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Master South Indian Chana Masala at Home

Embarking on a culinary journey through the flavors of South Indian cuisine can be both exciting and rewarding. South Indian Chana Masala, a delicious and aromatic dish made with chickpeas, tomatoes, and a blend of various spices, is a perfect place to start. With its rich flavors and textures, this dish can easily become a staple in your cooking repertoire. To become skilled in making South Indian Chana Masala, it is essential to first understand the ingredients, techniques, and complementary sides that create this delectable dish. Open yourself to a world of new flavors and let your taste buds guide you through the process, as you expand your culinary horizons.

Gathering Ingredients

Gathering Ingredients for South Indian Chana Masala
Primary Ingredients
  • Chickpeas: Purchase canned or dried chickpeas. If using dried chickpeas, you will need to soak them overnight and cook them before starting with the recipe. Ideally, you will need 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cooked chickpeas for this recipe.
  • Tomatoes: You will need 2 to 3 medium-sized fresh tomatoes, finely chopped. Alternatively, you can also use canned diced tomatoes in a pinch.
  • Onion: Get one large onion, finely chopped.
  • Garlic: 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • Ginger: Approximately 1 inch piece of ginger, grated or minced.
Spices and Seasonings
  1. Garam Masala: This is a blend of various Indian spices. You will need 1 to 2 teaspoons of it for this recipe. You can find it at any Indian grocery store or online.
  2. Turmeric Powder: Turmeric is an essential ingredient in Indian cooking. You will need 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder.
  3. Coriander Powder: Grab 1 teaspoon of coriander powder.
  4. Cumin Seeds: You will need 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds.
  5. Red Chili Powder: Find 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of red chili powder, depending on your preference for spiciness.
  6. Mustard Seeds: For this recipe, you will need 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds.
  7. Curry Leaves: A handful of fresh curry leaves (about 10-12 leaves) will be required. These can be found at Indian grocery stores or online.
  8. Green Chilies: Purchase 2 to 3 green chilies, finely chopped. You can adjust the amount based on your spice tolerance.
  9. Salt: Keep salt on hand, as needed, for seasoning.
Additional Ingredients
  • Cooking Oil: You will need 2 to 3 tablespoons of cooking oil, like vegetable oil or coconut oil, for this recipe.
  • Cilantro: Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, for garnish.
  • Lemon or Lime: Have a fresh lemon or lime on standby for optional, extra tanginess.

Once you have gathered all the necessary ingredients, you can begin preparing your delicious South Indian Chana Masala. Enjoy!

A dish of South Indian Chana Masala served with rice and garnished with fresh cilantro.

Learning South Indian Cooking Techniques

Introduction to South Indian Cooking Techniques

South Indian cooking is rich in flavors, spices, and a variety of dishes, all of which set it apart from North Indian cooking. One such mouth-watering South Indian dish is Chana Masala. In this guide, we will focus on the differences between South Indian and North Indian cooking techniques, understanding the basics, and learning how to make South Indian Chana Masala using various techniques like tadka, sautéing, and pressure cooking.

Understanding the Differences Between South Indian and North Indian Cooking

Before diving into South Indian cooking techniques, it is essential to understand the key differences between the two styles of cooking.

  • Spices: South Indian dishes use a wider range of spices that gives their food a distinct flavor, while North Indian cuisine relies more on a small number of spices. In South Indian cooking, spices like black mustard seeds, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, and asafoetida are commonly used.
  • Staple ingredients: Rice is the staple food in South India, while North Indians usually consume wheat in the form of flatbreads or rotis.
  • Gravies: South Indian gravies tend to be thinner and more broth-like, whereas North Indian gravies are creamier and richer in texture.
  • Souring agents: South Indian dishes often employ tamarind, tomatoes, or kokum for their sour flavors, while North Indian cuisine uses yogurt or lemon for sourness.

Now that we’ve understood the basic differences let’s focus on some essential South Indian cooking techniques for making Chana Masala.

Tadka (Tempering) Technique

Tadka is a crucial technique in South Indian cooking that involves frying whole or ground spices in hot oil. This technique is used to release the flavors and aromas from the spices, which then enhance and add depth to dishes such as Chana Masala.

Follow these steps for a perfect tadka for South Indian Chana Masala:

  1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a small pan.
  2. Once hot, add black mustard seeds and allow them to pop and splutter.
  3. Add curry leaves, dried red chilies, and a pinch of asafoetida powder.
  4. Once the spices are crisp and aromatic, pour the tadka (including the oil) over the prepared Chana Masala.
Sautéing Technique

Sautéing is another crucial technique in Indian cooking, especially when it comes to softening and caramelizing onions for the base of Chana Masala. To sauté onions:

  1. Heat oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat.
  2. Add thinly sliced onions and fry until they become golden and slightly caramelized.
  3. Now, add freshly minced garlic and ginger, and sauté until fragrant.

