Wednesday, December 6, 2023
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Creamy, spiced chickpeas any night

Becky Krystal

THE WASHINGTON POST – I’ve only been back to our office a handful of times since we were sent home abruptly one afternoon in March 2020. Returning and seeing my desk the way I left it was like opening a time capsule. There was a stack of cookbooks I had clearly meant to bring home, mostly, as I recall, to try to inject some verve into my Instant Pot dinner rotation.

Well more than a year after I’d set it aside and nearly three years after it was originally published, I finally started digging through one of those books: The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook, by Archana Mundhe.

Chana masala “is a North Indian dish that is now popular all over India”, Mundhe told me. It’s a chickpea curry with “a creamy tomato-based gravy,” she said. You’ll find some variations among families, one of them being the addition of potatoes.

The dish boasted soft, creamy chickpeas in a thick, rust-colored sauce, dreamily spiced (but not spicy). It’s warming and oh-so-satisfying, especially when served with naan or paratha for dipping and scooping.



Active time: 30 minutes | Total time: One hour, 15 minutes
Four servings (makes about four cups)
Make Ahead: The dried chickpeas must be soaked for four to 10 hours.


For the chana masala spice blend
– Six dried chiles (medium heat), such as Kashmiri, stems removed
– Three tablespoons coriander seeds
– One tablespoon cumin seeds
– 10 black peppercorns
– 10 cloves
– Six green cardamom pods
– One cinnamon stick
– Three tablespoons amchur powder (dried mango powder; may substitute a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end of cooking)
– Half teaspoon ground turmeric

For the chana masala
– One cup dried chickpeas, picked over and rinsed
– Three-and-a-half cups water, divided
– Two tablespoons ghee (may substitute vegetable or coconut oil for a vegan option)
– One large onion (about 12 ounces), finely chopped
– Four cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
– One (Half-inch) piece fresh ginger, finely grated
– One teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
– One black tea bag or two teaspoons loose black tea in a mesh tea strainer (optional)
– One (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes (may substitute two medium tomatoes, chopped)
– One tablespoon homemade or store-bought chana masala spice blend (from above)
– Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
– Cooked basmati rice, for serving (optional)
– Naan or paratha, for serving (optional)


Make the chana masala spice blend: In a large, dry skillet over low heat, toast the chiles, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick, stirring or shaking frequently, until fragrant, three to five minutes.

The peppers should slightly darken and become more pliable. Keep an eye on everything to keep the spices from scorching. Transfer the spices to a plate or bowl and let cool.

Add the toasted spices to a coffee or spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. Transfer to a container, stir in the amchur powder and turmeric to combine and store, sealed, away from heat or light until needed. The yield is about 1/2 cup.

Make the chana masala: In a medium bowl, combine the dried chickpeas and two cups of water and let soak for at least four hours and up to overnight (10 hours). After soaking, drain the chickpeas.

Set your six-quart multicooker to SAUTE (high) and melt the ghee. Once it starts to ripple, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about five minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute until aromatic, about one minute, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water, nudging loose any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in the soaked chickpeas, salt and tea, if using. Press CANCEL to turn off the heat.

Cover, set the steam valve to PRESSURE (or SEALING) and turn to HIGH. After the cooker reaches high pressure, which takes five to 10 minutes, cook for 35 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 to 20 minutes, then do a quick release to release any remaining pressure. Check the beans; they should be soft and cooked through, but if they’re still a bit crunchy, bring the machine back to pressure and cook for an additional two to three minutes. Remove the tea bag or mesh strainer.

Return the multicooker to SAUTE (high) and stir in the tomatoes with their juices and chana masala spice blend. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are softened and start to dissolve into the curry, five to seven minutes. Taste, and season with more salt, as needed. Press CANCEL to turn off the heat. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the cilantro, if using, and serve warm, ideally with rice and paratha or naan.

Add the chana masala spice blend and stir well. Stir in three cups of cooked chickpeas (from one cup dried chickpeas) or two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained, and more salt to taste, if desired. Add 1/4 cup of water, or more or less to bring the curry to your desired consistency. Simmer for five minutes and garnish with the cilantro, if using.

Calories: 298; Total Fat: 10g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 15mg; Sodium: 653mg; Carbohydrates: 43g; Dietary Fibre: 11g; Sugar: 12g; Protein: 11g


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