a lid. Simmer, covered, until sweet potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the potato cubes.
- Remove lid and stir in heavy cream. Simmer everything together, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened to your liking.
- Serve masala with rice and / or naan. Top with yogurt and cilantro.