Spicy, Creamy Chickpeas & Spinach (Chana Saag-ish)

June  4, 2017
5 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Once you have your garlic-ginger-chile paste prepped (and, hint, you don't have to use a blender or food processor—you could chop them very finely, then mash with water in a mortar and pestle, or even just stir the water and minced vegetables together), all you need to do is wilt spinach, dump in a couple cans of chickpeas, add a few tablespoons of cream, temper spices in hot oil, and you're done.

It's incredibly flavorful without asking that you rummage through the spice cabinet; it needn't be accompanied by a posse of starches or proteins to become a balanced dinner (though rice, or bread, or a swoosh of cucumber-flecked yogurt across the plate would be welcome); it's easily turned vegan (sub coconut milk for heavy cream, then top with toasted coconut flakes); and you can use frozen spinach instead of fresh. If you want to use frozen spinach instead of fresh, cook 2 packages of spinach according to the packaging directions, drain well, and proceed with the recipe.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's saag paneer in World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • one 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 serrano or other hot green chile, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup canola oil plus 1 tablespoon, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach (or two 9-ounce packages frozen spinach, cooked according to the package and drained)
  • 1 dash Kosher salt
  • two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 tablespoons cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  1. In a food processor, blender, or mortar and pestle, combine the ginger, garlic, and chile pepper with 1/4 cup of water so that you have a paste.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup canola oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. When it's hot, add the garlic-ginger-chile paste and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is very fragrant. Add the spinach (it's okay to work in batches) and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  3. Stir the spinach around for 1 minute to make sure all pieces are coated in oil, then cover the pan for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If all the water evaporates, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water and continue cooking.
  4. Add the chickpeas, another 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and stir until the chickpeas are mixed into the spinach. Add 3 tablespoons of cream, stir to combine, then cover and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When the time is almost up, heat the last tablespoon of canola oil in a small pan on a separate burner. When the oil is hot, add the garam masala, cayenne, and cumin seeds. Fry, stirring, until the spices are fragrant and toasted.
  6. Immediately pour the spiced oil into the spinach-chickpea mixture. Add the last tablespoon of cream, stir everything to combine. Eat hot or at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • Tami
  • Cheryl
  • Stephanie B.
    Stephanie B.
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel

9 Reviews

Taylor S. December 26, 2022
Incredible, wow, we were all speechless eating this! I subbed curry powder for the garam masala because I did not have any; turned out delicious nonetheless.
Tami March 22, 2018
I love this dish! I've made it a few times and it is delicious. I add a bit less oil which doesn't affect the flavour, otherwise keep everything else the same. I serve it with naan.
Cheryl July 8, 2017
Delicious. Served over quinoa. I made it vegan by using canned coconut milk and had on hand "creme fraiche" that I had made from cashews. When I first added the chick peas, I thought, "oh no!" because it looked like so many chick peas to the spinach, but once it cooked and I added the cream, it was lovely.
Stephanie B. June 25, 2017
Do you know what the rice side is? Looks like basmati with saffron and/or turmeric?
Sarah J. September 20, 2017
Sorry for such a late response! It's this turmeric rice from Madhur Jaffrey:
Stephanie B. September 21, 2017
Great thank you! I think I ended up making some sort of turmeric basmati rice, but I'll try the link you posted next time I make the chickpeas.
judy June 15, 2017
I did make this--no spinach but a bag of fresh mixed brassica veggies worked great. And subbed mixed canned beans for the chickpeas--which I am allergic to.
Sarah J. June 20, 2017
So glad you were able to make it work for you!
judy June 15, 2017
This looks like a good quick recipe. I wish I was a little more refined. I never have chilis on hand, but always garlic and ginger. I have started substituting Sambal Olek for most of my chili pepper needs. already in a paste. My only regret are the sulfites in it. I can't eat chickpeas, but I have found that most canned beans work well. I get a 3bean mix (white/kidney/pinto) from my local market that works really well for these kind of applications, and is a great base for hummus.