Get Baked: Butch Peas (Chana Masala)

If you live in the Northern hemisphere, odds are good you’ve probably noticed that it’s summer and also that IT’S REALLY HOT OUT.  Our planet is melting, New York City smells like deep-fried garbage, and I regularly catch myself daydreaming about being these guinea pigs in a swimming pool.  Some people cool off with lemonade or watermelon, but I prefer to eat something insanely spicy in an effort to singe my stomach lining.  Science backs me up here – spicy foods increase blood flow and cause you to sweat, which cools you down – which explains why hot peppers et al are so popular in sweltering climates.   The idea is that while cold foods like ice cream will help lower your body temperature, spicy foods have the opposite effect, which means your body gets closer to the temperature outside.  In the longer term, burning your insides with curry, salsa or sriracha turns out to be a pretty effective method for teaching your body to beat the heat.

When it’s this hot, I’m generally looking for something quick that takes very little effort to prepare, and this simple chana masala fits the bill perfectly.  A coworker picked up this not-particularly-authentic Indian recipe recently at a cooking class, and I love it because it’s cheap, fast and super easy to throw together.  Pro tip: if you want this with a little more kick, don’t remove the jalapeño seeds.

om nom nom nom

i’m gonna eat you.

You will need:

– 1 16 oz can chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
– 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and cut into 1/4 inch strips across the stem
– 2 cloves garlic, diced
– 1 small onion, diced
– 1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
– 1/2 tsp curry powder
– 1 tbsp cumin seeds
– 1 tbsp garam masala
– olive oil
– kosher salt
– 1 lemon (zest and juice)

1.  In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, jalapeño, curry powder, cumin and garam masala and pulse until all the flavors are mixed together nicely.

2. Grab a heavy-lidded pot or pressure cooker and cover the bottom entirely with oil.  Heat over a medium flame until the oil gets shimmery, then add your onion and spice mixture.  Sprinkle a little bit of salt if that tickles your fancy.  Brown that for 2-3 minutes, stirring to mix things around, toasting the spices, making your kitchen smell delicious.  If things start to look like they might burn, reduce the heat.

3. Add the chickpeas, chard and a cup of water (if you cooked your own chickpeas, use the liquid from that).  Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer until the water has reduced to about 1/3 cup (if you’re using a pressure cooker, just put the lid on and cook for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and let it sit a while).  Stir until the swiss chard is tender, which shouldn’t take terribly long.

4. Add the juice from one lemon and some lemon zest right before serving.  I’d recommend serving this dish over basmati rice, and the recipe I have suggests that this should feed four people.  I didn’t have any rice so I just inhaled the entire thing by itself in one sitting, which might say more about me than it does about the recipe.  The recipe also says NO PEPPER in large underlined letters across the bottom, so maybe don’t do that.  Other than that, feel free to adjust to your heart’s content.  Live your dreams.

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Stef Schwartz is a founding member and the self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at She currently resides in New York City, where she spends her days writing songs nobody will ever hear and her nights telling much more successful musicians what to do. Follow her on twitter and/or instagram.

Stef has written 464 articles for us.


  1. Every time I make chickpeas from now on I’m gonna call them butchpeas. :D

    this looks delicious, thank you!

  2. Om. Nom. I love chana masala, although the recipe I’ve used in the past isn’t nearly this fancy. Someday I’ll get a food processor like a Real Adult.

    • i’m gonna take this opportunity to admit that i don’t have a food processor and i just chopped everything real small and then mixed it up in a bowl and patted myself on the back for not having to wash an extra thing. uh, except the bowl i guess.

    • ^This! In my head I was all, ‘OMFG I have these things, I could make this RIGHT NOW!’ I won’t though because it’s 6:30am.

  3. omg where do you get your spices that this recipe ends up being cheap? or am I getting ripped off on spices?

    • the garam masala may set you back a couple of bucks, but all the rest of my spices are like, la flor brand from the food bazaar and no more than $2 a pop. store brand errything.

    • I really like places that sell their spices in bulk so you can just get a little bit in a bag. This helps.

    • You can also sub some dried things for fresh- namely garlic powder for chopped garlic and chile powder for chiles- to save money. I get most basic spices Badia brand from the “world foods” isle of the supermarket (or wherever they carry Goya products), but Trader Joe’s has cheap ones too. You can even go to super discount stores like Ocean State Job Lot (which is purely a New England thing, but I’m sure a similar function is filled by other things in other places) but I’d caution about buying chile powder from places like that. It’s usually got a good bit of filler in it (learned this the hard way).

  4. I wouldn’t necessarily call this chana masala, but it looks absolutely delicious! I’ll definitely be trying it the next chance I get.

    (also is it bad that it took me about a full minute to understand the genius of “butch peas”?)

  5. I have a very simple chana masala recipe I make often, and I recommend pre-mixing the spices in bulk. Cuts down significantly on cooking time every time you make it.
    (But watch out you do your math right, or you end up with what I had last week, which was a mouth-numbingly spicy, borderline-inedible dish >< )
    Also, thanks for pointing out the pun, Krissy- I totally missed it. I feel silly now.

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