Palak Chana
Palak Chana
5 from 21 votes
Whip up a heart-warming pot of palak chana, a classic Indian dish that combines the nutritious goodness of spinach and lentils. This nourishing meal, deeply rooted in Indian culinary tradition, can bring a bit of exotic flavour into your kitchen. 
Palak Chana

If there’s a dish that feels like a warm, comforting hug from the inside, it’s Palak Chana. The first time I prepared this dish, I was amazed at the harmonious blend of flavours that brought life to the most humble ingredients. So, where does this delicious recipe come from, you ask? 

Palak Chana has its roots in the heart of India. It’s one of those dishes that’s stood the test of time, handed down from generation to generation, steeped in history, and rich with the flavours of tradition.  

As I prepare this dish, I can almost feel the age-old wisdom of Indian kitchens guiding my every stir and pinch of spice. 

To many, the thought of making an authentic Indian dish might seem daunting. But here’s the good news: Palak Chana is not just tasty, it’s also incredibly simple to make!  

The skill level required is perfect for both a seasoned cook and a novice in the kitchen. You needn’t be an Indian grandma to churn out a pot of this goodness! 

Now, while the recipe is straightforward, the complexity lies in the dance of spices. Indian cooking is all about balance and depth of flavour. But don’t worry, with each pot of Palak Chana you cook, you’ll find yourself getting better at the rhythm of this culinary dance. 

That said, it’s essential to remember that cooking is more of an art than an exact science. The beauty of Palak Chana, or any recipe for that matter, lies in its flexibility.  

Feel free to tweak it to your palate’s preferences. After all, the best dishes are those that are made with a pinch of love and a spoonful of creativity! 

Through the years, I’ve had my share of experimenting in the kitchen. I’ve tried countless dishes from different cuisines, yet, every time I find myself yearning for something comforting, I go back to this homely Palak Chana.  

It’s a testament to how food, regardless of its simplicity, can hold a special place in our hearts. 

I look forward to sharing this special recipe with you. As you cook your way through Palak Chana, remember that every dish tells a story.  

And in the process of cooking, you’re not just preparing a meal, but also creating a narrative of your own in the great anthology of food history. Isn’t that something truly magical? Now, let’s get those pots simmering! 

What Ingredients to Use & Why 

When you’re cooking Palak Chana, you’re not just combining ingredients; you’re orchestrating a symphony of flavours, each with a unique role in creating a harmonious dish. Here’s how each player contributes to this grand composition: 

Spinach (Palak): Spinach is the backbone of this dish, giving it a vibrant colour and a boost of nutrients. Its mildly bitter flavour profile works well with the spices, and its texture adds a comforting thickness to the dish. Don’t have spinach? Try using other leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard. 

Lentils (Chana Dal): These tiny legumes are protein powerhouses, providing substance and heartiness to the dish. They also act as sponges, soaking up the flavours of the spices. If you’re out of lentils, other legumes like split peas or chickpeas can be used instead. 

Oil: This is the medium that brings all the flavours together. It carries the aroma of the spices and helps in their even distribution throughout the dish. You can switch it up with ghee or coconut oil for a different flavour profile. 

Onion: Onions lend a sweetness to balance the bitterness of the spinach and the heat of the spices. They also provide a nice crunch that contrasts the creaminess of the lentils. Shallots or leeks could be a suitable alternative. 

Garlic Cloves: Garlic adds a punch of flavour that is both subtle and profound. It gives the dish a depth of taste that makes Palak Chana utterly comforting. No garlic? Try a dash of asafoetida (hing). 

Cumin Seeds (Jeera): Cumin seeds bring a warm and earthy flavour. They also aid digestion, making this hearty dish even more comforting. You can replace cumin with caraway seeds if needed. 

Tomatoes: Tomatoes add acidity and freshness to the dish, cutting through the richness and balancing the flavours. Canned tomatoes or a splash of lemon juice can be a good substitute. 

Salt: Salt enhances all the other flavours, making them shine. It’s a balancing agent that brings everything together in perfect harmony. 

Turmeric Powder (Haldi): This golden spice gives Palak Chana its beautiful colour and a warm, peppery flavour. It’s also known for its health benefits. If you can’t find turmeric, a bit of mustard powder could work. 

Chilli Powder: This ingredient adds a kick of heat, exciting your palate and adding depth to the flavour profile. Paprika could be a milder alternative. 

Green Chillies: These add a different kind of heat compared to chilli powder – a fresh, bright heat. They also bring a burst of colour. You could use jalapenos or serrano peppers instead. 

