Palak Chole

Palak chole is a delicious North Indian curry made with fresh spinach leaves and chickpeas. It is hearty, vegan, gluten-free and very nutritious. Palak chole is very similar to palak paneer, however I don’t add any dairy to it. With autumn on its way, with a warm bowl of cumin rice or rotes, it makes for a warming dinner.

During winters, a ton of greens were harvested from the vegetable garden at my grandma and I grew up eating palak paneer or palak rotis every other day. Spinach sauces are my favorite and when my kids were babies, I started making them often for their high nutritious value. Palak chole wasn’t a frequent from my childhood years but since both my kids love the spinach sauce, I add different proteins other than paneer to change up the taste.

Making palak chole is really simple and you can prepare ahead like boiling the chickpeas or blanching and pureeing the spinach a day ahead. And yes! you can totally use canned chickpeas! For the curry, simply make a onion-tomato- ginger masala base with a few whole spices and cook the spinach and chickpeas in it.

How to make Palak Chole?

The process starts with making spinach puree and boiling the chickpeas. Thereafter make a masala base and cook the spinach and chickpeas together for about 20-30 minutes.

1- Spinach:- For making palak chole, I choose cooking spinach variety. The leaves of cooking spinach are much broader and thick as compared to baby spinach. It is easily available in the greens aisle of the store and is usually sold as a bunch.(I have seen bagged ones too) You can choose baby spinach as well but I personally feel that the thicker stems and the large cooking spinach leaves are much flavorful and can stand up to the sautéing.

2- Chickpeas:– Soaking and boiling the raw chickpeas gives the best broth which makes this curry so delicious, however if you want, you can used canned chickpeas as well.

3:- Masala Base:- The curry uses a simple North Indian onion tomato masala base with a few whole spices thrown in, similar how what I have shared many times in recipes on the blog. Most North Indian curries have a starting point as onion-tomato-ginger-garlic base comparable to a sofrito. In this recipe I add, cinnamon, cloves and few pods of green cardamom to add warmth to the spinach sauce.

4:- The secret ingredient :- A few florets of broccoli. I like adding a few, just 3 or4 florets of broccoli to the spinach sauce, you won’t taste it, I promise. You can boil the broccoli along with the spinach and puree them together. I feel it adds a very nice texture and robustness to the sauce. Again it is optional and you can skip broccoli.

5. Consistency :- The stock from boiling the chickpeas is very delicious and I use it up for blending the spinach as well as to thin out the sauce. You can make the sauce as runny or thick as you like.

6. Green color of Spinach Sauce :- Over the years, I have seen many discussions about the color of spinach sauce and read many articles on how to preserve it etc etc. If you ask me, there is no right or wrong. The color of the sauce is simply dependent on how long you sauté the spinach puree with the masala base. I personally like the sauce to be well sautéed and even though it loses the bright green color in the process, I love the deep smoky flavor that comes along.

This is a healthy and nutritious dish due to combination of spinach greens and chickpeas and with rice or rotis, it is an enjoyable dinner. As with most curries, the spinach sauce tastes very good next day because the flavors get a chance to absorb as the curry rests overnight. Since I keep the consistency of palak chole curry on a thick side, it can be used to make wraps or easily packed in lunch boxes.

Other Spinach Recipes to check out :-

Palak Paneer

Spinach Chicken /Murgh Saagwala

Tandoori Palak Roti

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Palak Chole

North Indian spinach and chickpeas curry made with whole spices, tomatoes, onions ginger and garlic.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 8 hours
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 9 hours
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup raw chickpeas
  • 8 oz organic spinach
  • 4-5 small broccoli florets , optional
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 clove
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or cooking oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamom cloves
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed in mortar pestle
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger julinnes
  • 3/4 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 2-3 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance) , slit
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional but recommended)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

Prepare the Spinach & Chickpeas. This can be a done a day in advance.

  • Soak the chickpeas overnight. Next morning, add to a pressure cooker with 1.5 cup water, 1/2 tsp oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles until soft. Reserve the stock and place the boiled chickpeas in a separate bowl.
    1/3 cup raw chickpeas
  • In a large pot, add cloves to 2 cups water and set on stove to boil. Thoroughly wash the spinach leaves. Roughly chop the stems and leaves if they are too big. If you feel that few stems are too stringy, discard.Once the water is boiling, add spinach and broccoli florets to it. Let cook for 3-4 minutes until the spinach has wilted and the broccoli is dark green in color.
    8 oz organic spinach, 4-5 small broccoli florets, 2 cups water, 2 clove
  • Drain the vegetables and add to a food processor. Put in the cloves too. Pulse. I do not like to make a smooth puree however you can blend to desired texture/consistency. If needed, the reserved chickpea liquid be used liquid while blending.Set the blended spinach aside.

