Chana Masala is a popular Indian dish made with raw chickpeas that are soaked overnight then and cooked in a flavorful and delicious combination of onions, tomatoes, and spices. Gluten-free and vegetarian, we’re saving time and making this chana masala recipe in the Instant Pot.
Today we will be making this flavorful and delicious chana masala recipe directly in our Instant Pot or favorite electric pressure cooker. Naturally gluten-free and vegetarian, chana masala (sometimes called chole masala or channa masala) is a simple recipe made with chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, and a handful of fragrant spices and aromatics.
About this Recipe
If you’re shopping for dried chickpeas online or in an Indian supermarket, you may get confused by the different names for what seemingly looks like the same thing. So, here’s the deal with chickpeas-
There are two types of chickpeas – desi and kabuli. Either type works with this recipe. I used desi chickpeas.
Desi chickpeas (also known as kala chana or Indian black chickpeas) are smaller, about half the diameter of average chickpeas with a stronger flavor and firmer texture even after they’ve been cooked. As the name implies, they are darker than the chickpeas we are used to here in the West.
Kabuli chickpeas, on the other hand, are larger and lighter with a smoother coat.
Now that that’s settled, there’s one more important thing to note and that is how “dry” vs. how “wet” you make your chana masala. You will often find chana masala fairly dry, or less soupy. The chickpeas will sometimes be cooked separately and then added to the thick onion and tomato sauce at the end of cooking.
However, for today we’re making this chana masala recipe altogether in the Instant Pot. This ultimately requires a bit more water than if we cooked the chickpeas separately to prevent burning.
Spices and Aromatics
A staple in India, there are countless versions of chana masala, each with its own “perfect” spice blend and aromatics. This is mine.
- bay leaves
- whole cinnamon stick
- cumin seeds
- fresh garlic and ginger
- chili powder
- ground coriander
- amchur or amchoor (mango powder)
- garam masala
- turmeric powder
- cumin powder
- kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
The mango powder helps give this recipe its characteristic tangy flavor.
How to Make Chana Masla (Instant Pot)
1. Rinse and soak your chickpeas in water for at least 8 hours to overnight. This helps your chickpeas cook faster. (Forget to pre-soak your chickpeas? Scroll to the last section and check out my frequently asked questions section) Drain the water and rinse well. Set aside.
2. Set your Instant pot to sauté mode medium heat.
3. Add ghee (or olive oil) and add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, and whole dried chili peppers. Cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until the cumin seeds are fragrant (do not burn as they will turn bitter).
4. Add the diced onion and any diced peppers like serrano peppers or jalapeño peppers, if using. Cook until softened, stirring often.
5. Add the garlic and ginger, stirring continuously for about 1 minute. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot (add a little water to help, if needed).
6. Mix in the tomatoes. Then add the chili powder, coriander powder, amchur (mango powder), garam masala, turmeric powder, cumin, salt, and kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves). Mix well and cook for a few minutes.
7. Turn off sauté mode.
8. Check again to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot, then add the chickpeas and 4-5 cups of water (only 2 cups of water if you’re using canned chickpeas, see the section below).
9. Secure the lid and set your Instant Pot to “manual” mode high pressure. Cook for 45 minutes with a 10-minute natural release.
10. After your chana masala has finished cooking, carefully remove the lid and season with additional salt, to taste. Garnish with all your favorites (cilantro, yogurt, fresh lemon juice, ghee, etc).
Frequently Asked Questions
I didn’t pre-soak my chickpeas, can I still make this recipe?
You have a couple of options if forgot to soak your beans overnight. First, soak your beans in a bowl of warm/hot (not boiling) water for approximately 1 hour. Then drain and use as directed. Don’t have that extra hour? Simply add an additional 10 minutes to your total cook time.
Can I use canned chickpeas?
Sure. Add 3-4 cans of drained chickpeas and reduce the total cook time to 10 minutes. You’ll also need to reduce the amount of water from 5 cups to 2 cups of water.
Can I make this on the stovetop?
Yes, but this recipe is written specifically for the Instant Pot.
How spicy is chana masala?
This will vary from one recipe to another. If you make this recipe exactly as written (with the dried red chilis and the serrano or jalapeño peppers) then it will probably be pretty spicy. Leave those things out, and it will be fragrant, but not hot. If you love your Indian food to be super spicy, add a teaspoon or so of cayenne powder.
Check Out These Other Instant Pot Recipes,
Have you tried making my Instant Pot Chana Masala Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Instant Pot Chana Masala Recipe
- 2 cups dry chickpeas (see notes)
- 6 tbsp ghee (or olive oil)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2½ tsp cumin seeds
- 6 whole dried red chili peppers (optional)
- 2 medium onions (minced)
- 2 Serrano peppers (or jalapeño (optional), seeds removed and chopped)
- 6 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger (peeled and minced (approximately 1 tablespoon))
- 1 (32 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp amchur (mango powder)
- 1½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
- 1 tbsp fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
- 5 cups water (or broth )
- cilantro (to garnish)
- fresh lemon juice (for serving)
- Rinse and soak the chana (chickpeas) in water for 8-12 hours. Drain the water and rinse thoroughly. Set aside.
- Set your Instant Pot to sauté mode. Add the ghee (or oil if you prefer to keep this recipe completely vegan).
- Add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, and whole dried chili peppers. Mix well and continue to cook until the cumin seeds are fragrant and toasted, about 2 minutes.
- Add the onion and serrano or jalapeño pepper (if using). Mix well to combine with the toasted cumin seeds. Continue to cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions have turned translucent and have started to soften. Stir in the garlic and fresh ginger, mixing well to combine. Cook for an additional minute.
- Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the canned tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes if you prefer a less chunky tomato sauce). Mix well then add the chili powder, coriander powder, amchur (mango powder), garam masala, turmeric powder, cumin, salt, and kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves). Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring as needed.
- Turn off sauté mode. Check again to make sure there are no stuck-on brown bits on the bottom of your Instant Pot.
- Add the soaked and rinsed chickpeas plus 5 cups of water (for a thicker chana masala, add 4-4½ cups of water).
- Secure the lid and close the vent to the sealing position. Set your Instant Pot to "manual" mode high pressure. Set to cook for 45 minutes on high pressure. Once the cooking time has completed, allow your Instant Pot to release naturally for 10 minutes then manually release.
- Carefully remove the lid and season with additional salt, to taste.
- Serve garnished with fresh chopped cilantro and fresh lemon juice, if desired.
- 1 (32-ounce) can of tomatoes or 3-4 cups fresh tomatoes
- 2 cups dry chickpeas or 4 (15-ounce) cans of pre-cooked, drained chickpeas
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)