Have you ever stood in the kitchen, paralyzed by that lingering question? You know, the one that started mid-afternoon, gnawing at you? You couldn’t get rid of it, no matter how many times you checked your email. Here’s the answer - chickpea curry masala. And the question? ‘What’s for dinner?’ Ok. More specifically ‘what can I make for dinner that’s easy, quick and everyone will love?’
I was masala curry curious long before I got busy making it. After all, Chana Masala is one of our steady favorites. And in my book, there is never enough curry – especially chickpea curries. After a bit of experimentation, I realized how simply delicious it is to create (and consume) a plant-based version of traditional Tikki Masala with just 8 ingredients and an honest 30 minutes (or less) from initial prep to full dinner service. And then came my question – ‘what took you so long?’
How to make chickpea curry masala like a pro
Step one: prep and saute
With just 8 ingredients, you can expect this curry to be a quick one. The prep starts by pureeing you can of tomatoes, and the cooking starts with a simple saute of onions, ginger, and garlic. You can either finely mince the ginger or grate it and for the garlic, mine or press. You’ll want about 5 minutes for this process. Because we are not using any oil, you should heat the pan before adding the onions. When you start onions in a cold pan, they will expand and stick. And some pans – argh! They just refuse to cooperate no matter what you do. Of course, I have plan B which is adding a tablespoon or two of water. It won’t compromise the flavor and won’t leave your onions hopelessly stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Step two: Add Garam Masala
So the name goes, for masala curry does the key ingredient – garam masala. I kept true to the recipe name and only added some cayenne pepper because we like a little spice with our curry.
What is garam masala?
Unlike curry powder, which is a British invention, garam masala is a traditional Indian spice blend that is at the heart of many a fine curry. When it comes to cooking traditional or Indian-inspired dishes, garam masala is the spice blend you want to have on hand.
In an NPR article, food writer, Monia Bhide called garam masala a taste worth acquiring and although I didn’t grow up eating Indian food at all, it didn’t take me long to figure out that this is the secret behind the unique aroma and warmth of so many curries and other Indian dishes.
How do you make garam masala?
Speaking of acquiring, if you can’t find garam masala as a prepared blend, you can make your own quick blend using 1 ½ tsp. ground coriander, ¾ tsp. ground cumin, ¼ tsp. ground turmeric, ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom, ⅛ tsp. ground black pepper, ⅛ tsp. ground cloves and ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon. The amounts should be just about right for the tablespoon you’ll want for the masala curry, but you won't go wrong making extra. Just store it in an airtight container and label it if you, like me keep prepared by making extra spice blends like Berbere, Za’atar, or Baharat. You don't want to get them mixed up. I've learned that there are limits to spice experimentation. This is especially true when you want something quick and dependable and would rather travel the clear path than go off-trail.
Step three: chickpea pile on
Just like having garam masala handy, I try to maintain a steady supply of the ingredient I consider the staple above all staples - chickpeas. To suggest that I am an advocate of the chickpea is a complete understatement. I am at least a serious enthusiast. I won’t pretend for a minute that I reserve chickpeas for curries, I am a full-service chickpea user and I’ve yet to run out of ideas for ways to use our favorite legume.
You can use either canned chickpeas for this one or if you want to cook your own, follow my guidelines and tips for cooking beans in my recipe for making black beans from scratch or chickpea soup. Because I’d cooked up a huge batch of chickpeas before embarking on masala curry, I just added 3 cups for this recipe – about 2 cans’ worth.
Step four: add the sauce
I nearly always use canned cherry tomatoes in juice, it’s kind of my standard canned tomato, but no matter which kind you prefer, you’ll want to puree them a bit before adding them along with the coconut milk for the sauce. Along with the garam masala, the highlight of Tikki Masala or masala curry as I call it is the creamy simple sauce.
The more traditional version of Tikki Masala uses cream along with simmered tomatoes. But, we’re going for no-fuss plant-based and that’s all about opening a few cans in this case. Personally, I love coconut milk and I usually use the lite kind which gives plenty of body for the sauce. I’ve had a few questions regarding coconut milk for folks who want a substitute. I’ve found that a mix of plant-milk and a few drops of coconut extract work great for this purpose. I tend to opt for the creamier plant-milks in this case like oat milk but use what you have. You are only using a cup and if you want the sauce thicker, you can always simmer it longer.
Step five: Eat!
This is a seriously creamy curry and it’s perfect with rice, quinoa, bulgur, or whatever grain you have. Although I’ve not tried it, I’d definitely be tempted to serve it over rice noodles for something different. Weird you say? Try telling that to our spinach and red lentil curry. My point is that you will want something to mop up all that great sauce, so throw open the pantry and get creative if you are short on rice or some of your more familiar staples.Print
Chickpea curry masala (Tikki masala)
This chickpea curry masala is a plant-based version of Tikki Masala and needs 8 vegan ingredients for a low calorie, gluten-free dinner in 30 minutes.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: Indian
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 Tbsp. minced or grated fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 Tbsp. garam masala (see notes to make your own blend)
- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 15-oz. (400 gm.) can tomatoes (in juice)
- 1 cup coconut milk (regular or lite)
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 – 15 oz. or 400 gm. cans, rinsed and drained)
- Cooked rice, for serving
- Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish
- Make a tomato puree by placing the tomatoes into a blender or food processor and blending smooth. Alternatively, you can use your immersion blender right in the can.
- Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add water, a tablespoon at-a-time if they start to stick.
- Add the ginger, garlic, 1 Tbsp. garam masala and ½ tsp. cayenne pepper. Stir for 30 seconds to combine.
- Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and bring the pot to simmer. Mix everything well and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas and heat through.
- Serve with cooked rice and chopped cilantro for a garnish.
- Nutritional information does not include rice.
- To make your own garam masala, combine 1 ½ tsp. ground coriander, ¾ tsp. ground cumin, ¼ tsp. ground turmeric, ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom, ⅛ tsp. ground black pepper, ⅛ tsp. ground cloves and ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon.
Keywords: chickpea curry masala