Cook Palak Chole

  • Heat up oil on high in a kadai or medium heavy bottomed pot.Once the oil is smoky, reduce the heat to medium & wait for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped onions to it along with fennel & cumin seeds and whole spices (in that order) and sauté  till the onions start to lightly brown.
    4 tbsp mustard oil (or cooking oil), 1/2 cup finely chopped onions, 1/4 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 green cardamom cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • Next add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, coriander powder, green chillies and sugar, to the onions and keep on cooking on medium low heat till you see oil separating on the sides of the pot. The tomatoes will soften and turn mushy.This may take 5-8 minutes. 
    3 garlic cloves, smashed in mortar pestle, 3/4 cup tomatoes, finely chopped, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1 tsp coriander powder, 2-3 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • Add the spinach, ginger, and chickpeas along with salt to the and mix well. Sauté with masala for 5-7 minutes until you see that the spinach is bubbly.
    1/3 cup raw chickpeas, 8 oz organic spinach, 1/2 tbsp ginger julinnes, 4-5 small broccoli florets
  • Reduce the heat to low, add the reserved chickpea stock depending on the consistency of the sauce you like (I add about 1/2 cup). Mix well. Taste and adjust the salt if needed. Cover and let the sauce cook for 20-25 minutes on low heat.
    1 tsp salt
  • Check once or twice in between. The spinach will bubble a lot during cooking and you will need to stir it in between to avoid sticking to bottom. Also the spinach will change color to dull green and you will start seeing glisten on the sides of the pot. If you feel that the sauce is getting dry, add 1/4 cup stock.
  • Finish with kasuri methi and 1/4 tsp garam masala(optional). Let sit for 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm.
    1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional but recommended), 1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)

Chana Dal & Sweet Potato Tikki

Chana Dal & Sweet Potato Tikki. These crisp outside and soft on the inside tikkis (patties) are made with chana dal (bengal gram lentils) and sweet potatoes. These are fragrantly spiced with cumin, cloves and ground garam masala. The sweet potato does not make them sweet at all, rather gives them an earthly bite. I paired these skillet fried tikks with a simple paneer & kale pulao, spinach raita (yogurt), micro greens and raw vegetables to make a colorful indian super food bowl.

Having grown up in my grandmother’s vegetarian household, lentils were used a dozen ways from sweet to savory dishes and these tikkis appeared on special occasions. The lentils were ground on sil-batta (stone) with spices to which finely chopped onions, raisins and herbs were added. Sweet potatoes were not used rather grated regular potatoes and a handful of boiled lentils went in for texture in each bite. These tikkis are great with parathas & green chutney or pulao & raita alike. They can be tucked inside burger buns for a vegetarian sandwich or served over a bed of greens.

A few things to be kept in mind when you make these:-

  • When making tikkis with lentils, the most important thing is the water quantity when you cook them. More water will turn them mushy while less water with leave the lentils dry and chewy. Please refer to the water quantity in the recipe.
  • Its best to use your hands to mix. Unless you are using a sil batta (stone grinder), leave out the blender or processor. If the lentils are cooked properly, you will be able to a make a soft tikki mixture very easily. And the texture of hand mixed is absolutely unmatched.
  • Since onions and chopped cilantro etc go in the recipe, keep in mind that after sitting for a half and hour or so, the mix will loosen a bit since the raw vegetables will release their moisture due to salt. So if the tikki mix feels a bit dry in the beginning, don’t worry.
  • These tikkis have texture, they are soft to bite into but you will taste whole lentils grains here and there.
  • I add roasted besan to the tikki mix. Not for binding or anything, these don’t need a binder because the starches in the lentils are enough. Roasted besan(chickpea flour) lends a nice smoky taste and does make this recipe fool proof.Plus its delicious.
  • There is no need for a coating of any flour etc when you skillet fry them. Fry them patiently, that’s all. If your tikki mix is right, they will not fall apart or anything.
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Chana Dal (Bengal Gram Lentils) & Sweet Potato Tikki

Delicious skillet fried tikkis (patties) made with sweet potatoes and chana dal(bengal gram lentils)
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 12 tikkis

Ingredients

For Boiling the Lentils

  • 1 +1/3 cup chana dal (bengal gram lentils)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 small whole black cardamom (skip if not available)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water

