Chickpea Spinach Curry (Chana Palak Masala)

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This incredibly tasty, healthy, filling, vegan, and cheap-to-make chickpea spinach curry, can be made in less than half an hour. It easily doubles up to feed a crowd, or to simply save you cooking another meal a different day.

Tender chickpeas in a tomato-onion gravy with soft spinach, boldly flavored with just a handful of spices, this curry is the absolute business.

This recipe will make four large servings, or six if served with some basmati rice, naan bread, and perhaps a tangy tasty kachumber salad to round it off.

Chickpea spinach curry is tastier and healthier than any take-away, at a fraction of the price, and is also impressive enough to serve if entertaining, with some crispy cauliflower pakora as a starter.

A front view of a blue bowl filled with rice, naan bread, and chickpea curry with coriander sprinkled on top.

Even my kids go crazy for this mild curry, although feel free to increase the spice if you like it hot. I love spicy curries, and especially chickpea ones. If you prefer a milder curry simply tamp down the hot spices, or my vegan one-pot Tikka Masala or luscious vegan Dal Makhani might also be better recipes for you.

Lots of iron from the spinach, protein from the chickpeas, and just a touch of coconut milk to add richness, make this one of the healthiest, most flavourful curries you could eat. I love a beautiful soft garlic naan bread to pair with this chickpea curry as well.

It is perfectly complemented by plain basmati rice, but if you fancy something more flavourful, try it with my easy lemon rice with coconut.

A large bowl of chickpea curry with naan bread on the side and a smaller bowl of white rice.

How to make Chickpea Spinach Curry

This is one of the easiest curries I make at home, inspired by my time in India – despite the fact that they don’t really call dishes like this “curries” there (this dish would be called chana palak masala).

Chopped raw onions and oil in a black frying pan
Step 1: Fry the raw onions in the oil

Finely chop your onion and fry in about two tablespoons of flavorless oil, such as sunflower oil, over medium heat until golden. Add in your grated ginger and crushed garlic and cook, stirring often, for one-two minutes until the raw smell of the garlic disappears.

Grated ginger, crushed garlic and fried onions in a black pan
Step 2: Add in the finely grated ginger and crushed garlic to the fried onions

Then add all the spices EXCEPT the garam masala (so the ground cilantro or ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper).

fried onions in a pan and a purple dish with brightly colored spices on it
Step 3: Add in the ground cilantro, turmeric, cumin and cayenne

Toast the spices for around two minutes, stirring often. You want to toast the spices and flavor the oil and onions and garlic and ginger really well so that they look like the photo below.

Fried onions and spices in a black pan
Step 4: Toast the spices with the fried ginger, garlic and onions

Next add your tinned crushed tomatoes, the chickpeas, and the vegetable stock. If you’re using stock cubes make sure they are high quality or you’ll be sorry as the claggy taste of a bad stock cube can really ruin this curry.

You can sub out the crushed tomatoes for tinned chopped tomatoes but it will make the curry a little more soupy so I would recommend blending the chopped tomatoes before adding.

chickpeas in a tomato based sauce in a frying pan
Step 5: Add in the chickpeas, crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock.

Stir and increase the heat, bringing the curry to the boil, then reduce the temperature to maintain bubbling away at a lively simmer. Simmer for ten minutes and then add the frozen or fresh spinach, sugar, salt, and simmer for a further five minutes.

chickpeas in a red sauce and a purple dish with frozen spinach, sugar and salt
Step 6: Add in the spinach, salt and sugar

If your spinach is frozen you may need to increase the heat for a few minutes to bring the curry back to a simmer. I personally use frozen spinach that has already been chopped and frozen into small pellets, as you can see above.

