Edible Alphabet Recipe of the Week: Chana Masala

By Lindsay S. RSS Tue, May 12, 2020

Edible Alphabet is a free English Language Learning (ELL) program offered by the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center. The mission is to teach English language and literacy skills through hands-on cooking projects. While Free Library locations remain closed to the public in the interest of public health and safety, we will be sharing weekly recipes from our class curriculum and past participants.  

This week, I’m sharing one of our most popular Edible Alphabet class recipes: Chana Masala. This South Asian stew is made with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Feel free to customize this recipe to your liking. In class, students often break into cooking groups based on their preferred spice level. The mild group will leave out the jalapeno and cayenne, while the spicy group will sometimes double (or triple) down on the peppers! Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the spices listed—use what you have (ground ginger can be substituted for fresh, ground cumin for the cumin seeds) and enjoy this healthy, quick, and delicious one-pot meal!

To turn your Chana Masala meal into dinner and a movie, check out a movie you can access from your couch with our movie streaming service: Kanopy. Kanopy provides instant access to thousands of critically acclaimed movies, documentaries, and kids' favorites, too. You can create a free account and stream up to four movies per month with your library card. I love a theme, so I might try the 2016 documentary Driving with Selvi: The Story of India’s First Female Taxi Driver. Other films on my Kanopy watchlist include: the 2015 Oscar-nominated Tanna, director Taika Waititi’s hilarious feature Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and the critically acclaimed 1991 film, Daughters of the Dust. Sign-up for Kanopy with your library card today and happy watching!

Chana Masala


  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ jalapeno peppers
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
  • ¼ tsp. garam masala
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) whole-peeled tomatoes 
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans (14.5 oz) chickpeas
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Roti or naan for serving
  • Yogurt or raita for serving


  1. Dice onions, garlic, and jalapeño peppers. 
  2. Peel and grate ginger.
  3. Combine salt and spices, except cumin seeds, in a mixing bowl and stir. 
  4. Melt butter in olive oil and add cumin seeds. 
  5. Add onions and stir for 2–3 minutes. 
  6. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeño, and spices and stir for 2 minutes. 
  7. Purée whole tomatoes with an immersion or conventional blender. 
  8. Add tomatoes (puréed and diced), stir, boil, then simmer with a lid on for 6–8 minutes. 
  9. Add chickpeas and ½ cup water and stir, boil, then simmer with a lid for 6–8 minutes. 
  10. Chop cilantro and top with cilantro and raita or yogurt. Serve with roti or naan. 

For more information about Edible Alphabet and the Culinary Literacy Center, visit freelibrary.org/cook or email kitchen @ freelibrary.org. Enjoy this recipe? Leave a comment and stay tuned for another Edible Alphabet recipe next week!

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