Chickpea Spinach Curry (Chana Palak Masala)

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.

I also have a brand new rich restaurant-style creamy coconut chickpea curry recipe which might be more your style if you’re not a fan of tomato-based curries or are allergic to tomatoes.

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 (Amer. tomato puree), 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.

Note that tinned crushed tomatoes and tomato puree are different things in the US and the UK.

In the UK, tinned crushed tomatoes are basically tinned chopped tomatoes that have been pureed, which is what is meant by canned tomato puree in the US (similar to passata but without the herbs).

It does not mean tomato “concentrate”, the thick dark red reduced sauce which is similar to ketchup in consistency.

You can sub out the crushed tomatoes for tinned chopped tomatoes but it will make the curry a little soupier so I would recommend blending the chopped tomatoes before adding, and reducing the vegetable stock by half.

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 vigorously (a high simmer, nearly boiling) for ten minutes (make sure to stir often so the curry doesn’t stick and burn) 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 vigorous 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.

Make sure to only add the coconut milk if the consistency of the curry has been properly reduced, otherwise you will make it watery. 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.

Note that your curry should be the same consistency as the picture above – if you like less sauce, you can halve the vegetable stock, but I love mine with plenty of sauce for the rice to soak up, as in the pictures.

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!

Recent posts you may be interested in:

Yield: 6

Chickpea Spinach Curry (Chana Palak Masala)

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

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)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock (120 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 417Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 17mgSodium 669mgCarbohydrates 47gFiber 10gSugar 16gProtein 17g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

A pin image of chickpea curry rice and naan bread

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

  1. Seriously great curry. This may well be our favorite curry to date. I made a few modifications as it was time to use up pantry/garden veggies. I added a whole diced red pepper, two sweet potatoes cut into bite sized pieces and a very large bunch of swiss chard. I only had canned diced tomatoes so I drained the tomatoes and the chickpeas reserving the juices. We had a number of very small spaghetti squash which needed to be cooked so we used them as a base instead of rice. With all the extra veggies I doubled all spices and used some coriander seeds to start the curry. Cooking the spices as recommended was perfect. I did add a tablespoon of mild curry spice as well. Instead of using veggie stock I used the reserved juices from the tomatoes and chickpeas. Our gravy was rather watery but oh so good. Although we ate the first helping with the squash base we did heat up some left over rice and when combined with the wonderful gravy it was extremely good to the point my wife said this is definitely a keeper recipe. I put the potatoes covered with water in the microwave about 5 minutes to get them a little softened but not completely cooked so they held up when mixed in the curry. We also had some left over coconut cream (about 1/3 cup) which I mixed with a little water and added to the curry – this was a perfect finish. I skipped the sugar and salt and we thought the curry was just right. Thank you for this recipe now I need to dig around and see what other yummy ideas you have. Any great ideas for bitter melons, our garden is producing them faster than we can eat them. By the way I wish we had a few pieces of naan to eat dipped in this flavorful curry gravy.

    Reply
    • Hi Tom! So glad you liked it and love that you were able to successfully modify it, I throw in different veggies as well. The only thing I would say is that if the gravy is watery it might be better to partly cook all the additional veg in the microwave first so you can reduce the curry to your liking and then add in. Squash base is a great idea as well, I must try it. I had no clue what bitter melons were, looked it up and saw they’re the same as bitter gourd, which I had a few times in India and also tried to cook but sorry to say I never liked it, they always taste perfumed to me. What do you usually like them in?

      Reply
  2. This recipe is amazing! I married into an Indian family and not a single one of my in-laws gave me as many good tips for Indian cooking as you did in this recipe. I used tomato Passata instead of crushed tomatoes, and extra frozen spinach. I also add the lemon juice slowly as I find I don’t need all of it. I subbed heavy cream for the coconut milk, and the dish is delicious!

    Reply
  3. I am a cook curries regularly and usually don’t use recipes but I am counting calories at the moment and was looking for a recipe for chickpeas, spinach and a tin of tomatoes. So happy I found yours amongst all the others and tried it, it was amazing. I added double the amount of stock (I used chicken stock, I am not vegan) and no coconut milk and it was a perfect consistency. This recipe is defo a keeper! Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Delicious! Very easy to make. Next time I will omit the lemon juice, I found that it overpowered all the other delicious flavours. Will make it again.

    Reply
  5. Looks great. Just another comment about tomatoes…… in Canada, and the USA, those teeny tiny cans are always called tomato Paste, not tomato “concentrate”. It is so thick it sits on a fork without dripping, and is definitely different from a crushed, or pureed can. I know you know this, but maybe the tiny cans will help people avoid it. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Hi, have made this 3 times and it IS SO GOOD. I don’t have garam masala so I use curry powder. I use canned stewed tomatoes that I blend up first. This last time I put in half a cauliflower head in with the onion and only 1 can of chickpeas. I put in half a can of full fat coconut milk at the end. My point is that it is delicious and flexible to adaptations! The sauce is so good w the combo of ginger and garlic. Yum. Thank you!!!!!

    Reply
    • Hi Eileen, I’m so happy you enjoyed it! And you’re 100% right, you can definitely change it up a bit, I like to sub the chickpeas for some aubergine or potatoes some times. Thanks for stopping by to leave such a lovely comment!

      Reply
  7. Excellent recipe, easy, simple and very yummy.

