Indian Chana Masala Stew {vegan & gluten-free}

On cold days I’m always in the mood for cozy comfort food like soups, stews and curry. One of my most favorite Indian comfort meals is a big bowl of chana masala. This absolutely delicious and nourishing Indian Chana Masala is vegan and gluten-free. You can make it in your CrockPot slow cooker with just a few essential ingredients, and let the slow cooker do all the work.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can adapt it in your own special way -- add more chickpeas, add more tomatoes, make it spicy, make it mild -- without ruining it. Much like any stew or soup, the essence is what makes this slow cooker meal so delicious.

The key ingredients are chickpeas, tomato, ginger, garlic, onion and spices. 

In Indian home cooking, recipes like chana masala are quite individual. Though chana masala is quite the standard fare in many Indian restaurants, the balance of spices make it stand out. For more advanced cooks and those that are inspired to venture beyond the supermarket spice aisle, find the nearest Indian grocery and spice market to find the essential amchoor (green mango) powder. That balance of spice, acid, sweet, oily, tart and savory makes chana masala the perfect vegan bowl of comfort food.

If you don't have amchoor powder, use a little citrus like a squeeze of lemon or lime. I can't say it will please the most discerning Indian cuisine connoisseur, but if you're in the mood for this cozy chickpea stew, it will do just fine. (I've even reached for sumac in my spice cabinet when in need, the middle Eastern spice that adds a pop of sour tang. Hey, no one needs to know.) I just love the buttery melt-in-your-mouth red potatoes in this, even though it's not usually added to traditional chana masala recipes. You may add a few pats of vegan butter to give it a heavier rich texture.

Chana masala is the first dish I ask for when I'm at one of my favorite Indian spots, even though I know how totally basic it is. I'm making such a big deal over something so simple! But I love it anyway, so I don't really mind what anyone thinks. (It's like saying the first thing you want at your favorite American restaurant is Mac and Cheese or a baked potato.) You're not trying to be fancy or authentic here, you're just making a comforting bowl of chickpea stew.

Chana Masala

Serves 5-6

slow cook: 5 hours


2-4 cups veggie broth

2 cups chopped onions

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbl fresh grated ginger

1 tbl fresh grated turmeric (optional)

1 can (12 oz) organic crushed tomatoes

2-3 cans chickpeas, drained

2 tbl curry powder or garam masala

(coriander/cumin/turmeric/cayenne/black pepper)

2 cups red potatoes, chopped in quarters

1 tbl lime or lemon juice

2 tbl vegan butter, optional

2 tbl coconut oil

garnish and serve:

cilantro sprigs

brown basmati rice



Heat coconut oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic, and sauté over medium heat until soft and browned, about 1o minutes.

Add the spices: coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, amchoor powder (if you have it), or curry powder (or garam masala). Cook the garlic and onion mixture with spices for a minute, then add one cup of veggie broth. Add two heaping tablespoons of vegan butter. Stir. 

Add the fresh ginger and turmeric (if you have fresh).

Add the whole can of crushed tomatoes, scraping up any onion and garlic that may have stuck to the pan. Add a cup more broth and chickpeas. Simmer for 10 minutes, then stir in a pinch of sea salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon/lime juice.

Add the potatoes. Stir all of the stew ingredients together and turn off the flame.

Prep the slow cooker and add the entire chana masala stew mixture to the CrockPot.

Cook the stew in the slow cooker for 4 to 5 hours or until the chickpeas and potatoes are tender.

Serve stew over quinoa, brown rice, or a mixture of both as I have done. Garnish with cilantro, or any green herbs such as basil, parsley, or even carrot top greens. I added coconut flakes and cashews to my rice/quinoa. If you crave more spice, sprinkle on a little dried red chili pepper flakes.