Punjabi Buttermilk Stew with Spinach Dumplings

September 18, 2014
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Growing up, this was my favorite weeknight dinner on my mother's normal weeknight rotation The best part was that she would make an enormous pot of it so I knew I could enjoy it for days later. Similar to chili, it tastes better as the days go by and the flavors develop. It has a rich, tangy taste thanks to the buttermilk, punctuated by the sharpness from the garlic and ginger. The mustard seeds also add a distinctive flavor. The dumplings, which are essentially just little fritters or pakoras made out of spinach, become super soft -- they're fabulous just straight from the pan and there are always a few that never make it into the stew -- they end up in my tummy first! Essentially a one-pot meal, it is perfect served over simple basmati rice. Whenever I make it for my family now, I always look forward to having it for lunch the next day! —Shveta Berry

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Shveta Berry lives in the Bay Area where she cooks Indian food for her blog, Samosa Junkie.
WHAT: A vegetarian Indian meal you'll want to eat all week.
HOW: Form the spinach into dumplings with onion, coriander seeds, and herbs, then fry them in vegetable oil until golden. To make the stew, combine buttermilk, gram flour, seeds, garlic, and ginger in a Dutch oven. Allow the mixture to reduce, then add the spinach dumplings and cook for another 15 minutes.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We knew we'd like this dish after reading the long ingredient list of flavorful Indian spices, but we didn't anticipate how delicious the spinach dumplings would be. Even after they're added to the stew, they retain their golden crispiness. The best part? The stew tastes even better after a few days -- it's the ideal make-ahead dish for weeknight dinners. —The Editors

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves 6
  • For the dumplings:
  • 2 10-oz boxes of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2/3 cup gram flour (also called chickpea flour and besan in Indian stores)
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 green chiles, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon amchur (sour mango powder)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chaat masala
  • 4 cups vegetable oil for frying (up to 5 cups, if needed)
  • For the stew:
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 quarts buttermilk (low-fat or full-fat is fine)
  • 1/3 cup gram flour (also called chickpea flour and besan in Indian stores)
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
  • 1 1/2 inch ginger, crushed to a paste
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced into half moons
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • Basmati rice, for serving (optional)
In This Recipe
  1. For the dumplings:
  2. Squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach. In a medium mixing bowl, add the spinach and the remaining ingredients listed, except for the oil.
  3. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven until it is shimmering over medium-high heat.
  4. Drop heaping tablespoons of dumpling batter into the hot oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden.
  5. Flip the dumplings over and fry the other side until golden, about 2 minutes.
  6. Remove dumplings from oil and drain on paper towel-lined plate.
  1. For the stew:
  2. Blend the buttermilk, gram flour, turmeric, and salt in a blender until combined. If some of the buttermilk doesn't fit, it is okay to use 1 quart of buttermilk, then add the rest of it during step 6, as instructed
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add the fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds pop, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the serrano chiles and sauté for one minute.
  5. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden.
  6. Add the onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes in the vegetable oil, until softened but not brown.
  7. Add the chile flakes plus all of the buttermilk (blended and, if not all of it fit in your blender, plain). At this point the mixture is a pale yellow color. The color will intensify and become bright as the gravy cooks.
  8. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat to low and cook the stew for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Add dumplings and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  11. Optional: Serve over basmati rice.

See Reviews

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Assya
  • Sarah
  • Hana
  • Erin Stodola
    Erin Stodola
  • chandinid