This Slow Cooker Chana Masala is one of my favorite crockpot Indian dishes. Packed with chickpeas cooked in a slightly spicy tomato based sauce – it’s one of the best meatless meals around.
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I have been making this Crockpot Chana Masala for years. We love it for an easy dinner with rice, Naan, and some roasted veggies. Even my kids love it. We also love this Quick and Easy Chana Masala when I don’t have time for the slow cooker.
One of my favorite, go-to cuisines, when I’m in the mood for a vegetarian meal, is Indian food. Not only are Indian foods almost always packed with flavor and spice, but they are also often naturally vegetarian and many times work well in the slow cooker — one of my favorite ways to make a lazy meal.
This recipe is a for a classic Chana Masala made with chickpeas, tomatoes, and loads of spices. You can easily amp up the heat factor to your liking by adding extra jalapenos or sneaking in some cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, hot sauce after cooking, or all of the above. I also sometimes add kale or spinach (or other hearty green) to the slow cooker for extra veggies and color, but this does veer away from the classic preparation.
The first time I had this meal, I was dating my now-husband and we were discussing where to have dinner. You know the talk — one of you throws out literally every kind of cuisine and you both say something like, “Well, that sounds okay…but what about ______?”
And you never really get anywhere. And the more you talk, the hangrier you get, and the worse it makes the decision-making. So, finally we played rock-paper-scissors and whoever won got to pick. Needless to say I’m a champion at that game, and good thing, too, because that dinner was my inspiration for creating this version.
This will keep great so don’t worry if you feel like you are making a big batch. You can freeze it for later, either in air-tight containers or zipper bags.
Ideas for Customizing Slow Cooker Chana Masala
As I said before, sometimes I’ll throw some greens into the crockpot along with the other ingredients if I’m feeling it on that day. That’s what’s so great about Indian food and slow cookers, and, well, both of them together — it’s easy to customize to your liking.
- Kale and spinach are both great choices for adding greens, but you could also add frozen peas, carrots, or another veggie mix to the crockpot during the last hour of cooking. Be careful not to overload it with too many veggies though, you don’t want them to overwhelm the dish.
- Omit the butter and add olive oil instead or another healthy oil instead.
- Skip the jalapenos if you don’t like the heat and add a finely diced green bell pepper for some color.
- Mash some of the chickpeas for a “meatier” texture to your dish.
- Blend some of the chickpeas and sauce for a “soupier” texture.
- If you’re a fan of cilantro, sprinkle some on your dish just after you serve it.
- You could also add a dollop or two of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt after serving for a creamier dish.
- Serve this dish with additional, fresh lemon wedges for a little bit of acidity and to brighten the flavors.
How to Cook Chana Masala in the Instant Pot
Sometimes you cook fast, sometimes you cook slow. Sometimes fast just isn’t fast enough and you need it faster! Like, right this instant! That’s when an Instant Pot comes in handy. And yes, you can make this in an Instant Pot with just a few tweaks:
Turn your pot to “saute.” Add the oil or butter and let it get warm, then add the onion and stir until it browns. Add in the next eight ingredients, plus the tomatoes and let them break down a bit, still in saute mode. Finally, add the chickpeas and vegetable broth, salt and pepper, and put the lid on. Make sure it’s secure, close the pressure valve, and cook for 30 minutes at high pressure. Let the pressure release according to directions, then carefully take the lid off, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice, stir, and serve!
What’s the difference between tikka masala and chana masala?
For a long time, I thought these dishes were the same, and it just depended on where you went as to what the restaurant would serve. It wasn’t until I asked for tikka masala and got meat in what I thought was supposed to be a vegetarian dish that I realized that there is a difference.
Tikka masala is spiced similarly to chana masala, but it usually has diced or cubed meat and/or vegetables and has a bit of a spicer sauce blend. Chana masala is the same dish but with chickpeas (or chana), and isn’t as spicy.
No matter which dish you choose, you’re sure to love it as much as I do!
This recipe was originally posted in 2015 but I have updated it with new photos, tips, and recipe information. Here’s the original photo.