This golden onion base will create a rich and flavorful Chana Masala.

Pressure Cooking Technique

For South Indian Chana Masala, pressure cooking is an excellent technique to cook chickpeas (the star ingredient). Pressure cooking reduces the cooking time, softens the chickpeas, and retains their nutrients.

  1. Rinse and soak the chickpeas in water for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Add the soaked chickpeas, water, and a pinch of salt into a pressure cooker.
  3. Close the lid, place the cooker on high heat, and cook until it starts to whistle.
  4. Lower the heat and allow the chickpeas to cook for at least 15-20 minutes or until they are soft and ready to be used in the Chana Masala.
Assembling the South Indian Chana Masala

Now that we’ve learned the essential techniques, let’s put them together:

  1. Prepare the tadka as described above and set it aside.
  2. In a large pan, sauté onions, garlic, and ginger as mentioned before.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and sauté until they become soft and mushy.
  4. Add spices such as turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala, and salt. Cook for a few minutes until the spices release their flavors.
  5. Add the pressure-cooked chickpeas into the tomato-onion-spice mixture and stir well.
  6. Add enough water to achieve the desired consistency of the gravy.
  7. Allow the Chana Masala to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Pour the prepared tadka over the Chana Masala, and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Serve your delicious South Indian Chana Masala with rice or your favorite bread, and relish the flavors of this classic dish. Happy cooking!

A picture of a bowl of South Indian Chana Masala, with chickpeas and a brown tomato-based gravy topped with cilantro.

Combining and Perfecting Flavors


South Indian Chana Masala is a delicious and flavorful dish made with chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, and a blend of spices. This dish is both nutritious and full of rich, complex flavors that are sure to impress your family and friends. In this guide, we’ll focus on combining and perfecting the flavors to help you create a truly authentic South Indian Chana Masala.

A delicious bowl of South Indian Chana Masala, garnished with fresh cilantro.

Sides and Accompaniments

South Indian Chana Masala Sides and Accompaniments

Chana masala is a delicious and flavorful South Indian dish made with chickpeas in a spicy and tangy gravy. To fully enjoy this dish, we recommend pairing it with some of the popular South Indian side dishes and accompaniments listed below.


Rice is a staple in South Indian cuisine and makes for a perfect side dish to serve with chana masala. The most commonly used rice variety in South India is Sona Masoori, which has a light and fluffy texture. Simply boil the rice with water and a pinch of salt until it’s cooked through. You can also try having the chana masala with coconut rice or lemon rice to add extra flavors to your meal.


Dosa is a thin and crispy fermented crepe made from a rice and urad dal (black gram) batter. This golden-brown flatbread pairs well with chana masala as a savory, crispy accompaniment. To make dosa, follow these steps:

  • Soak 1 cup of urad dal and 2 cups of rice separately for 4-6 hours
  • Grind them separately into a fine batter
  • Combine the two batters and add a pinch of salt
  • Leave the batter to ferment overnight
  • Once fermented, heat a flat pan or griddle and pour a ladle of batter, spreading it out in a circular motion
  • Cook the dosa until it turns golden-brown and crispy on both sides. Serve with chana masala

Idli is a soft, pillowy, steamed rice cake made from the same batter as dosa (rice and urad dal). These savory cakes can be served alongside chana masala and act as a great way to soak up the flavorsome gravy. To make idli, you can follow the same steps as dosa batter preparation, and then steam the batter using an idli steamer or a pressure cooker without a whistle for 10-15 minutes until the idlis are cooked through.

Coconut Chutney

Coconut chutney is a popular South Indian condiment made from fresh grated coconut, green chilies, and other spices. It can be served as a side with chana masala to add a mild, delicate, and creamy accompaniment to your meal. To make coconut chutney, follow these steps:

  1. In a blender, combine 1 cup of grated coconut, 2-3 green chilies, a small piece of ginger, a handful of roasted chana dal, and salt to taste
  2. Blend the ingredients, adding water gradually, until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy
  3. In a small pan, heat a teaspoon of oil and add mustard seeds, dried red chilies, and curry leaves
  4. Once the mustard seeds start to crackle, pour this tempering over the chutney and mix well
A plate with South Indian Chana Masala curry, dosa, rice, coconut chutney and idli

Ultimately, becoming adept at preparing South Indian Chana Masala will not only expand your culinary knowledge but will also enrich your palate with its captivating taste. By devoting attention to the ingredients, techniques, and accompaniments of this dish, you will successfully immerse yourself in the diverse world of South Indian cuisine. As you venture into other Indian dishes, your newfound skill set will serve as a solid foundation. So, do not hesitate to explore the enticing and diverse universe of South Indian cuisine, as every dish has its own story, and every flavor has the power to transport you to a new culinary adventure.

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