I find the bigger blocks take forever to defrost in the curry and release too much liquid. Fresh spinach leaves are fine but I do recommend chopping them finely and using 100 grams of baby spinach or the consistency of the curry will be completely different.

chickpea spinach curry in a frying pan
Step 7: Leave the curry to bubble away for 5 minutes after the spinach has defrosted or been added

Add half a teaspoon of salt first and taste when everything has been added and the curry is finished before adding more, as the amount needed will really depend on the stock you used.

A 1/2 measuring cup with a white liquid, a steel cup with lemon juice, and garam masala on a purple plate
Step 8: Get the coconut milk, lemon juice and garam masala ready to add

When the five minutes are up, take the pan off the heat and mix in the lemon juice, garam masala, coconut milk, and chopped cilantro leaves. I normally mix in half the chopped cilantro and sprinkle the other half over to serve. Done.

Note that if you want a super-rich curry you can substitute coconut cream instead of coconut milk. Your coconut milk must also be full-fat and shake it well before opening the tin or it will make your curry watery.

A chickpea spinach curry in a frying pan with chopped cilantro sprinkleed over
Step 9: Sprinkle some chopped cilantro leaves over and admire your beautiful curry!

It’s that easy. I generally put my rice on before I make the curry so that everything is ready around the same time and I can eat straight away. This curry will last around five days in the fridge and freezes beautifully.

How to cook basmati rice properly

I know, this seems really stupid and unnecessary, right? But the thing is, I’m superrrr picky about my rice, and particularly basmati, which tends to be more expensive than regular rice. Each fragrant grain must be clearly defined, firm, and fragrant, yet perfectly soft.

I just won’t eat mushy rice and if it happens in our household (I swear I’m NOT looking at you handsome husband…) then it invariably ends up its life back in the kitchen with me, becoming rice pudding.

Chickpea spinach curry in a blue bowl with naan bread in the background

And to be fair, I had to relearn how to cook rice when I initially came to Spain. In Ireland for most of my life, I thought cooking rice meant grabbing a box of uncle Ben’s and boiling up a bag of it. I had finally mastered the skill of cooking rice that didn’t come in a bag just before I came here, and then everything changed.

I don’t know if it’s something to do with the water, or whether the grains here are just extra stubborn, but what worked back home did NOT work on Spanish rice. This method also worked perfectly in India. So I guess it’s rice in Ireland or the water there that’s the issue.

I generally make up a large batch of rice, 4 cups (there are five people in our house…), and put it in a container in the fridge to be reheated for different meals during the week, rather than going to the trouble of making it each time I need it.

There are a few factors that are important when it comes to cooking perfect basmati rice:

  • Rinse your rice – I normally rinse my rice at least four times, swishing my hand around the grains each time to get as much of the starch out as possible. It’s the starch that makes your rice gluey so you want as little as possible left. When the water is clear instead of cloudy, you’ve removed most of the starch.
  • The ratio of water – I generally allow 1.25 cups of water for every cup of basmati rice. If I’m cooking regular long-grain then 1-to-1 is just fine.
  • Steam, don’t boil – Mix your water into your rinsed rice with a generous pinch of salt, put on a tightly fitting lid, and bring to the boil. When it has just started boiling, put the temperature down to the lowest possible (for example I lower it to number one on the induction plate) and leave for 15 minutes WITHOUT PEEKING. Lifting the lid will result in lost steam and the water-rice ratio will be off. After fifteen minutes, take the pot off the heat and leave it aside for a further five minutes.
a spoonful of chickpea curry with plates of rice, curry, and chickpeas in the background.

And that’s it, take off the lid and fluff up the rice with a fork. Serve it with the yummy chickpea spinach curry, which should be done at around the same time, and try to resist eating it all at once! (I dare you…)


If you do end up making this recipe, please leave a star rating in the recipe card and a review, or take a picture and tag me on Instagram @the_fiery_vegetarian, I love seeing what you guys get up to!

