Chili Chana – Crispy Chana Chilli Recipe

5 from 2 votes

Chilli chana is a popular Indian-chinese appetizer. Crunchy chick peas are tossed in a spicy sauce with capsicum, onions and garlic. While it is traditionally deep fried, this recipe offers a pan fry and bake option to make a healthier version.

crispy chilli chana not deep fried

Indian Chinese Favorite – Chilli Chana That Isn’t Deep Fried!

Crispy chilli chana dry is a delicious and popular Indian-Chinese appetizer and this is a healthier, not deep fried version of it.  Traditionally this is made by deep frying chick peas or chana and tossing in a spiced, veggie filled sauce.  It is then served as an appetizer, similar to chilli paneer.

I prefer to pan fry the chick peas to get a nice texture and have a healthier dish.  Then, instead of serving as an appetizer I like to make some simple quinoa and round chilli chana into a main dish. It is spice filled and satisfies the taste buds when you are craving Indian-Chinese fusion flavors.

Similarly, I had turned the popular chilli paneer into a main dish by making Chilli Paneer Noodles which are linked here.

Why is this take better than the usual?

  • Protein and flavor packed
  • An alternative to the usual chilli paneer
  • Serve as appetizer or round out into a meal
  • Not deep fried and an option to bake
crispy chana chick peas into spicy veg sauce

Recipe Tips and Notes

Ingredient tips

  • Use canned chick peas to save time!
  • Mince all the vegetables, it really helps to get the flavor out of each one into the sauce.
  • Besan flour (gram flour) is needed and it is not the same as chickpea flour! Besan is a made of chana dal or split brown chickpeas which is finely ground. It can be found easily at any Indian store and even online like this one.  This flour is made from Bengal gram beans, an Indian variety of garbanzo beans is difference that the usual chickpea flour found in the US.

Cooking the chana /chickpeas

Why pan fry the chana?

  • The chick peas are pan fried to give them some texture.  You could just use chick peas out of a can with less oil but they won’t get the same type of texture. If you choose that option, I would ensure to cut the bell peppers in bigger pieces and add the roasted cashews so you have some crunch in the dish. Else, the chick peas will just be mushy and you won’t have any crunch.

Baking instead of pan frying


Making chilli chana

First, you will coat the chickpeas with besan or gram flour.  Next, heat oil and pan fry the chana or chickpeas.

Making the sauce with vegetables

Then, saute the vegetables and add sauce mixture.  Add a little water and an arrowroot or cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.

Bring it all together!

Toss the chickpeas in the sauce to mix. Top with spring onion greens.  Optionally, top with sesame seeds and roasted cashews for more texture.

dry chilli chana with quinoa

Chilli Chana

Shilpa Joshi
Chilli chana is a popular Indian-chinese appetizer. Crunchy chick peas are tossed in a spicy sauce with capsicum, onions and garlic. While it is traditionally deep fried, this recipe offers a pan fry and bake option to make a healthier version.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine indian chinese, indian fusion
Servings 8
Calories 415 kcal


  • Pot
  • large pan


  • 3 cup chick peas canned
  • ¾ cup besan 85 g (fine chick pea flour)
  • ¾ cup oil


  • 6 tbsp garlic 36 g – minced
  • 3 tsp green chillies crushed, paste
  • 1 medium onion 128g – minced
  • bell pepper 200 g – (capsicum)

Sauce mix

  • 3 tsp vinegar
  • 3 tbsp crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp chilli garlic sauce prefer sambal olek, can use sriracha
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


  • 4 spring onion greens chopped , for topping
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews optional


  • cup water
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp water mix with arrowroot powder to make slurry


  • Wash and dry chick peas. Toss to coat in besan.
    Note: If you want to bake chickpeas instead, see recipe notes.
  • Heat oil in pan on medium high. Add besan coated chick peas to oil, turn gas to medium. Pan fry chick peas until browner in spots being careful not to burn. Turn off gas.
  • Mix ingredients listed under sauce mixture in a bowl. Set aside. Mix arrowroot powder and 3 tbsp water to form a slurry. Set aside.
  • In large pan, add 2 tbsp oil. Add onions and cook until translucent. Then add garlic, green chillies and capsicum. Cook on medium while stirring about 3 minutes.
  • Add sauce mixture and mix. Add water and arrowroot or cornstarch slurry. Let it simmer 3 minutes.
  • Add pan fried chick peas to pan and toss to coat. Cook 2 minutes and turn off gas. Top with spring onion greens and optionally roasted cashews.
  • You can serve chilli chana on its own as an appetizer. I enjoy having it with some cooked, salted quinoa to turn it into a meal!


If you prefer a baked chick pea option:
  1. Wash, drain chick peas. Remove skins.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil then toss to coat in besan. Add to parchment lined paper.
  3. Bake in oven at 425F for about 25 minutes, or until crisp.
  4. Continue following recipe above, step 3
Note, this is usually served as a deep fried appetizer. You can also deep fry if you would like. 
I prefer the pan fried method as it uses less oil and takes less time then baking.


Calories: 415kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 11gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 873mgPotassium: 446mgFiber: 8gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 733IUVitamin C: 33mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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