Chana saad is a classic vegetarian Indian dish including chickpeas, tomatoes and spinach stewed in aromatic coconut milk-based sauce. This simple and easy recipe is prepared in under 40 minutes!
We all have those hard life lessons we need to learn time and again regardless of how many mental sticky notes we make to not pull an accidental (or worse: intentional) mulligan on said mistake. For instance: overdoing it on the sugar or cocktails (a timeless classic that’s nearly impossible to remember during holiday season), gracefully walking away from things (or people) not meant for us, waiting for pizza to cool before experiencing the otherworldly sensation of molten lava cheese greeting the roof of our mouths.
…And then there are the helpful life lessons you only need to learn once in order to have them really stick, like remembering to triple check your yoga towel lest you roll it out on top of your mat at the beginning of Bikram class to discover a pair of your unmentionables stuck to the microfiber (not that I did this last week…totally did this last week), dropping your sunglasses off of a three-story balcony, discovering and incorporating the magic of the 30-minute meal phenomena into your weekly regimen.
All this to say, embracing healthy, easy food preparation is a beautiful life skill you only need to learn once in order to minimize stress, and maximize nutrition, become a superstar at life.
One of my favorite classic vegetarian Indian meals is Chana Saag – a dish of chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and spinach stewed in an aromatic coconut sauce. While the authentic way of preparing the dish requires toasting and grinding your own spices and slow cooking the sauce over hours, the dish can be made easily in 30 minutes or less when under a time crunch. If you’re not pressed for time, cooking this dish at a low simmer for an additional 10 to 30-ish minutes will yield a more flavorful result. You can also prepare this dish up to 3 days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator to bring out the flavors as well.
SO! In order to get the chana saag show on the road, here’s what we do:
Cook the potato and onion together in a skillet until the veggies are al dente. During this cooking process, simply blend the spices (curry powder, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes, sea salt) with coconut milk to make a sauce. Use this sauce for stewing the chickpeas, potato, diced tomato, and spinach. Also while the potato cooks, you can prepare your serving grain. I enjoy eating Chana Saag with white basmati rice, but you can serve it with any type of rice or quinoa – just note that brown rice will take longer to steam.
You can make this dish with or without potato. Leaving the potato out will shorten the cook time by about 10 minutes, and will also yield a lower carb meal if that’s your jam. While I used jewel yam (white sweet potato) for the recipe, you can use a Yukon gold, red, or russet potato. Or, if you’re feeling frisky and want to give the recipe a nutrient boost, you can use a regular orange yam. For those who are looking for a little animal protein, you can add chopped chicken or pork to this dish by adding it in the skillet once the potato has been cooking for about 5 minutes. From there, proceed as outlined in the recipe.
Chana Saag…one of life’s beautiful lessons.
Easy 30-Minute Chana Saag
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion diced
- 1 small jewel yam cubed, or Yukon gold potato
- 3 cloves large garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 ounce can diced tomatoes drained 14-, un-salted recommended
- 1 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed, 14-
- 4 cups baby spinach loosely packed
- Cooked rice for serving
Heat the coconut oil over medium-high in a medium-sized non-stick skillet. Add the onion and chopped yam and cook, stirring occasionally, until potato is cooked through but still al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes (Note: you can cover the skillet to help steam and cook the potato if necessary).
While the potato and onion is cooking, combine the coconut milk, curry powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and turmeric in a small blender. Blend until completely smooth and set aside.
Add the garlic and ginger to the skillet with the potato and onion and cook another 2 minutes.
Add the diced tomatoes and cook until any excess water has evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk mixture and chickpeas to the skillet and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and add the spinach. Cover and cook until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Taste the chana saag for flavor and season with additional sea salt and/or spices.
Serve Chana Saag with cooked white rice (or grain of choice). Note: if you're not in a rush, cook the chana saag at a low simmer for an additional 10 minutes.