For the Tikki Mix

  • 200 g sweet potato(boiled, peeled and cut into small chunks)
  • 1.5 tbsp ginger garlic paste (or simply add 5 garlic cloves and 1 inch piece of ginger to a mortar & pestle and pound to a paste)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 thai bird green chilies or 1 serrano (adjust to taste) ,see notes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped golden raisins (optional)
  • 1 tbsp garam masala (used homemade or store bought, make sure its not more than 3 months old)
  • 2-3 tbsp roasted besan (gram flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Oil or ghee for pan frying

Instructions

Prepare/Boil The Lentils

  • Wash the lentils 2-3 times under a running stream of water and soak for 2-3 hours.
  • Drain and discard the water in which you soaked the lentils.Add the soaked lentils to a pressure cooker, add cumin, bay leaf, cloves and black cardamom along with salt and 1/2 cup water.
  • Close the lid of the pressure cooker and place it on stove. Let the stove be on high till the first whistle. After that, reduce the stove to low medium and cook for additional 2-3 whistles. After total 3-4 whistles, switch off the stove and let the pressure release naturally.
  • Open the lid, do not mix at once while the lentils are hot, they will turn into a mush. Take 1-2 lentil grains and press between your thumb and finger, if the grain is pressed easily and dosent feel hard, the lentils are cooked. If not, add 2-3 tbsp water and cook for one more whistle.
  • The lentils should not disintegrate, they shoud be cooked through but retain their shape after boiling. Pick out and discard the bay leaf, clove and cardamom, Cover the cooker and let the lentils cool down for a bit, dont let them become cold. We want to make the mix while the lentils are still warm.

Make the Tikki Mix

  • In a wide dish(avoid a deep bowl), add the cooked warm lentils and boiled sweet potato. Mix gently breaking the lentils and poatoes for about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the ginger and garlic, onions, green chilies, raisins, ginger and garam masala.
  • Gently using your hands start squishing to combine everything together. Gently mix for about 3-4 minutes, if some lentils remain whole, thats okay.
  • Once mixed, add the salt and 2 tbsp of roasted besan. Mix again, you will be able to make a soft ball with the mix. If you feel its too wet, add another tablespoon of besan but dont add more than 3 tbsp total. Cover and let the tikki mix rest for 20 minutes.

Shape & skillet fry tikkis

  • Oil your hands and divide the tikki mix into 10 or 12 equal portions.
  • Roll the portions into a balls, flatten the balls slightly and shape them using your palm and fingers into well rounded patties.
  • Make all the tikkis this way and place on a plate. At this point you can refrigerate them for up to 3 days. Or place them on a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze them for 6 hours. After they are frozen, place in a zip lock and store frozen for one month.
  • Warm up a 12 inch heavy cast iron wide skillet or griddle on medium. When nicely hot (not too hot) add 1-2 tbsp oil or ghee and place 3-4 tikkis at a time, don't overcrowd. Let tikkis crisp up for 5-6 minutes on one side. Don't add a lot of oil in the begnning,they will break. Once they are crisped on one side, drizzle 1-2 tbsp of oil or ghee on (uncooked) top and flip to crisp on second side.
  • Pan fry the tikkis with patience. Its takes 7-8 minutes to fry a batch on both sides.

Notes

  • When making tikkis with lentils, the most important thing is the water quantity when you cook them. More water will turn them mushy while less water with leave the lentils dry and chewy. Please refer to the water quantity in the recipe.
  • Its best to use your hands to mix. Unless you are using a sil batta (stone grinder), leave out the blender or processor. If the lentils are cooked properly, you will be able to a make a soft tikki mixture very easily. And the texture of hand mixed is absolutely unmatched.
  • Dont leave out the green chillies, this is the only heat in this recipe. Garam masala adds a warmth, but do add at least one sharp green chili for heat. 
  • Since onions and chopped cilantro etc go in the recipe, keep in mind that after sitting for a half and hour or so, the mix will loosen a bit since the raw vegetables will release their moisture due to salt. So if the tikki mix feels a bit dry in the beginning, don’t worry.
  • These tikkis have texture, they are soft to bite into but you will taste whole lentils grains here and there.
  • I add roasted besan to the tikki mix. Not for binding or anything, these don’t need a binder because the starches in the lentils are enough. Roasted besan(chickpea flour) lends a nice smoky taste. Plus its delicious.
  • There is no need for a coating of any flour etc when you skillet fry them. Fry them patiently, that’s all. If your tikki mix is right, they will not fall apart or anything.

