This spinach curry is easy, healthy, and loaded with flavour. Perfect for a weeknight dinner, this vegan curry is ready in less than 30 minutes.
Why this is the best spinach curry recipe
This easy spinach curry is packed with flavour. I’ve tried my fair share of spinach curry recipes that I’ve found online and they always seem to be somewhat bland and missing something in the spice department.
For this recipe I came up with my own combination of spices to give this curry complex flavour without the bitterness that some recipes have when they call for too many spices.
This chickpea spinach curry is super healthy. If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate leafy greens into your diet but you’re not a fan of how they taste on their own, this recipe is perfect. Also, chickpeas are full of protein and will keep you full for hours.
This is a chickpea spinach curry without coconut milk. A lot of vegan curry recipes call for coconut milk. Coconut milk is delicious but some people are allergic and sometimes you just don’t want the richness of a coconut curry.
I’ve made it my mission to create a series of vegan curry recipes without coconut milk and this spinach curry is the second of such recipes after my red lentil curry recipe.
This spinach curry is quick to make. Using canned chickpeas, this recipe can be made in under 30 minutes. Chopping is minimal with just an onion, a tomato and a couple cloves of garlic.
It’s great for meal prep. Leftovers can be refrigerated for several days and the curry won’t change its texture, thicken or become watery. It reheats great.
Do curry and spinach go together?
Spinach curries are very common in Indian cuisine.
Spinach can be added as an ingredient into different types of curries, you can make a “dry” curry by sautéing it with spices, or it can be blended to make a bright green curry sauce.
You’re likely already familiar with palak paneer, cubed cheese in a spinach sauce; or palak chole, chickpeas in a spinach sauce.
I’m not Indian so I’m not claiming this recipe to be authentic in any way.
I created this recipe after having tried several vegan palak paneer recipes that were disappointingly bland.
I turned to non-vegan recipes and pulled out the spices that I liked from each one. Then I replaced the tofu with chickpeas because I didn’t like tofu as a replacement for paneer.
So I’ve ended up with a hearty and delicious dish where curry and spinach go together wonderfully.
Ingredients you’ll need
Although this recipe calls for a selection of spices, they are all easily available in any large supermarket. You won’t need to hunt around or make any trips to a specialty Asian market in order to make this recipe!
Spinach: I’ve made this recipe with both mature spinach from my garden and baby spinach from a bag. If using mature spinach, it’s a good idea to cut out the thick stems. Baby spinach can be used whole without any preparation.
Chickpeas: To make this recipe quickly I use canned chickpeas. If you want to make it more cheaply, you can cook dry chickpeas from scratch.
Ginger & garlic: These two aromatics are the backbone of any good curry recipe!
Green chili pepper: This recipe has some heat to it so choose a spicy green chili pepper. I used a jalapeño because that’s all I have available to me. You can adjust the amount of chili you use depending on your spice preference.
Neutral oil: Don’t use olive oil. Use a neutral-flavoured oil such as sunflower, canola or vegetable oil.
Spices: The spices you’ll need are a stick of cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, green cardamom pods, turmeric and garam masala.
Keep in mind that garam masala is a mix of spices and each brand tastes a little different. I only use a high quality garam masala because the cheaper ones use a lot of cheap filler spices like chili powder and don’t taste very good. The garam masala I use is not spicy at all.
Onion: Just a regular white or yellow onion. I like to dice it as finely as possible so that it melts into the curry.
Tomato: I used a Roma tomato, which has more flesh and less water, but you can use any type of tomato. You can also use a couple tablespoons of tomato passata or tomato paste if you don’t have a fresh tomato.
Water: Use water to adjust the consistency of your curry, whether you prefer it more dry or more like a gravy.
Salt: To bring out all the flavours.
How to make spinach curry
Making this spinach curry is super easy. Just follow along step-by-step and you’ll have dinner on the table in 30 minutes!
Blanch the spinach: If using more mature spinach, cut out the stems and roughly chop the leaves. If using baby spinach, no prep is required.
First we want to blanch the spinach, which means to pre-cook it in hot water to tenderize.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Turn off the heat and add your prepped spinach. For baby spinach, it just needs 30 seconds to a minute to soften. For more mature spinach, it needs a couple of minutes.
When the spinach is tender and bright green, drain it and transfer it to a bowl of ice water. This will help it keep its bright green colour.
Sometimes when I’m lazy I skip this step and just run it under cold water in a colander. I care more about the flavour than how it looks!
Blend: Give the spinach a bit of a squeeze so that it’s not dripping and transfer it to a food processor along with the ginger, a clove of garlic and the chili pepper.
Blend, adding water as necessary to get the processor going and blend it into a smooth sauce.
I add about ¼ cup of water but you may need more or less.
Temper the spices: Now we can move over to the stove and start putting together the curry.
First we’ll temper the spices, which means we will use the spices to flavour the oil.
Heat the oil over medium heat and add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, and cumin seeds.
Fry, stirring, until the cumin seeds slightly darken in colour and the aroma of the spices is released. Be careful not to overcook them or they will turn bitter! This will take about a minute to a minute and a half.
Fry: Now add the diced onion and fry, stirring from time to time, until soft and transparent. The add the minced garlic and fry for another 30 seconds or until soft.
