Serve this delicious Indian Chickpea and Spinach Curry (Chana Palak or Chole Palak) over steamed rice for a perfect vegan and gluten free comfort food meal on chilly days.
Let me be honest here, I have no illusions of this chickpea curry recipe winning any beauty contests. It’s one of those absolutely delicious, but kind of ugly foods – just like this lentil curry dip.
I got the idea for this spinach and chickpea curry after making palak paneer at home for the first time. One of my Instant Pot yogurt experiments produced fresh cheese curds instead of yogurt, so I pressed them and ended up with a block of paneer.
Well, it turned out neither of us was a huge fan of this homemade paneer, but I fell head over heels in love with the palak (spinach curry). I had also just figured out how to cook dry chickpeas in my Instant Pot.
So the question begged, could I make palak curry with chickpeas? A quick Google search revealed that my idea wasn’t even that unique:
Chickpea spinach curry is a staple dish in Indian cuisine where it is called Palak Chana (or Chole Palak)!
What is Palak Chana?
It really is quite simply spinach (palak) and chickpeas (chana). It doesn’t sound like much, but with the right aromatics and spices we will combine these two ingredients into the most delicious vegan spinach curry.
How to Make Spinach Curry (Chana Palak)
Unlike Thai curries, this Indian chickpea curry doesn’t start with a pre-made paste. We are working with from scratch spices and aromatics here.
Of course there are onion, garlic, and ginger, and also tomato. Those veggies are heated and sautéed to bring out their flavors together with amazing spices like cumin, coriander, and of course some chili for heat.
Finally the spinach is added. I am using fresh spinach but I don’t bother with blanching for a brighter green, since we’ve already established that this spinach chickpea curry isn’t trying to win with esthetic appeal.
It’s never ceases to amaze me how fresh spinach takes up almost more volume than my pot can hold, and just a minute later it’s shrunken down to wilted nothingness!
At this point I use my Vitamix blender to puree the curry mix into a smoother consistency. If you have one, an immersion blender is also great for this and you won’t have to deal with transferring hot liquids between containers.
I like to leave a little texture to the palak curry, but you can also make it as smooth as you like.
Finally, the chickpeas are added to the curry and the flavors rounded out to taste with garam masala and salt. And because I can’t leave my Thai curry habits behind me, I also use a little freshly squeezed lime juice and soy sauce to achieve the right balance. Use Tamari to keep it gluten free or fish sauce, if it doesn’t have to be a vegan chickpea curry recipe.
And always, always fresh cilantro on top!
Can you freeze chickpea and spinach curry?
I haven’t actually had the need to freeze this chana curry, because any leftovers were used for lunches right the next day. But if you wanted to make ahead this recipe, I don’t see why freezing shouldn’t work.
Since I started making chickpeas in the pressure cooker, I freeze them all the time and the texture stays great. And the curried spinach base is pureed anyway – so there isn’t much texture left that could get lost.
Just make sure to pack up this Indian spinach curry as airtight as possible and freeze it for up to 3 months.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons oil (I prefer avocado or olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder (like cayenne)
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 10 ounces fresh spinach (about 5 cups)
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained (about 1.5 cups cooked beans)
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon salt
- lime juice
- tamari (or fish sauce/soy sauce if not vegan/gluten free)
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and sauté the diced onion until translucent.
- Push onion to side and add the other tablespoon of oil (if it is all absorbed). Add the cumin seeds and toast until they crackle. Then add minced garlic, bay leaves, coriander powder, ginger, and chili powder. Toast the spices for about a minute until fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato dices and simmer for 5-7 minutes until very soft and broken down.
- Add the fresh spinach - in batches if necessary (and ¼ - ½ cup water it seems too dry), stir until wilted and softened.
- Remove the bay leaves and transfer everything else to a blender. Pulse until mixture reaches desired consistency. I like it a little bit chunky but you can also puree until smooth.
- Return the curry to the skillet and add the chickpeas, garam masala, and salt.
- Simmer the chickpea and spinach curry for 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust flavors to taste with freshly squeezed lime juice and Tamari (or fish sauce/soy sauce, if not vegan/gluten free).
- Serve Chana Palak with cilantro over steamed (brown) rice or with roti.