This creamy chickpeas and spinach curry recipe is pretty easy to make and is a filling vegan or vegetarian Indian dish. Serve with basmati rice, freshly made naan, or even on its own as a hearty Indian stew.
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Spinach And Chickpeas Curry
Like many of our bean and chickpea recipes, this recipe started with a bag of spinach in the fridge that needed to be eaten.
I always have a good amount of chickpeas, white beans, and lentils in the house. I just made a spinach and lentil recipe, so what else could I do with spinach and what we had in the house?
An Indian style curried spinach and chickpeas is most likely known as chana saag or chana palak masala.
Chana is chickpeas. Spinach is known as both saag (as in saag paneer) or palak. To be more specific, saag is generally a combination of spinach and mustard greens as it is known in Northern India. Palak is the Hindi word for spinach.
Because this dish doesn’t have mustard greens, it’s probably more commonly known as chana palak, or chickpea and spinach.
Of course, I don’t pretend to be a classically trained Indian chef. I’ve only take one Indian cooking class in India. But, I’ve gotten pretty good and preparing some of these classic Indian dishes as a substitute for Indian food while living in Spain.
This was one of those dishes where Eric couldn’t say yum enough. In fact, we both agree that I easily make the best Indian in town – that’s because there isn’t a lot of competition in our small Spanish city.
Check out our recipe for Vegan Spinach Dal Curry Recipe, or Indian-style spinach and lentils curry.
Vegan Chickpea Curry
Six months ago, I never would have been able to sell Eric on a vegetarian chickpea curry, let alone a vegan one. Although, when it comes to making Indian-inspired curries, it’s often pretty easy to make them vegan.
Even early on, though, Eric always made an exception for vegetarian Indian cuisine. It’s so easy to make veggies taste good when they are cooked with Indian spices.
There are so many options for vegan chickpea recipes. I could probably make one a day for months on end and not run out, and that doesn’t even count making hummus. This one, though, that blends spinach and chickpeas, is one I truly love.
Why Chickpeas And Coconut Milk Pair Well
Curried chickpeas with coconut milk just pair well. There’s something about the slight sweetness of the coconut. And the creaminess of the milk goes well with the creamy texture of chickpea or garbanzo bean.
Check out our other curry recipes made with beans and chickpeas:
Cooking With Coconut Oil
I love using coconut oil when making a creamy chickpea curry.
It’s a little different cooking with coconut oil than olive oil or canola oil. For this recipe, feel free to use canola oil. The coconut oil, though, adds a nice layer of coconut flavoring to the chickpeas.
Coconut oil normally is solid, which means you need to scoop it to use it. Once it heats, it liquifies. Depending on the type of coconut oil, it might have a higher burn factor. This means it’s best to cook with coconut oil over lower temperatures when possible.
Eric said to me recently that my Indian cuisine has been better than ever – we both agree it is because of the coconut oil. It’s an extra layer and complexity to the flavor with a simple addition.
Most large supermarkets in the US carry coconut oil now. Or, you can buy it on Amazon here.
Ingredients For This Chickpeas And Spinach Curry
By starting with a base of coconut oil, the coconut flavor and aromas just infuses into this curry dish. To the coconut oil add diced yellow onion, garlic, and fresh ginger.
I prefer dicing the onion as small as I can so there are no large onion chunks in the end.
I also like to use a garlic press too so that there aren’t big chunks of garlic in the curry. Try the Zulay stainless steel garlic press, which is easy to use. There’s no need to even peel the garlic ahead of time.
I also like to freshly grate the ginger using the small holes in a cheese grater or by using a microplane (like this one).
Spices And Seasonings In The Curry
I will note that most of my Indian bean and lentil recipes include many of the same seasoning and spices. Seasonings almost always start with onion, garlic, and ginger.
Many of the dishes call for garam masala. Garam translates to hot and masala translates to spices. But, most garam masala blends are not hot and spicy. Instead, the spices used are normally toasted to bring in a strong but earthy flavor.
Although many people make their own garam masala at home, I’ve found it easiest to just buy it in bulk. I use it in so many recipes it just makes sense. Spices in garam masala include cumin, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, and other spices. You can buy garam masala on Amazon here.
In addition to garam masala, this spinach chickpea curry is seasoned with ground turmeric, ground cumin, and either cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper. The peppers will add a little bit of heat, so if you don’t like spice, just skip them.
The base of this curry recipe is the chickpeas. Use a can of chickpeas, but drained them and rinse them in cool water in a colander. A can of plain tomato sauce adds the acidity and the sauce. You can also use crushed or diced tomatoes, but Eric doesn’t like chunks of tomatoes in his curry.
I prefer fresh spinach, roughly chopped. Add the spinach towards the end so it doesn’t become too wilted. Then, add a bit of fresh lemon juice for a little acidity. The coconut milk really makes this curry so creamy and delicious.
How To Make This Spinach And Chickpea Curry Recipe
Warm coconut oil (or canola oil) in a medium-sized dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and fresh ginger. Coat in the oil and cook until the onion starts to soften but before the garlic browns, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the turmeric, cumin, garam masala, and cayenne pepper to the pot. Coat the spices in the oil and cook for one to two minutes to allow the aroma and flavors of the spices to infuse into the oil.
Add the tomato sauce and stir well. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot if there are any spices that are being stubborn.
Add the chickpeas. Cook for 7-10 minutes. Add the spinach a handful at a time and fold into the curry until the spinach wilts. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and stir through.
Add the coconut milk and stir until warm, about 2-3 minutes. Serve with basmati rice, warm naan, or on its own.
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (or canola oil)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
- 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Warm coconut oil (or canola oil) in a medium-sized dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add onion, garlic, and fresh ginger. Coat in the oil and cook until the onion starts to soften but before the garlic browns, about 3-5 minutes. A
- dd the turmeric, cumin, garam masala, and cayenne pepper to the pot. Coat in the oil and cook for one to two minutes to allow the aroma and flavors of the spices to infuse into the oil.
- Add the tomato sauce and stir well. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot.
- Add the chickpeas and stir well. Cook for 7-10 minutes.
- Add the spinach a handful at a time and fold into the curry until the spinach wilts.
- Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and stir through.
- Add the coconut milk and stir until warm, about 2-3 minutes.
- Serve with basmati rice, warm naan, or on its own.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 315Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 907mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 9gSugar: 9gProtein: 10g
This nutritional data is provided by a third-party source and should not be relied on if you are on a strict diet.
Modifications For Chickpea Curry With Spinach
I generally use canned tomato sauce for this curry. You can also use canned diced tomatoes for a chickpea tomato curry. I used to use more diced tomatoes, but Eric doesn’t like the tomato chunks. The tomato sauce adds acidity and creates the sauce, but a chunky tomato is fine too.
Or, to make a fresh tomato and chickpea curry, use diced tomatoes. Remove the seeds and skins. Add them to the oil and spices and allow them to cook for at least 5 to 7 minutes, or until they soften.
Another modification for this chickpea spinach curry is to use pantry staples. Instead of fresh onion, garlic, and ginger, you can use spices from the spice rack. Add a teaspoon of each onion powder, garlic powder, and ground ginger.