These Chana Masala Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are a riff on the classic baked potato topped with chili. In my opinion, sweet potatoes are infinitely more interesting (and nutritious) than russet potatoes, and chana masala is a refreshing change from chili. Chana masala literally means “chickpeas in spices” and is a Pakistani/Indian-style chickpea dish cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. The heat of green chiles, cayenne and paprika gives way to the rich warmth of garam masala, cumin and coriander. A slight sour taste characteristic of an authentic chana masala comes from amchoor or dried mango powder. The nuanced flavors of the chana masala complement the creaminess and sweetness of the sweet potato surprisingly well. I’ve also added a small handful of arugula for color and extra bite.
I realize that chana masala purists may protest that chana masala should only be eaten with its traditional accompaniment, the puffy, deep-fried bread called bhatura, or at the very least, naan or roti. Yes, but you can’t eat bhatura too often or you’ll have to buy new jeans. With a sweet potato, you can enjoy chana bhatura every day, not just on special occasions where you indulge in fried foods.
Don’t panic when you read the extensive spice list for the chana masala. Venture into an Indian grocery store and you’ll find large packets of each spice for only a few dollars. Maybe you’ll discover, like I did, that you have all the spices except the more obscure amchoor (dried green mango) powder. If you’re in a pinch, Whole Foods sells little packets of amchoor powder, though Indian grocery stores offer better value.
Make the Chana Masala Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
4 sweet potatoes
1 cup arugula
Chana Masala, recipe below
Preheat oven to 425°F. Prick the sweet potatoes several times with a knife or fork. Place the sweet potatoes on an oven-safe pan or dish and bake for 1 hour, or until very soft inside. Split the sweet potatoes open lengthwise, stuff with arugula and top with chana masala.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon amchoor powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 (15-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, blended
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and green pepper and continue sautéing to briefly cook, 1-2 more minutes.
Add the spices to the onions: coriander, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin seeds, amchoor powder, paprika and garam masala. (Since there are so many spices, it helps to measure the spices into a bowl while the onions are cooking.) Stir the spices to fully coat the onions and cook 1-2 minutes longer.
Stir in the blended tomatoes, water and chickpeas. Simmer the chana masala for 10 minutes, adding more water if you prefer. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt and lemon juice.