Easy Instant Pot chana masala is a flavorful curry recipe made with dried chickpeas, easy-to-source spices, and fresh tomatoes. You’ll love the simplicity of this healthy, plant-based recipe with its fresh spicy sauce and freshly cooked chickpeas.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, Bengal gram, Egyptian pea, chana, and other names, is a legume that is well-loved throughout the world. You may have come to chickpeas vicariously spurred on by a hummus addiction (who doesn’t love it). But take a closer look because chickpeas make more than our favorite dip.
When it comes to nutrition, chickpeas are nutritionally as powerful as they are delicious. Have a cup (or 2) of chickpeas, and you’ll be getting fiber and protein, calcium, and folate. They are low in fat and cholesterol-free. With so many ways to enjoy them, from creamy chickpea salad to falafel to potato and chickpea curry, you can enjoy them every day of the week guilt-free.
But we’re making chana masala, and we’ll be using dried chickpeas for this one.
Beans: dried versus canned
Canned beans are mighty convenient, but dried have perks too.
Cost and yield
Bean for beans, dried is less expensive than canned. It makes sense. A bag of dried beans costs less than the equivalent you’d get in canned, cooked beans. There is less process, less packaging, less space with dried.
Sodium (and anything else)
Cooking your own beans from scratch eliminates any worry about other ingredients, including salt. Although salt-free cans are more readily available, you can still have difficulty finding specific types of beans salt-free. And salt-free may mean buying a more expensive brand.
Taste and texture
When I made chana masala the first time using the Instant Pot, we were amazed at the difference in the flavor of the chickpeas. They were plumper, cooked but firm, with a naturally nutty flavor rivaling some notable (and expensive) canned brands I've had.
How to select dried chickpeas
You can find dried chickpeas near the dried beans in most supermarkets and markets specializing in Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Latin foods. Stores specializing in healthy foods are also likely to have dried chickpeas.
When you pick up that back of hard, round beans, make sure it isn’t damaged. Give it a little shake and if there is a ton of dust or broken chickpeas, grab another. Likewise, do not select a bag with visible moisture condensed or a lot of discolored chickpeas.
Check the date. Chickpeas should be used within a year of purchase, but a year in your pantry can be way more than a year if you consider how long they’ve sat on the store shelf.
How to store chickpeas
Once you’ve opened the bag or if you buy in bulk, store chickpeas in an airtight container, away from moisture. It’s a good idea to note the date somewhere as you want to use chickpeas within a year of purchase.
You’ll need 10 ingredients to make this recipe:
Onions – 2 medium onions, about 2 cups, chopped is the beginning of the flavor.
Jalapeno or green chili – I usually use jalapeno or whatever small, hot green chili I can find. Because we tend to like our food spicy, I don’t remove the seeds. If you don’t like eating such fiery food, remove the seeds and the hot core.
Take care when handling chilies. Be sure to wear gloves or wash your hands immediately after dicing them. And don’t be me, don’t forget mid-chop and touch your eyes or decide that’s the moment to fiddle with a contact lens. Nothing good comes of it. I speak from experience.
Garlic – 3-4 minced or crushed garlic cloves may seem like a lot, but seriously, it won’t overpower a thing. Use more if you are a garlic person.
Ginger – Fresh ginger, at least 2 tablespoons minced, add heaps of sharp, fresh flavor to this recipe that can’t be replicated with dried, ground ginger. You can, however, get jars of prepared minced ginger. Although not a good as fresh (in my opinion, it works as a substitute ginger knobs are available.
Ground spices – Coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper are the 4 spices I like to use. If you want to add something special, you can toast a teaspoon of cumin seeds and use those instead of ground.
A note on salt – I made salt optional for this recipe because I find it best to add it, if at all, after a dish is cooked. Let the other ingredients carry you through until the final tasting, then decide if you want salt.
Tomatoes – Diced fresh tomatoes (4 cups) add notes of brightness to this dish. If you want to use canned tomatoes, use 2 - 15 ounce cans and cut back on the added water by 1 cup.
Dried chickpeas – I urge you to soak or quick-soak your chickpeas. Here’s why:
The age of chickpeas dictates how much water is needed to rehydrate them. If you add them to the Instant Pot before soaking them, you can’t be sure how much water they’ll use up. Also, if you start with each individual chickpea completely rehydrated, they are more likely to cook evenly. So, for the sake of quality control, soak them at least for a few hours.
