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I love learning to make dishes from different cultures, and this week I was lucky enough to have my sister and my brother-in-law (who is from Gujarat, India) visiting me here in Puerto Rico. Utsav made us this delicious and authentic Chana Aloo Curry recipe from scratch, and I was there to document the whole process! Chana aloo curry is an Indian chickpea and potato curry– the main ingredients in this vegan recipe. In this post, I’ll walk you through how to make this wonderful one pot chickpea curry recipe, which tastes just like it came directly from an Indian restaurant. It also makes great leftovers and lends itself well to meal prepping. Oh, and it’s vegan and gluten free.
How to Make Chana Aloo Curry
A “curry”, as this article explains it, was “generically named by the British in the 1700s, [and] would usually include sautéed aromatics such as onion, garlic and ginger; a souring agent like tomato, tamarind or dried unripe mango; a thickener, usually coconut if you’re from tropical South India or dairy if you’re from the drier North; and it would easily contain a dozen spices: whole, crushed and ground”. Here’s how my native Gujarati brother-in-law prepares it:
Step 1: Prep the vegetables
First off, I like to start my recipes by getting all the prep work out of the way. For this chana aloo curry, Utsav started by chopping up all the veggies: onions, jalapeño (optional), garlic, tomatoes and potatoes.
Step 2: Prepare the spices
Indian cuisine is all about the spices, and this dish is no exception. In fact, since India has such hot climate (not unlike my tropical island!), historically, the food would spoil easily. That’s where spices come in. Spices prevent our food from spoilage, which is particularly why north Indian foods tend to be so spicy. Bacteria and foodborne pathogens cannot survive in a hot environment, which is provided by spices. This review from the Internal Journal of Molecular Sciences explains how “spices have a great potential to be developed as new and safe antimicrobial agents”.
For this chickpea curry, Utsav used fresh ginger, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, turmeric, cumin, garam masala, paprika and cayenne pepper (optional).
As Utsav was preparing this chana aloo curry, he explained to me some very interesting (and scientifically backed) Indian cooking methods. For example, he described how in Indian cooking, turmeric is usually subjected to heat before eating, which actually improves the bioavailability of its important compound, curcumin. Black pepper is also necessary to make curcumin more bioavailable, which is why they’re commonly used together. Impressively, these properties have been well known to Indians for over 5,000 years, since the advent of Ayurveda. Developed in India, Ayurveda is the world’s oldest system of medicine, based on balancing mind, body and spirit.
Step 3: Start the base of the chana aloo curry
Another tradition in Indian cooking is frying spices in very hot oil. This helps to enhance the original flavors of a spice, making them bolder and more intense. Some good oils which have a high smoke point are:
- Canola (the one we used in this recipe)
- Vegetable oil
To start the base of the curry, Utsav heated up some canola oil (it’s what was on hand!), and added the cinnamon stick, whole cloves and bay leaves. Next he swirled this mixture around like this as the aromas started to develop:
Next, he added the onions, garlic, jalapeños, garam masala and turmeric, combining well. This is the base of the curry, and it’s cooked for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and have absorbed most of the oil.
Step 4: Adding the souring and thickening agents to the curry
Curries, as we saw above, use souring agent like tomato, tamarind or dried unripe mango. We used fresh tomatoes for this chana aloo curry recipe, but if you’re short on time, canned tomatoes work as well. Next the salt is added, which helps draw out the moisture from the tomatoes and turns them into the “sauce” for the curry.
Now we add the rest of the spices: paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper (to taste, and optional). Utsav recommends not adding these spices directly to oil, as the high temperature could affect the flavor. That is why they are added to the rest of the ingredients, at the end of the cooking process.
The thickening agent, aka coconut milk, is added next, as well as the chopped potatoes and chickpeas. We used canned, drained chickpeas for convenience, but you can use dried (and soaked overnight) if you wish. As you can see, the coconut milk not only adds creaminess to this chickpea potato curry, but the sweetness helps temper the spices down a bit. Cook the curry for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Step 5: Serving the curry
Once the curry is fully cooked, add the chopped cilantro and stir well. Chana aloo curry is most often served with paratha, roti or some sort of rice dish. Utsav served us this recipe with basmati rice boiled with cardamom pods: yum! You can also serve it with naan, which can help soak up the spicy, creamy sauce.
You can also garnish this chana aloo curry recipe with additional fresh cilantro and lime wedges. Enjoy!
Can’t get enough chickpeas? Try out these easy recipes:
Chana Aloo Curry (Vegan Chickpea and Potato Curry)
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 large potatoes, chopped
- 8 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small jalapeño, chopped optional
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 whole cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp Garam Masala
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tbsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp ground paprika
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- ground cayenne pepper, to taste optional
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 15 oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup cooking oil
- 1 cup fresh chopped cilantro plus additional for garnish, optional
- Heat oil in a large pan under medium-high heat. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, and cook for 5 minutes until fragrant.
- Add onions, garlic, ginger, jalapeños (if using), garam masala and turmeric. Combine well. Continue cooking for around 8-10 minutes more.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper (if using). Cook for 10 more minutes until tomatoes are soft and a sauce has developed.
- Add the potatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk. Combine well. Cook for 15 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender.
- Add chopped cilantro and stir. Serve curry over basmati rice or with naan. Garnish with additional chopped cilantro if desired.
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…