Bhindi Zunka /Besan Bhindi

Fleshy and sweet summer okra cooked in a masala of onion, garlic and spices and coated in roasted chickpea flour. This okra dish is so delicious as a side with daal– rice or with soft warm rotis and a bowl of yogurt. I love such simple and light meals during summer. The addition of besan(chickpea flour), one of my favorite flours, makes it taste so earthly and spices like mustard, fennel & cumin complement the combination of fresh vegetable and nutty flour.

Zunka is a Maharastrian (Western Indian) dish which is basically chickpea flour cooked in a tempering of mustard and cumin seeds along with fresh chilies and powdered spices. It is like a slurry or can be dryish. It is usually served with bhakri(flatbread bread) and pickle for a meal. It is a super light dish during summers and quite flavorful like anything made with chickpea flour is.

Here, I added fresh bhindi to the spiced chickpea flour. I also addd fennel seeds since I love the flavor with okra. Okra isn’t slimy at all once the dish finishes cooking, the dish is perfectly spiced and comes together very quickly. The is my version inspired by the iconic zunka dish, which is usually a slurry. I like this drier version with okra a lot. Here are a few things to be kept in mind while cooking okra and this dish. Keep these things in mind and your okra will never be slimy.

  1. Wash the okra at least 1-2 hours before beginning to cook and let air dry if possible. Quickly washing and wiping with paper or cloth table is okay but I recommend air drying. Do not cut okra until its completely dry else it will be super slimy.
  2. For this dish, cut the okra in longish pieces, don’t cut very thin discs.
  3. Don’t skimp on oil. Some vegetables like okra, eggplant etc cook better if the oil quantity is good. At the same time, besan(chickpea flour)also need extra oil for the right texture post cooking. Right quantity of oil also helps in reducing the slimy texture of okra since it dosent steam but stir fries well while cooking.
  4. Okra is a delicate vegetable and when fresh, it cooks quite fast. We don’t need to cover it for a long time else it loses its color, get overcooked and the texture isn’t right. Just cover for a few minutes in the beginning to get cooking started and then cook uncovered till its tender. Writing the method I follow in the recipe.
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Bhindi Zunka /Besan Bhindi (Okra Cooked in Chickpea flour)

A flavorful dish of summer okra coated in spiced chickpea flour. Pairs well with soft rotis or dal and rice.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (400gms) okra
  • 1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 5 tbsp mustard oil or any cooking oil you use
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 green or red chilies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves,finely chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • Red chilli powder to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-3 tbsp water or as needed
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)(or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (or to taste)

Instructions

  • Wash and air-dry the okra. Trim the ends and cut each okra into maximun of 3 pieces. Set aside.
  • Take a kadai or heavy pan with lid in which you want to cook and set it on stove. First, dry roast the chickpea flour on low heat stirring continously till you smell a nice aroma but it does get not browned a lot. Takes about 6-8 minutes. Keep an eye and stir continously. Once roasted, transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.
  • Add the mustard oil (or cooking oil) to the kadai and heat up till a bit smoky. Temper the oil with mustard, fennel and cumin seeds. As soon as they crackle, add the fresh chilies and saute in oil for 30 seconds.
  • Next, on medium heat, add the onion and let the onions cook in oil till they are a nice shade of golden brown. Add the garlic next and saute for a minute till you smell a nice aroma.
  • Add the coriander and red chili powder next and saute in warm oil for a minute or so.
  • Add all the okra to the onion & spices now, sprinkle salt and mix well. Saute for 2-3 minutes with the masala. You will see that the okra will start to look deep green in color and little moist(its own juices if your okra is good quality and fresh). If you feel its not releasing its juices, add couple tablespoons of water, mix and set the stove to low medium and cover the pan with a lid.
  • Let the okra cook for 5-7 minutes covered without opening the lid in between. Remove the lid and you will see that okra is much softer, let it cook for another 6-7 minutes without the lid till its soft but not falling apart. The okra will be browned and you wont see the slime. Once okra is cooked properly, its slimy texture goes away.
  • Sprinke the besan a few tablespoons at a time and gently mix well. The besan will slowly absorb the mositure from okra and will appear sandy. Add all the besan and keep mixing. If you feel that the sabzi is looking dryish, add a tablespoon or so of water. I didnt need to add any extra water. Taste and adjust the salt.
  • Finish the dish with amchoor and garam masala.Mix well and serve warm.