    Is there a nack to grating the ginger, my small grater keep getting jammed with the stringy part?

    Jay

    Reply
    • Hey Jay!I feel your ginger pain, it’s true that when I grate ginger I always do it with a big grater. All I can say is make sure you’re using the small shredding holes and not the rough raspy holes (that look like little crowns and have edges sticking out). I usually grab the stringy stuff and squeeze the liquid out of it into whatever I’m cooking as well, or make a tea with it. If you’re grater is just not up to the job you can also just use a food processor to kill all those stringy fibres. So glad you enjoyed the recipe and thanks for stopping by to leave a comment!

      Reply
  8. Made this last night…absolutely delicious! I added some peppers I had left over, used lime instead of lemon juice and extra ginger. I used only a third of a can of coconut milk. A great success.

    Reply
  9. Spanish Rice. By that you mean rice for paella. This is SOS or Fallera or Bomba. It is not a good idea to use this rice for other things that need ordinary rice. There are many that can be bought in the supermarkets, long grain, Basmati. etc etc. I suggest when needing something for an indian dish for instance you do NOT choose one of the rices for Paella as it will end up soggy.

    Reply
    • No, I do not mean Arroz Bomba (SOS is a brand with many types of rice). There are several types of rice grown in Spain, this is what I was referring to with “Spanish rice”. I’m not sure who it would even occur to, to use arroz bomba for Indian recipes! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  10. This was fantastic. I’ve tried to make so many homemade Indian Dishes and get grumpy by the end of it because they are just not as good as our favorite carryouts, no matter how polite my family is about it.

    This was it. There were a few things I didn’t have (e.g. a full onion and coriander powder ) and, like the American, I’d already opened a small can of tomato paste concentrate but went with it anyway and it was awesome. The taste but more importantly the depth and heat were there.

    THANK YOU for finally helping me make this happen. Stay safe and healthy in the quarantine.

    Reply
    • I’m so happy you and your family enjoyed it! And thanks for stopping by to leave such a lovely comment!

      Reply
  11. Really good, one of the best curries i’ve ever made.
    Ok i committed herecy and added mushroom and potato to it. But hey

    Reply
    • Thanks Malcom, I too commit heresy the odd time and change up the recipe with mushrooms and potatoes so I’m loving your suggestion!

      Reply
    • Hi Heather! I double it every time I make it! There are five of us in my household and the teenager and handsome husband are eating me out of house and home!

      Reply
  12. i made a batch of this for tasty lunches in a bid to cut down on bread and my word- it’s SO yummy! I used a fresh red chilli (with seeds) which gave a lovely level of heat.
    Thank you for sharing – if all recipes are this tasty I could quite happily be a vegetarian!

    Reply
  13. Hello, I tried this but it also came out quite soupy but still delicious! I am a bit confused which tomato base is supposed to be used is it :
    1) Tomato puree
    2) Crushed tinned tomatoes
    These are two very different things – might be good to change the recipe to only include one or the other 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Jess. Tomato puree is what crushed tinned tomatoes are commonly called in America. I’m not really sure how I can make that any clearer apart form put US and UK next to them, and I do not believe in catering to just one of them.

      Quite a few people have made this recipe and loved it but there were around 5 people who also complained it was soupy. I was able to work with them to realise what had gone wrong – it does help if you check the progress photos and tell me at which point it differed from them. It was always due to one of three issues: 1) Substituting ingredients, 2) Incorrectly measuring or 3) Not reducing at a high enough temperature or for long enough. I’d also hazard a fourth one which is that this is not a dry curry – it is supposed to have plenty of sauce for the rice to soak up, as many Indian curries in India do which have a “gravy” – It should still look like the process photos though. If it doesn’t consider the three issues:

      1) Use the correct ingredients. There is a reason I do not make curries with chopped tinned tomatoes – even if you blend them, they are much more watery than a tin of crushed tomatoes and you would need to reduce the liquid. Similarly, tomato concentrate (tomato puree in British English) would give an overwhelmingly tomato-ey flavour.

      2) Use the correct amounts. For example, “1 scant cup vegetable stock (200 ml)”. The 200ml is there because I know many people will use regular cups or mugs, which hold far more liquid than a standard measuring cup, which is what is always indicated by cup in a recipe. Your coconut milk must also be full-fat and is optional if you prefer your curry dryer.

      3) Reduce properly. For example, this curry requires a “lively simmer”. Not a simmer. Followed by additional cooking time if frozen spinach is added until comes back to a simmer. Also, big blocks of spinach are not recommended as they release more liquid.

      A million things can go wrong in a recipe, and I always always always recommend people read the “how to make” section in the article, where the majority of bloggers can fit much more detailed information, substitution suggestions and process pictures, which don’t fit into the recipe card. The recipe card is meant to be simple and short enough for you to easily read while cooking, or to print out yet still easily see at a glance what you need to do.

      I hope some of this was helpful and you figured out what went wrong, but feel free to contact me if you’d still like more clarification or think you had a different issue. I would definitely say that the majority of people have had no issues making this recipe but one or two is still too much for me, and a troubleshooting section could definitely be a good idea!

      Reply
  14. This was so delicious and I completely forgot to add the coconut milk (and didn’t even realize it until I revisited this site). My husband said, “I would be happy to eat this every week!”

    Reply
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
    • 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
  18. 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 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
  19. 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

Leave a Comment