Dinner/ Lunch/ Travel

Make Ahead Chana Masala – Vegan, Gluten-Free

This chana masala recipe might be one of the recipes I’m most proud of. My favorite Indian restaurant is on the other side of Nashville, and it takes some planning to get out there. Now I can make this dish on my Cooking Day and have creamy, tangy, perfectly spicy Indian any night of the week. I’ve got a sneaking feeling mine’s also probably healthier than the gloriously fatty-salty goo I always order. Sorry Sitar.

This recipe starts with tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger whirred in a blender. Throw in a chile pepper if you like heat. Simmer this mix with tomato paste, warm spices and bay leaves. Swirl in coconut milk, then cook the mushrooms and peas right in the liquid. Add chickpeas, and you’re almost done.

When the chana masala has cooled a bit, finish it with a little maple syrup for a balancing hit of sweetness and fenugreek complexity. I’ve never had much luck buying fenugreek, an Indian herb, in Tennessee (go figure). But fenugreek has a distinct maple flavor. It’s is actually used to produce artificial pancake syrup! I reverse-engineer the process, and use maple syrup to add an artificial fenugreek flavor to my Indian dishes. It’s delish.

This recipe easily doubles and freezes well.

The secret to the authentic taste of this chana masala is a shortcut I learned from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution cookbook. And I do what Jamie says. He recommends adding a little Patak’s Mild Curry Paste to your homemade Indian food. It is a game-changer. This specific brand. No substitutes.

Patak’s ingredient list is pretty short, considering all the spices. It contains canola oil, which is unfortunate. But, because it’s concentrated, you don’t use much. It’s high in sodium, but you just adjust your seasonings accordingly. For the amazing flavor punch it adds, I think it’s totally worth it. Let me stress once again – game-changer!

Make Ahead Chana Masala

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 35-40 mins.


  • ½ Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 whole fresh tomatoes, preferably organic
  • ½ onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 in. fresh ginger
  • 1 red chile pepper* (optional, but good if you like spicy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp. Patak’s Mild Curry Paste (see link above)
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
  • 8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 15 oz. chickpeas
  • 2 pinches salt or to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • Serve over rice or cauliflower rice, with cilantro and/or lime wedge if desired



COOKING DAY – Heat oil in Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Blend fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger and chile (if using) in blender until smooth.


Pour tomato mixture in pot. Add two bay leaves. Sautee mixture until raw garlic/onion cooks out and mixture turns slightly darker, about 10-15 mins. You might have to turn on stove fan for chile fumes.


Add tomato paste, curry paste, paprika and garam masala, cook another 2-3 minutes until blended. Add coconut milk, swirl into mixture.


Add mushrooms, peas and chickpeas. Simmer until mushrooms are tender, about 10-15 mins.


Remove from heat, cool slightly, and add maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Cool completely and store in containers in the fridge for 5 days or freezer for 3 months.


SERVING DAY – Microwave desired portion of chana masala or heat on stovetop. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice. Garnish with cilantro and lime (optional).


The fruity spice of the chile is really nice. But chiles are unpredictable. You can leave it out. Just add cayenne pepper to the mixture ⅛ tsp. at a time until you reach your desired spiciness level.

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