This Vegan Chana Masala is brimming with flavor! The warm, comforting spices will rouse your taste buds and persuade you to include this meal in your regular rotation. This recipe makes an excellent weekend dinner or meal-prep dish to portion out and eat later. Also, it's gluten-free, oil-free, nut-free, and soy-free.
This Vegan Chana Masala has 18 key ingredients
- Brown Rice (preferably brown basmati)
- Cinnamon stick
- Fresh ginger root
- Jalapeno (or serrano pepper)
- Chili powder
- Garam Masala
- Fire roasted diced tomatoes
- Aminos (coconut or regular)
- Fresh cilantro
Traditional chana masala does not include spinach. As a nutritionist, I add dark leafy and cruciferous greens to almost every meal. For this, I'm adding chopped baby spinach to boost the Vitamins K and C and beta carotene levels while not compromising the flavor of the chana masala seasonings. I'm also adding a whole grain. In this case, basmati brown rice—but long-grain brown rice or farro works with this dish. Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice works if you're trying to keep it light.
How to Prepare
Cooking the Rice
Adding a cinnamon stick to the pot when cooking rice brings a beautiful warm fragrance to the cooked rice. The flavor is very subtle and pairs beautifully with the chana masala spices.
- Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer.
- If cooking rice in a rice cooker, add 2 cups of water, 1 cup of (rinsed) rice, and a cinnamon stick to the pot and turn it on.
- If cooking stovetop, combine 1 cup of brown rice, 2 cups of water, and a cinnamon stick in a large pot. (Note: If your pot has a tight-fitting lid, I recommend using 1-¾ cups of water since you won't lose as much through evaporation). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer covered for 35 to 40 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and evaporated (Note: since stovetops vary, it's a good idea to check it after 25 minutes). When rice is done cooking, uncover and fluff it with a fork.
Pro Tip for Cooking the Rice
I mentioned my friend Leslie showed me how to cook rice. Here is the method she shared: Add rice to the dry pot. Touch your index finger to the top of the leveled rice in the pot. Then add water just below the crease of the finger. Bring to a boil and then cover and let simmer until all the water is absorbed and evaporated. After the rice is done cooking, spread it out on a baking sheet to dry. This improves the texture and fluffiness of the rice.
Making the Chana Masala
- While rice is cooking, preheat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and dry sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add minced garlic, ginger root, and jalapeno, along with all of the dry spices. Stir to incorporate and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.
- Add chickpeas, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, ½ cup of water, and aminos. Stir well to incorporate. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Stir in fresh chopped spinach, put the lid on and allow the spinach to cook for one minute. Just enough to wilt. Remove from the heat and add fresh lemon juice.
- Serve the chana masala over rice and top with fresh cilantro. Enjoy!
Chana masala holds a special place in my heart. After adopting a whole food, plant-based vegan lifestyle, it's a dish I discovered in my quest to figure out my go-to meals. It's also one I enjoyed eating with my friend, Leslie, when I lived in Mississippi, who showed me two things: the proper way to cook rice; and that adding spinach to chana masala was a good idea. This recipe is a modified version of the one we used from Minimalist Baker.
Frequently Asked Questions
Chana masala, also called chole masala, means small chickpeas (chana) in a mixed spice (masala) sauce. Chana masala originated in Northern India. Chole is the larger chickpea, whereas chana is the smaller.
The sauce is the dominant flavor in chana masala. It can best be described as a spicy tomato-based sauce with warm, fragrant spices. The heat level of spiciness in this recipe can be adjusted based on incorporating the jalapeno. By adding the seeds from the jalapeno, you'll make it more spicy hot.
Leftovers store well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This meal makes a great meal prep option in that you can portion out servings and freeze them in freezer-safe individual containers for up to two months.
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