This incredibly tasty, healthy, filling, vegan, and cheap-to-make chickpea spinach curry, also known as chana palak masala, 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.
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.
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.
How to make it
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 one “curries” there (this dish would be called chana palak masala).
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.
Then add all the spices EXCEPT the garam masala (so the ground cilantro or ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Two of my long-time readers have always pointed out that one major flaw of this recipe, which is their favorite recipe, is that it uses a “weird” amount of coconut milk.
If you have leftover coconut milk (which spoils really quickly) I would suggest freezing it in ice-cube trays and then popping it out in to a freezer bag for easily adding to smoothies or soups or stews later.
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 super 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.
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.
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!
- 3 tbsp sunflower or canola oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 inch ginger, finely grated
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or chili flakes
- 1.5 cups crushed 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 tbsp lemon juice
- OPTIONAL: 1/4-1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (50-100 ml)
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves (coriander leaves)
- Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium-high setting. Sauté the finely chopped onion until golden.
- Add the crushed garlic and grated ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the garlic doesn't smell raw anymore.
- Mix in the next four ingredients (ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, and cayenne) and toast for two minutes stirring often.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the garam masala, lemon juice and coconut milk and stir. Sprinkle over the chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot.
If you add the coconut milk and then have leftover coconut milk (which spoils fast), freeze in an ice-cube tray and then pop out into a freezer bag and use directly in smoothies, stews, soups etc. as needed.
Amount Per Serving Calories 417Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 17mgSodium 669mgCarbohydrates 47gFiber 10gSugar 16gProtein 17g