I find this to be the best point to remove the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom so that you don’t accidentally bite into them!
Now add the diced tomato and let it fry for a couple minutes to soften. Smush the tomato with your spoon so that it breaks down into a paste.
Combine: Finally, add the blended spinach and let it cook for a couple of minutes to cook off the raw garlic and ginger.
Add the chickpeas and allow them to heat through, adding water as necessary to get the consistency that you like. I add about ½ cup of water because I like the spinach curry to have a nice saucy consistency.
Give it a taste and add salt to bring all the flavours together.
Recipe variations and substitutions
This recipe is easy to customize. You can change the protein, add additional seasonings and serve this spinach curry with a variety of side dishes.
Different protein: As I previously mentioned, I tried this recipe with tofu to make a vegan version of palak paneer. Another popular spinach curry is made with potatoes. Cauliflower is another good option, or a mix of different vegetables.
Citrus: You can add a squeeze of lime or lemon to the finished dish for a brighter flavour that compliments the spinach very well.
No tomato: Some people are looking for a chickpeas and spinach curry without tomatoes. If that’s the case, just skip the tomato.
Make it creamy: You can add a dash of coconut milk, cashew cream or vegan cream to make this a creamy vegan curry.
People may know Indian green curries by the names saag and palak. The difference is that palak is made from spinach and saag is made from a mix of leafy greens. This recipe is more akin to a palak curry recipe.
Yes, you can. Follow this recipe the same way but using frozen spinach in place of fresh spinach. Thaw the spinach in boiling water, drain and blend it just as directed in the recipe.
That’s really up to you. I use one chili pepper for a mild to medium heat but you can add half a pepper or two peppers according to your spice tolerance.
Spinach and chickpeas are very healthy. Spinach is full of iron and it’s recommended to include leafy greens in your meals on a daily basis. Chickpeas are full of fibre and are a great source of plant-based protein.
Spinach curry can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Garam masala is a mix of spices. There is no one set recipe for garam masala and different brands will taste differently. I recommend choosing a good quality garam masala as the cheaper brands use a lot of cheap filler spices and don’t taste as good. My garam masala is not spicy.
Make ahead and storage tips
This recipe is great for meal prep because it stores very well without changing its texture or becoming watery.
If you want to do some prep ahead of time you can prepare the spinach puree and store it in the fridge for up to two days until you’re ready to make the curry.
Store the finished spinach chickpea curry in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Frozen curry can be thawed overnight in the fridge. Refrigerated curry can be reheated in the microwave.
I don’t know about your microwave but in my microwave chickpeas explode so keep the dish covered!
What to serve with curry
No curry would be complete without rice. Basmati rice is the best choice for this spinach curry but you can use any kind of rice, including brown rice if you want more nutrients.
Naan is always delicious with curry. You can use store-bought or try a recipe for homemade naan. Garlic naan is my favourite kind.
A dollop of plain or coconut yogurt is a nice garnish to this curry and is particularly refreshing if you’ve added a lot of chili pepper.
On the side you can serve a refreshing salad such as kachumber made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, cilantro and lemon juice.
- 9 oz (250 grams) fresh spinach
- 0.5 oz (15 grams) fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic one roughly chopped and two finely minced
- 1 spicy green chili pepper roughly chopped (or adjust to taste)
- ¾ cup water divided
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil sunflower, canola, vegetable, etc.
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 3 green cardamom pods
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 medium tomato diced
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- ¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
- If using mature spinach, cut out the thick stems and roughly chop the leaves. If using baby spinach, no prep is necessary.
- Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add the spinach to blanch it. Baby spinach only needs about 30 seconds. Mature spinach may need a couple of minutes. It’s ready when it’s tender and bright green.
- Optional: to maintain the bright green colour, transfer the blanched spinach to a bowl of ice water. Most of the time I’m too lazy and just run it under cold water in a colander.
- Squeeze the excess water out of the spinach and transfer it to a food processor along with the ginger, the one clove of roughly chopped garlic and the chili pepper. Blend, adding water as necessary to get the processor going and blend the spinach into a puree. I used ¼ cup (60 ml) water.
- In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and cumin. Fry, stirring frequently, until the cumin darkens slightly in colour and the spices are very fragrant - 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the onion and fry until soft then add the two minced cloves of garlic and fry until soft. Now is a good time to remove the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods.
- Add the tomato and fry until soft - about 3 - 4 minutes. Squish the tomato with the back of your spoon into a paste.
- Add the garam masala and turmeric and cook for 30 seconds to bring out the flavours. Add the pureed spinach and cook for 1 - 2 minutes to cook out the raw ginger and garlic.
- Add the chickpeas and as much water as necessary to reach the consistency that you like. I like a bit of sauce so I add about ½ cup (120 ml). Simmer for a couple of minutes until the chickpeas are heated through. Add salt and you can add additional garam masala is you want more spice flavour.
This recipe looks awesome! I am going to make it tomorrow substituting the garbanazos with extra firm tofu cubes, marinated overnight in lemon and salt!! However, I don't have the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods or cloves...I have those spices ground though. Any estimation on how those might translate in teaspoons? Thanks so much!
Those spices are all quite strong so maybe I'd start with just a pinch, like 1/8 teaspoon. You can always add a bit more later if you like.