Chana Saag with Mushrooms or Chickpea Spinach Mushroom Curry is a mild curry with a rich and luxurious spinach coconut gravy. This vibrant green chickpea curry is simple to make and full of flavour and nutrients.
Spinach is such an easy green to cook with. You can add it to soups and stews, quiches and omelettes. Buy fresh spinach greens and use them raw in a Strawberry Spinach Salad or use frozen spinach in Stuffing Balls.
Disclosure: This post is made possible by Alberta Pulse Growers. All opinions and experiences are my own.
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Chana Saag with Mushrooms
Today I am thrilled to share this Chana Saag recipe with you. The word Chana means ‘chickpeas’ or, it can also mean ‘a dish made from chickpeas’. In this case, the chana are warmed slightly with whole mushrooms in a vibrant green sauce or gravy packed with spinach.
The base of the spinach curry gravy are the usual suspects: onion, tomato, garlic, ginger, and green chilies. Next, there are the bright spices such as cumin seed and garam masala. It all comes together with heaping handfuls of spinach and coconut cream.
The curry gravy is rich and creamy, yet it retains bold brightness from the spinach. Lastly, the ingredient that completes the dish is fresh curry leaves. Not to be confused with curry powder, curry leaves have an interesting flavour that combines citrus with star anise and a bit of allium-like asafetida. The flavour is difficult to explain…you’ll have to experience it yourself!
Saag vs. Palak
Saag is a Hindi word that describes spinach or other leafy greens as well as the dish that contains them. Alternatively Palak (also Hindi) describes spinach, or a sauce made of spinach. Other leafy greens that can be in a saag are mustard or collard greens, kale, and methi (fenugreek).
I love a good Palak Paneer. This dish, with its cubes of fresh salty cheese floating in a spinach gravy was my inspiration for this chana saag. This curry is creamy with a touch of sweetness from the garam masala. It has just the right amount of heat from green chilies. It’s not meant to be vindaloo-hot, only pleasantly spicy.
As the sauce contains spinach and a large amount of curry leaves, I called it ‘saag’ instead of palak, even though curry leaves may be considered an aromatic and not a leafy green.
In this dish, texture and colour go hand in hand. Blending the tempered spices with the aromatics, then adding coconut milk and finally the blanched spinach creates the smooth sauce. If you enjoy curry with more texture you can skip the blending step.
Ingredients for Chana Saag
- Cumin Seeds
- Green Chili Peppers
- Curry Leaves
- Garam Masala
- Coconut Cream
- Baby Spinach
Ghee is clarified butter made by simmering and straining butter to remove the water content. The remaining milk solids are then heated further until they caramelize and brown, creating a lovely nutty flavour. This shelf stable product has a high smoke point, making it a very handy pantry item. While you can use olive oil (or another vegetable oil) in this recipe, you will lose out the rich flavour ghee brings to this dish.
The green chilies offer a mild heat to this curry. You can add more to the suggested amount, or less. As always, the heat level is up to you. If you like a little less heat, remove the pepper seeds before adding it to the pan. If you want more heat, use red chilies!
Finding fresh curry leaves is sometimes difficult. Most Indian grocery stores will carry them and they freeze really well. They are delicious in this recipe, though you can leave them out if you wish. Add a squirt of fresh lime or lemon juice if you can’t source curry leaves.
Garam Masala is a combination of spices and herbs that adds wonderful layers of flavour to Indian dishes. Each mix is different, but can include coriander, cumin, green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, fennel, nutmeg, star anise, black cardamom, mace, and bay leaves. You can make your own or buy it premixed.
Coconut cream adds richness and body to the sauce. You can buy a can of coconut cream or use the solidified portion at the top of a can of coconut milk. You may need to use the top of two cans depending on how much is in the can. Use a bit of the coconut milk to thin out the sauce if you wish.
How Many Dried Chickpeas Equal One Can?
One 19 oz/540 ml can of chickpeas contains approximately 2 cups of chickpeas (after you drain the liquid). Most recipes, including this one will ask for this amount. So, how many dried chickpeas do you need to cook to produce 2 cups?
As a rule, dried chickpeas will triple in volume as they cook. This means that one cup of dried chickpeas will turn into 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and 1/2 cup dried will become 1 1/2 cups, once cooked. For this recipe you can soak 3/4 cups if you want more chickpeas in the curry.
How to Cook Dried Chickpeas
If you want to buy dried chickpeas and cook them yourself, it is very easy and economical. The simplest way to cook chickpeas is using the ‘soak and boil’ method. Soak the chickpeas overnight (8-10 hours), then boil them for 2 hours, or more depending on how firm you want them to be. Keep the lid off for firm chickpeas and leave it on for softer chickpeas if you are making hummus.
