Tamarind Chickpeas

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Tamarind Chickpeas

One of the great delights of discovering Indian cooking at home is finding an astonishing array of new and exciting ingredients never seen in our mothers' kitchens. New spice blends add a tantalizing fragrance in our cupboards and challenge our culinary habits. One of my favorite Indian ingredients is the pulp of the tamarind fruit, widely used in south Indian cooking. Versatile and easy to use, the refreshing slightly sour and sweet tang of tamarind tempers the heat of chilies and adds a wonderful extra layer of flavor to spicy dishes, as well as a lovely aroma that prepares the senses for an extraordinary dining experience.

Even before adding the tamarind in these lovely Indian-style chickpeas, the scent of nigella and fennel seeds being lightly fried in olive oil is almost indescribably inviting and makes the preparation of this dish seem as rewarding as eating the final product. Nigella seeds, also known as "kalonji" or black onion seeds, are easily found in any Indian grocer, as are tamarind paste or dried tamarind pulp.

Tamarind Chickpeas

Tamarind ChickpeasTamarind Chickpeas
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on May 24, 2011

Tamarind adds a refreshing, slightly sour and slightly sweet tang to this colorful, fragrant and spicy Indian chickpea curry

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  • 2/3 cup dried chickpeas (2 cups cooked or 1 19 oz can)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon nigella (kalonji or black onion) seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4-6 fresh green chilies, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • small handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • 8 oz (225 g) fresh spinach leaves, trimmed
  • plain whole fat yogurt for dressing
  • Rinse the chickpeas under cold running water and soak overnight in a bowl covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added.

  • Drain and rinse the soaked chickpeas and add to a medium saucepan. Cover with fresh cold water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the chickpeas are soft and buttery. Drain and set aside.

  • Wipe the saucepan dry and set over medium heat. When the pan is hot again, add the olive oil, wait a moment or two, then swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the nigella and fennel seeds, stir once, then add the onion. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and starting to brown at the edges.

  • Stir in the tomatoes, half of the green chilies, sugar, cayenne and turmeric. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes to let the tomatoes reduce. Now stir in the chickpeas, tamarind paste and coriander, then the spinach. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spinach is just wilted.

  • Remove from heat and serve on Indian flatbreads or on a bed of white rice, dressed with a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt and the remainder of the fresh green chilies.

Makes 4 servings
Tamarind Chickpeas

Other recipes using tamarind you may enjoy:
Spicy Tamarind Black Beans
Tamarind Rice
Tamarind Chutney


Unknown said...

Yum, love your recipe and pictures both. Make me hungry :)

MapMaster said...

Beautiful ... look at those colours and those plump chickpeas

Priya Suresh said...

Delicious chickpeas, truly tempting..

Torviewtoronto said...

flavourful combination delicious

Fresh Garden said...

Absolutely fantastic!
Thanks for sharing, you're wonderful!

case lemn said...

I just love Indian food, it is my favourite. Definetly i will try this recipe, looks so delicious, thanks a lot for sharing.

M. @ V. Recipes said...

Mmm, we're gearing up for "India" week, and we have a bit of leftover tamarind - this is going on the menu!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Tamarind and I are now best of friends:D

Virginia Osborne said...

As a convert to Indian cooking in the past few years, I can attest that you can't go wrong with tamarind and/or chickpeas.

I've submitted quite a few recipes with both ingredients to cooking contests in the past.

Johanna GGG said...

bookmarked - looks fantastic - feel in the mood for curries just now

Brett said...

I cooked this tonight and it was delicious. Chick peas cooked in a spicy tomato-based sauce is quite a familiar idea, but this recipe was different enough to surprise my taste buds. The use of fennel and nigella was a nice change from cumin or mustard seeds. The spinach added a velvety texture and made the meal look pretty. And because the dish was so tart from the tamarind, the yoghurt on top was no more tart than the rest of the dish, which weirdly made the yoghurt taste less tart and more creamy. It seemed indulgent!

One little proofreading comment though: have I missed something or have you forgotten to note when to put the chickpeas back into the pot? I threw them in soon after the tomatoes.

Thanks again for the recipe.

Lisa Turner said...

Thanks Brett. This little error has been corrected. Glad you enjoyed the dish.