Chana Palak (Spicy Chickpeas and Spinach)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Chana Palak

I used to get confused about the difference between chana saag and chana palak. The common elements are chickpeas, split or whole, and leafy greens. As it turns out, palak means spinach, whereas saag can mean any leafy green, including spinach but also mustard greens, kale, fenugreek leaves or whatever suits your fancy.

No matter the greens you choose to include, this classic North Indian dish deserves to be served up often. The creaminess of silky spinach and coconut milk embraces the plump buttery chickpeas and the range of spices used to aromatically enhance the experience. It's a luxurious dish that is nonetheless not overly spicy nor too rich. Serve up with brown rice for a special earthy and nourishing meal, or with your favorite flat breads.

Chana Palak (Spicy Chickpeas and Spinach)Chana Palak (Spicy Chickpeas and Spinach)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on January 5, 2017

Classic north Indian chickpea and spinach curry simmered in coconut milk and aromatic spices

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

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  • 1 cup dried chickpeas (3 cups cooked or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 2 to 3 red or green chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used Kashmiri)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 lb (450 g) spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • juice from 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Rinse the chickpeas and soak for 8 hours or overnight in several inches of water. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a large saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the beans are soft and tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain and set aside.

  • In the same large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, toss in the cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds. When the cumin seeds darken a few shades, add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until softened. Next stir in the garlic, ginger and chilies, and fry for another few minutes. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, mustard, chili powder, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, asafetida if using, and cayenne, and stir for another minute.

  • Now stir in the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken. Stir in the chickpeas and coconut milk and simmer for another few minutes. Add the spinach a few handfuls at a time and cook until wilted.

  • Stir in the garam masala, lemon juice and salt and turn off the heat. Let sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

  • Serve hot over fresh cooked white basmati rice or with flat breads.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Chana Saag

Other chickpea vegetable dishes to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Spicy Sour Chickpea Masala
Chickpeas in a Creamy Coconut Tamarind Gravy
Kashmiri Chickpeas with Mushrooms
Chickpea and Paneer Tomato Curry


Shaheen said...

I don't want to serve this with anything Lisa, i just want to get a spoon and tuck in. Thank you for sharing with EatYourGreens.

Rafeeda AR said...

I don't think I would need anything to go with it... just the curry is more than enough! I thought saag meant mustard greens, though I am not really sure considering I have never cooked with them... :) Thank you for linking it to the event...

Ruxana Gafoor said...

Actually you cleared my confusion too!The dish looks superb and healthy.

Anonymous said...

Very nice recipe indeed. I just wanted to confirm if we should be adding asafoetida with other ground spices, as we usually use it for tampering the oil in the beginning.

Lisa Turner said...

Yes, most often it is used with oil to temper the dish. In this case, I put the asafetida in with the other spices.

Unknown said...

Hello Lisa, Just made this dish tonight and it hit the spot... tasty, filling and protein packed! I added mushrooms and used the baby greens mix I had instead of spinach. Thank you for sharing your creativity and love of plant-based cooking!! Donna from Raleigh, NC

Joan said...

Everyone loves this. I will continue to make it for guests as well as family. It tastes even better a few days in the fridge.