Don’t panic if you forgot the overnight soak. We’ve all bean there (see what I did there?). Place the chickpeas in pot and cover them with an inch or two of water. Bring them to a boil, then remove from the heat. Let them soak in the hot water for an hour. Drain, then cook the chickpeas in new water until they reach desired firmness.
Oh, and add a generous pinch of salt toward the end of cooking time. This keeps the chickpeas from remaining tough while cooking, yet still allows them to become seasoned.
How to Keep Cooked Spinach Green
Do you ever wonder why vegetables like spinach, green beans and peas turn a dark dull colour after cooking? During the first few moments of cooking, you’ll notice these vegetables turn a bright green. If you continue cooking the veggies past this point, they’ll turn a dull ‘olive green’ colour due to intercellular breakdown.
Once this happens, the veggies are overcooked. Further cooking makes the cell tissues break down further, resulting in a mushy mess.
There are many ways to cook spinach. However, if you want it to stay a vibrant green colour, I suggest blanching it in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Quickly drain the spinach into a colander then immediately place it in a bowl of ice water.
The ice water immediately stops the spinach from cooking and interrupts the cellular processes that cause the spinach to change colour. Once the spinach has been blanched, it is time to make the curry.
How to Make Chana Saag
There are four steps involved when making a great curry: tempering, sautéing, frying ground spices, and adding the ingredients. Each step adds layers of flavour to the final dish. The first step involves tempering whole spices like mustard seeds and cumin seeds, either with or without oil.
Let’s begin at the end. A tadka (or tarka) is a spice infused oil often drizzled over the finished curry. It adds yet another level of complexity to the final dish. To make the crispy curry leaf garnish and flavoured oil, add 2 tablespoons of ghee to a hot pan. Add 10-12 curry leaves and fry them until they are crispy and aromatic. Remove the leaves to a plate and pour the fragrant ghee in a small bowl.
To make the curry, temper the cumin seeds in the same pan. Once they become fragrant and start popping, add in the chopped onions. Add more oil if needed. Sauté the onions for a few minutes, then add in the garlic, ginger, green chilies, and remaining curry leaves. Season with salt.
Let the aromatics soften, then add the garam masala and sauté for another minute or two before adding the chopped tomato. Let the aromatic mixture cook until the tomato begins to release moisture, then place it in a blender with the coconut cream and process until it is smooth. Allow the mixture to cool slightly then add the blanched spinach and process until smooth.
Wipe out the pan and sauté the whole mushrooms over medium high heat. Flip them over after 4 minutes and cook another two minutes, until they start to release water. Add the chickpeas, then the sauce and allow it to come to serving temperature over medium heat. Serve Chana Saag with rice and naan bread.
If you make this Chana Saag with Mushrooms recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for my latest recipes. Also, if you do make this recipe, please tag me on Instagram, I’d love to see what you guys are making! Thank you so much for reading my blog.
- 2-3 Tablespoons Ghee
- 1 cup fresh curry leaves; divided
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 medium onion; diced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger; minced
- 2 Tablespoons garlic; minced
- 2-3 green chiles
- 1/2 Tablespoon Garam Masala
- 1 tomato; deseeded and diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups baby spinach
- 1 can (19 oz/540 ml) chickpeas; drained and rinsed
- 10 oz (300 ml) coconut cream
- 20-30 small cremini mushrooms
- Boil a large pot of water. Add the spinach and boil for 1-2 minutes until the spinach softens. Immediately drain through a strainer and plunge the spinach into a bowl of ice water. Allow to cool completely, then strain and set aside.
- Next, make the crispy curry leaf garnish and flavoured oil, add 2 tablespoons of ghee to a hot pan. Add 10-12 curry leaves and fry them until they are crispy and aromatic. Remove the leaves to a plate and pour the fragrant ghee in a small bowl.
- To make the curry, temper the cumin seeds in the same pan. Once they become fragrant and start popping, add in the onions. Add more oil if needed.
- Sauté the onions for a few minutes, then add in the garlic, ginger, green chilies, and remaining curry leaves. Season with salt.
- Let the aromatics soften, then add the garam masala and sauté for another minute or two before adding the chopped tomato.
- Cook the aromatic mixture until the tomato begins to release moisture, then place it in a blender with the coconut cream and process until it is smooth.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly then add the blanched spinach and process until smooth.
- Wipe out the pan and sauté the whole mushrooms over medium high heat. Flip them over after 4 minutes and cook another two minutes, until they start to release water.
- Add the chickpeas, then the sauce and allow it to come to serving temperature over medium heat.
- Serve with rice and naan bread.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 424Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 616mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 5gSugar: 13gProtein: 16g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.