These ingredients work in harmony to create a beautiful, flavourful, and comforting dish that’s not just food, but a whole experience. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the quantities or make substitutions – the best chefs are those who play with their food! 

The Origin Story of Palak Chana 

The rich tapestry of Indian cuisine offers a myriad of dishes, each with its unique flavour profiles and stories.  

One such dish is Palak Chana, a humble yet robust combination of spinach and lentils that has warmed the hearts and bellies of Indian households for generations. Its history, like the flavours within, is multi-layered and deep-rooted. 

The tale of Palak Chana begins in the Indian subcontinent, where legumes and leafy greens are staple foods.  

For centuries, farmers across the country have cultivated lentils and spinach, which made them readily available and affordable for every household. This accessibility led to the creation of numerous dishes featuring these ingredients, one of which is our beloved Palak Chana. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of Palak Chana due to its widespread popularity across India. However, the style of cooking hints towards a North Indian origin.  

North Indian cuisine is known for its hearty dals (lentil dishes) and the generous use of ghee and aromatic spices – elements that are all present in Palak Chana. 

This dish was traditionally prepared using a heavy-bottomed clay pot or ‘handi’, simmered for hours over a slow fire. This slow-cooking method allowed the flavours to fully develop, making the Palak Chana a deeply flavourful and satisfying meal. 

Over time, as Indian cuisine crossed borders, Palak Chana found its place in the kitchens of the Indian diaspora around the world. It has been embraced and adapted by different cultures, each adding their unique twist to it.  

Despite these variations, the soul of Palak Chana remains the same – a simple, nutritious, and comforting dish that connects us to a culture rich in history and flavour. 

Cooking Palak Chana Without Lentils – A Different Take 

If you’re a fan of Palak Chana like me, you’ll agree that one of its key features is the comforting creaminess lentils bring to the table. But what if I told you that there’s a way to enjoy this flavourful dish, sans lentils? It may sound like heresy to purists, but in the adventurous world of cooking, there are no hard rules! 

Instead of lentils, we can use chickpeas or ‘chana’ to make a variant of the dish, known as Palak Chana or spinach chickpea curry. Chickpeas bring a different texture and flavour profile to the dish. They are firm, buttery, and nutty, complementing the soft, slightly bitter spinach perfectly. 

The preparation method remains similar, but we need to ensure that the chickpeas are well-cooked before adding them to the spinach. Canned chickpeas are a great time-saver, but if you’re using dried chickpeas, remember to soak them overnight and cook them until they’re soft. 

And what about the proteins, you might ask. Well, chickpeas are also an excellent source of protein and fibre, making them a suitable replacement for lentils. So you still get the same nutritious punch, with a twist in taste and texture! 

Another advantage of using chickpeas is that they’re quite substantial, making the dish satisfying enough to serve as a main course. Pair it with some naan or rice, and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal. 

While lentils are integral to the traditional Palak Chana, it’s possible to explore other options. After all, the beauty of cooking lies in its flexibility. So go ahead, try this alternative version and discover a whole new way to enjoy Palak Chana! 

Exploring Alternatives for Spinach in Palak Chana 

Spinach, with its delicate bitterness and rich green hue, undoubtedly gives Palak Chana its distinct identity. However, as an ardent culinary explorer, I’m all about venturing beyond the traditional and experimenting with the unfamiliar.  

So, let’s dive into a universe where we substitute spinach in our beloved Palak Chana. 

The key to finding a good alternative to spinach lies in understanding its role in the recipe. Spinach offers a robust texture and earthy undertone, balancing the spices and lentils beautifully. Now, which greens can step up to the challenge? 

Let’s consider kale. This leafy green is known for its slightly peppery and bitter notes, quite like spinach. It holds up well under heat, giving the dish a hearty texture. Plus, kale is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins and antioxidants. 

Swiss chard could be another excellent candidate. Its flavour profile is very similar to spinach, albeit a bit sweeter. Moreover, its vibrant red stems would add a dash of colour to the dish. 

But what if we’re in the mood for something more piquant? Mustard greens, with their unique peppery kick, can give your Palak Chana a whole new personality. They’re not as mild as spinach, but if you’re one for bold flavours, you’d certainly appreciate the change. 

In conclusion, while spinach is the star of the traditional Palak Chana, these alternatives each bring their unique character to the dish. So next time you’re feeling adventurous, switch the greens and embark on a new culinary journey! 

The Health Benefits of Palak Chana – A Nutritional Powerhouse 

Palak Chana isn’t just a delightful blend of flavours; it’s also a trove of health benefits. Allow me to take you through the nutritional highlights of this wholesome dish. 

