Saag Chole - Chickpea in a creamy Spinach Gravy

When it comes to food, almost five years old Sid, is not too fussy. He has a wide palate and is always ready to experiment. I am grateful that he loves his fish, meats and veggies as much as he likes his cakes, muffins and chocolates. However, the one thing that I really struggle to feed him is Spinach or any leafy green for that matter. I often add baby spinach to my soups. He will have that soup, but will meticulously avoid any piece of spinach that's floating around, promptly spitting any stray leaves that lands in his mouth. The only way I can get any spinach into his system is sneaking them in his Paratha (pan fried flat bread) or making this Saag Chole.

The first time I had Saag Chole was at Brij Mohan Indian Sweets & Restaurant, Cincinnati's most famous Indian Vegetarian Restaurant. It was delicious. Sid polished off his portion with out a whimper. He even moped the last drops of the creamy spinach-y gravy with his Kulcha. I knew I hit a jackpot.

Sid digs on chickpeas. Its one of his favorite. He will even have chickpeas salad with me for lunch. Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and pita bread is one of our very frequent weekday lunch. So anything with chickpea in it will definitely catch his fancy. The main reason why he likes the Saag Chole is because the 'leaves' per say, are not visible. They are pureed in to smooth silky gravy. Of course, it had tons of cream in it. That's what restaurant quality food ought to have! 

Saag is any leafy green and Chole is chickpea. Usually, a combination of spinach and mustard green is used for Saag Chole. But I had used only spinach. For convenience, I used frozen spinach, but fresh spinach can most certainly be used. I have used dry chickpeas, soaked overnight but canned chickpeas can also be substituted. 

I feel cooking the onions, ginger, garlic and the spinach first and then pureeing them, uses far less oil than first pureeing everything first and then cooking them in oil. To get the restaurant style silky gravy, you need to finish off the gravy with a dollop of cream. I, however, simmered the gravy for good 20 minutes with cup of low fat milk and got the exact same result with just fraction of the calories. For the restaurant style aroma, I finished of the gravy with a fist full of crushed Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves, available at all Indian grocery store) and just a teensy bit of Ghee (clarified butter).

My entire family loves this Saag Chole. Its features at least twice a month in our dinner menu. 

Recipe Snapshot: Oven Roasted Tomato and Red Lentil Soup 

Serves: 4 serving
(1 serving = 3/4 cup)

What I used:
Frozen Chopped Spinach - 1 (10 oz) packet
Fresh Spinach - 1 bundle/ 1 lb/ 500 gms, roughly chopped

Chickpea/ Garbanzo Beans/ Kabuli Chana - 1 cup, dry
Canned Chickpea/ Garbanzo Bean - 2 (14.5 oz) cans.

Onion - 1, medium sized, roughly chopped
Ginger - 2" piece, roughly chopped

Garlic - 4-5 fat cloves, roughly chopped
Tomato - 2, medium sized, roughly chopped

Red Chili Powder or Paprika - 1 tsp 
Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Garam Masala - 1 tsp

Milk - 1 cup
Water - 1/2 cup

Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves) -2 tsp, crushed between the palms
Ghee - 1/2 tsp (optional)

Flavorless Cooking oil - 2-3 tbsp

What I did:

1. Soak the dry beans in ample water, overnight and pressure cook till tender (2 whistle on medium heat), drain and reserve. You can do it on stove top using a saucepan too. It will take around 1.5 hrs for the chickpeas to be tender. If using canned beans, drain and wash thoroughly and set aside.

2. In a wok or a pan heat, the oil on medium-high heat. Temper with roughly chopped onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes. Saute till the veggies look translucent and the raw smell is gone. Around 3-4 minutes.

3. Now add the frozen or fresh chopped spinach, salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and the garam masala. Lower the heat to Medium and fry till all the spinach and masalas are well cooked. The spinach would release water and would help to cook the spinach. Once its cooked (after around 7-8 minuses), increase the heat to Medium-High and let the excess water evaporate. Keep string continuously, to avid scorching at the bottom. 

4. Dump the spinach-onion-tomato mixture into a blender or food processor. Take the center piece off from the lid and cover the lid with a thick kitchen towel, to catch any spluttering. Puree the mixture into a thick homogeneous paste. If needed, add couple of tablespoon of water to help make the puree, but not too much. 

5. Return the puree to the same cooking pan. Add the cooked and drained chickpeas (or the drained canned ones), milk and water. Mix well and on medium heat, simmer the gravy for 20 minutes. This will ensure that the flavors enters the chickpeas and the simmering milk will add to the creaminess to the gravy. 

6. Check for seasoning and adjust the salt accordingly. Finish off with  crushed Kasoori Methi and a little ghee for that authentic restaurant taste.

7. Garnished with thin ginger julienne and serve hot with any Indian flat bread like roti, paratha, naan, kulcha and a simple salad of cucumber and onion, dressed with a little lemon juice. 

Notes/Tip: For variation, instead of cooked chickpea, sauteed mushroom or pan-fried  tofu can also be added. 

Diabetic Platter:
Spinach is a dark leafy green vegetable and one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet! Because it’s high in fiber and very low in calories, spinach can help you manage type 2 diabetes and is a terrific addition to any weight loss plan. It's also packed with nutrients — it's a good source of antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which help maintain healthy eyes, hair, and skin. Spinach contains very high amounts of potassium and vitamin K, two nutrients that may help preserve bone health. The iron and B vitamins in spinach help maintain strong, healthy hair and a healthy circulatory system. 

Chickpeas are a low-glycemic food packed with soluble fiber, which helps to regulate blood sugar and provide long-lasting energy. Chickpeas are high in zinc. Besides zinc, Chickpeas  contain migraine-fighting magnesium, vitamin B6, and they’re exceptionally high in folate. Since Chickpeas are a good nondairy source of calcium, they can help maintain strong bones and fight PMS symptoms. They’re also rich in quercetin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that helps prevent and manage arthritis and guard against memory loss. 



  1. I Tried this! And as a beginner , it was one of my first successes! Thanks a ton :)

    1. Oh!!! I'm so glad that you liked it. Thank you for your kind feedback.


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