Soaking it super easy. Measure out 2 cups of chickpeas and add them to a big enough bowl that you can also add at least 4 cups of water. If your chickpeas are older or look parched, add more water. You can’t hurt them.
I usually quick-soak chickpeas by adding boiling water to the bowl and soaking them for 2 hours. You can also soak them overnight in tap water. Forget to soak the chickpeas? No worries, rinse them off and add them to the Instant Pot per the directions. Allow an extra 10 minutes of pressure cooking.
When you’re ready to make this dish, drain and rinse them, and let’s get to the cooking part.
Before you hit any buttons, be sure to prep all the ingredients and measure out the spices. You won’t have extra moments to dig for turmeric, so choose easy. Fetch a small dish and measure out the spices so that all you need to do is dump them in when the time comes. That’s about 6 minutes in.
Start the Instant Pot in SAUTE mode and add the onions and jalapenos. Sauté them for 4-5 minutes so they can release their sugars. Stir them continuously. If they start to stick, add a tablespoon of water.
Stir the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. Any longer, and it may scorch. After that, take a few seconds to add the spices and mix them in. Follow up with the tomatoes, chickpeas, and finally 4 cups of water.
When you add the lid to the Instant Pot, position the steam release handle to Sealing. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cooking for 35 minutes and turn off the warming setting.
Once the timer goes off, carefully release the pressure valve. Use the back of a wooden spoon to move the valve. This ensures that your hand doesn’t get close to the steam. Allow the steam to release, then remove the lid and give everything a stir.
You can use 3 cans of chickpeas (5 cups) rather than dried. Reduce the cooking time to 10 minutes, rather than 35. Rinse the canned chickpeas before adding them and reduce the water to 1 ½ cups.
If you want to make this on the stovetop, follow the directions as written. Use a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. When you add the water, bring the contents to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover, and cook the chickpeas until they are tender (about 1 hour).
If you want to add something green to chana masala, consider chopped spinach, kale, or another leafy green of your choice. After the chickpeas have cooked and you’ve released the pressure on the Instant Pot, set it to simmer and add chopped spinach until it has wilted. A squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice will complement the spinach if you want to add a bit of zest to this dish.
Mash some of the chickpeas to help thicken the sauce. Set the Instant Pot to simmer and continue cooking for another 10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
Side dish, anyone?
easy Instant Pot chana masala
Easy Instant Pot chana masala recipe is made with dried chickpeas, easy-to-source spices, and tomatoes for a simple, flavorful one-pot meal.
- Prep Time: 20 min
- Cook Time: 45 min
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 6
- Category: curries
- Cuisine: Indian
- Diet: Vegan
- 2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked (see instructions)
- 2 onions, diced (2 cups)
- 1 -2 jalapenos, minced (remove the seeds and core if you don’t want to too spicy)
- 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ inch piece ginger, minced (2 Tbsp.)
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 4 large tomatoes diced (about 4 cups)
- 3 cups of water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Suggested garnishes – lemon wedges or fresh chopped cilantro
- To soak the chickpeas, add them to a bow,l and cover them with about twice the water. Soak them overnight or do a quick soak by covering them with boiling water and soaking them for 2 hours.
- Set the Instant Pot to SAUTE and add the onions and jalapenos. Cook them for about 5 minutes until they are soft.
- Mix in the garlic and ginger, then add the spices. Stir so that the ingredients are covered with spices.
- Add the tomatoes, drained chickpeas, and 3 cups of water. Fit the lid onto the Instant Pot. Set the steam release to SEAL, then set the Instant Pot on HIGH PRESSURE for 35 minutes. Click off the warming button.
- When the timer goes off, you can release the steam release handle immediately or allow the steam to release naturally for 10 minutes, then carefully open the steam release handle.
- Remove the lid, give the chana masala a stir, and serve over rice or in bowls. Garnish with lime wedges and/or chopped cilantro.
- If you forget to soak the chickpeas, add 10 minutes of cooking on High Pressure. You’ll need to check the chickpeas after the pressure has been released to be sure they are cooked through.
- To make this recipe on the stovetop, follow the directions as written. After adding the water, bring the pot to a boil. Reduce to a slow simmer, cover the pot and cook the chickpeas for an hour. You will need to check them periodically might take more water for the chickpeas to cook.
- If you use canned chickpeas, reduce the Pressure cook time in the Instant Pot to 10 minutes. You need 5 cups of chickpeas (3 cans).
Keywords: Instant Pot chana masala