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Yield: 6

Chickpea Spinach Curry (Chana Palak Masala)

Chickpea Spinach Curry (Chana Palak Masala)

Tired of paying a fortune for takeaways, or just fancy something healthier? Try this tasty healthy chickpea spinach curry, with a tomato and onion spiced gravy and a touch of coconut milk for richness.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp ground dried cilantro (coriander)
  • 1/2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or chili flakes
  • 1.5 cups tomato puree (crushed tinned tomatoes 400g)
  • 2.5 cups cooked chickpeas (400g)
  • 1 scant cup vegetable stock (200 ml)
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach or 100gm fresh/frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4-1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (50-100 ml)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves (coriander leaves)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium-high setting. Sauté the finely chopped onion until golden.
  2. Add the crushed garlic and grated ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the garlic doesn't smell raw anymore.
  3. Mix in the next four ingredients (ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, and cayenne) and toast for two minutes stirring often.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, chickpeas and vegetable stock. Increase the heat to high and once boiling, lower to medium-low to maintain at a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then.
  5. Add 1/2 tsp salt, the sugar, and the spinach. If the spinach is frozen increase the heat until the curry is bubbling away again. Simmer for an additional five minutes.
  6. Add the garam masala, lemon juice and coconut milk and stir. Sprinkle over the chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot.

Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 417 Total Fat 20g Saturated Fat 6g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 11g Cholesterol 17mg Sodium 669mg Carbohydrates 47g Fiber 10g Sugar 16g Protein 17g
A pin image of chickpea curry rice and naan bread

30 thoughts on “Chickpea Spinach Curry (Chana Palak Masala)”

  1. I´m trying to eat less meat, with the aim to cutting it out completely, if all veggie meals taste as good as this curry it will be a super easy process. Best curry récipe Ive come across´.

    Reply
    • Hi Allison, the tomato flavor should not be strong at all in the base – did you use a tin of crushed or pureed tomatoes (which are just that, tomatoes, crushed and pureed), which is not the same as tomato puree (which is a concentrated tomato paste)? In any case, if you’re looking for an Indian curry with a coconut base, chana palak masala may not be for you, as it is not a creamy dish. For coconut milk-based Indian curries, I would suggest looking for recipes from Goa or Karnataka. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  2. Absolutely delicious and easy to make! I sub Greek yogurt for the coconut milk and it is beautiful. Rice technique is on point. Thanks for the awesome recipe! The curry freezes well also.

    Reply
    • Hi Ashley! It’s not a “dry” curry, it is supposed to have quite a bit of sauce. Having said that, it should still look the same consistency at all the stages of the process photos, so do let me know if it doesn’t. I think canned diced tomatoes without the liquid should still be fine, but I use canned puréed tomatoes. Did you use fresh or frozen spinach? At what point did the recipe deviate from the process photos?

      Reply
  3. I recently made, twice, another chana palek masala recipe that uses a lot more fresh spinach — 340g — but about the same quantity of chickpeas. I’m saving this one to try next! One thing that both have in common is reserving the garam masala until at or near the end. Why is that?

    Reply
    • Hey Brec! Good question! There is no one consensus on this, but generally, I believe it is because:

      1) Garam masala is a medley of toasted spices. There is no need to toast them more. In fact, like many tadka (fried in oil and added to an already cooked dish at the end of cooking) the flavour is more muted if added earlier.
      2) A good garam masala is the perfect blend of common Indian spices, and adding it just before serving heightens the flavours of spices already in the dish.

      For my part, I have found that adding garam masala earlier on really does dilute its flavour – just my two cents!

      Hope this helped!

      Reply
  4. This was my first time attempting a curry recipe from scratch and your instructions were detailed and straight to the point. So useful and the outcome was SO yummy! The taste of tomato was originally too strong for me but later died down after one day. Garam masala is my new favorite spice!! Thank you so much for this recipe. I can’t get enough of it.

    Reply
  5. Great recepy,
    I used fresh spinache and a few mint leaves, tomatopuree,
    Dinner in a few minutes together with tandoori chicken and rice….
    Mariska

    Reply

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