Chana Palak (Spicy Chickpeas and Spinach)

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.

  • 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.