My first recipe for channa masala was published in a past blog on September 5, 2010. This is a revised version with new photos – and new sketch notes!
Indian food is my “desert island” cuisine. If I had to choose a single cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, Indian food would be it. (Mediterranean is probably a close second.)
I didn’t experience any Indian food at all in my own rural Illinois hometown. When I went to college, I experienced the classic Indian gateway food called tandoori chicken, served with fluffy yellow basmati rice, and was instantly hooked. And when I was briefly vegetarian / vegan a few years ago, I really came to appreciate vegetarian Indian cuisine, and started cooking it myself at home. With the help of some wonderful Indian and international groceries in our ethnically-diverse college town, I built a useful cache of spices for creating Indian flavors.
Although I love a good Indian restaurant meals, I’ve discovered that real Indian is not necessarily loaded with oil and cream. There’s usually ghee (clarified butter) involved, and I have no objection to that. But I love the control I have at home. If I want to create a creamy dish and lower the fat, I’ll use some pureed cashews. I can usually get by with less butter if I increase the onions, and sauté them until they’re deep golden brown and buttery-soft. I know I’m not creating health food here, but I think I’m getting by with a lot less fat and salt, while pumping up the vegetable content.
The type of fresh, home-cooked Indian food that I’ve come to enjoy is portrayed beautifully on cookbook author Meera Sodha’s Instagram. Her first cookbook, Made in India, is one of my favorites. (Try the paneer first for an easy win. You may not go back to the store-bought stuff.) My favorite page of the book, however, is not a recipe – it’s a photo of Sodha’s mother and her well-seasoned wooden spoon, darkly colored from tending decades of family dinners.
Next week, when I travel to my mom and dad’s house for Thanksgiving, I’ll pick up one of my grandmother’s wooden spoons. I’ll use it to stir this channa masala for my own family. I’m fairly certain that grandma’s spoon never experienced channa masala, but I know it’s seen many warm, welcoming family meals. Tastes change and expand across generations, as we welcome more parts of the world into our kitchens. I hope this big warm pot of Indian spiced chickpeas has a chance to welcome you home, too.
If your slow cooker has a removable stoneware crock, you can assemble this recipe the night before, store the crock in the fridge, then pull it out in the morning and plug it in. Dinner will be waiting for you in the evening, and your house will smell amazing.
If you find that the channa masala needs to thicken a bit before serving, take the lid off the crock pot for about a half hour and let it reduce.
Crock Pot Channa Masala
- 2 tbsp ginger root about a 2-inch piece, sliced
- 14 cloves garlic
- 1 small green chile optionally seeded if you like less spice
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 1 tsp brown mustard seed
- 1 tsp whole cumin seed
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 tbsp garam masala
- 4 tsp turmeric
- 2 tbsp coriander seed
- 2 large cans chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 21g cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 black cardamom pods
- 1 tsp amchur powder see note below
In a food processor, combine ginger, garlic, green chile, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse until finely minced.
In a heavy skillet, heat ghee on medium-low heat until melted. Add mustard and cumin seeds. Toss briefly, until seeds start to pop. Add garlic-ginger mixture and fry until fragrant.
Add onions, season lightly with kosher salt, and sauté until onions are golden brown and soft, about 10 minutes. (Take care not to let them burn.)
Add garam masala, turmeric, coriander, and a pinch of salt. Bloom the spices with the onion mixture until they are fragrant, about one minute. Turn off heat, and add onion mixture to crock pot.
Add tomatoes and drained chickpeas to the crock pot, along with bay leaves, cardamom pods, and amchur powder. Stir until combined.
Cook on low 8 hours. If desired, leave the lid off for the last 1/2 hour to reduce.
Serve with hot basmati rice.
Amchur powder is made from drying green mangos. It provides a sour note to this dish. If you can't find it, a tablespoon of lemon juice added at the end of cooking would make a fine substitute.
I’ve been experimenting with sketch notes for recipes, and they’re so much fun! This is the first sketch I created. It’s not 100% accurate for this recipe, because I forgot the green chile in the illustration and there’s no room to add it. But stay tuned for more sketch notes in recipe posts.