Let’s begin with spinach, the vibrant green that lends its name to the recipe. Spinach is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like iron and calcium. It’s also packed with dietary fibre, which aids digestion.  

Together, these nutrients boost our immunity, strengthen our bones, and promote a healthy gut. 

Then we have the lentils, little legumes teeming with protein, fibre, and a variety of minerals. Their high protein content makes Palak Chana a favourite among vegetarians and vegans. Furthermore, the fibre in lentils helps regulate blood sugar levels, making this dish a healthy choice for people with diabetes. 

The spices used in Palak Chana, such as turmeric and cumin, also carry their share of benefits. Turmeric is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to the compound curcumin. Cumin, on the other hand, aids digestion and may help with weight loss. 

The magic of Palak Chana lies in the synergy of these ingredients. Together, they create a dish that is both delicious and nutrient-dense. It’s a testament to the fact that good taste and good health can coexist beautifully.  

So, the next time you’re enjoying a bowl of Palak Chana, remember: you’re not just satiating your taste buds, but also nourishing your body! 

Safely Storing Your Palak Chana and Its Shelf Life 

I can vouch for the importance of food storage, both for preserving flavours and for maintaining food safety. When it comes to our beloved Palak Chana, proper storage can ensure that we can enjoy this dish for days to come. 

As soon as the Palak Chana cools to room temperature, I recommend transferring it into an airtight container. This not only prevents any airborne contaminants from spoiling the food but also locks in the flavours. 

The question then arises, how long does it stay fresh? In my experience, when stored in the refrigerator, Palak Chana can stay good for about 3-4 days. However, always trust your senses – if it smells or looks off, it’s safer to discard it. 

What if we need to store it for a longer period? Well, that’s where freezing comes in. Yes, Palak Chana can be frozen for up to two months! Just ensure to thaw it properly in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Reheating should be done carefully too. A microwave can do the job efficiently, but if you’re reheating on the stove, ensure it reaches a simmer. This ensures any potential bacteria are eliminated, keeping your Palak Chana safe and delicious! 

Pairing Your Palak Chana For a Complete Meal 

Nothing warms my heart more than a well-rounded meal. As a stand-alone dish, Palak Chana is flavourful and satisfying, but when paired with the right sides, it transforms into a feast fit for kings! 

Traditionally, Palak Chana is enjoyed with Indian bread such as roti or naan. The soft, warm bread scooping up the vibrant green curry is a sensory delight, the humble yet comforting flavours making each bite a joy. 

If you’re a fan of rice like me, try serving Palak Chana with a side of basmati rice. The fluffy, fragrant grains of rice soaking up the robust gravy creates a contrast that is simply irresistible. 

For an added layer of complexity, consider pairing Palak Chana with tangy raita. This yoghurt-based side dish cools the palate, balancing the spices in the Palak Chana.  

My favourite is cucumber raita, but the beauty of raita lies in its versatility. You could toss in any fresh vegetable, or even fruit for a sweet surprise! 

Finally, don’t forget the pickle or ‘achaar’. This tangy, spicy condiment is a staple in Indian meals and can add an exciting dimension to your Palak Chana experience. 

So there you have it, a few ways to transform your Palak Chana meal into a symphony of flavours and textures. Go ahead and experiment with these pairings, and who knows, you might discover a combination that tickles your taste buds like never before! 

Demystifying the Spices in Palak Chana 

I love spices! Their fragrant allure, their transformative power, and their role as the soul of a dish, especially in the case of our vibrant Palak Chana. So, come, take a journey with me as I break down the magical spices that elevate this humble dish. 

First up is cumin. Its warm, earthy aroma plays a crucial role in defining the base flavour of Palak Chana. The beautiful thing about cumin is its dual nature – it lends a robust undertone when added at the beginning and a crunchy, nutty delight when sprinkled at the end. 

Then we have turmeric, the golden spice. Apart from the warm, peppery taste, it imparts a beautiful yellow hue to our dish. Plus, it’s a powerful antioxidant and adds a layer of healthfulness to our meals. 

Chilli powder is up next. It’s our control dial for the dish’s heat, so it’s all about personal preference here. For me, the thrill lies in the balance – enough to add a spark but not overpowering. 

Let’s not forget the green chillies! Their bright, fiery kick contrasts beautifully with the mellow lentils and earthy spinach, ensuring our palate never tires of the flavours. 

In conclusion, while the spices in Palak Chana are few, their impact is profound. Each one of them brings a unique characteristic to the dish, creating a harmony that is at the heart of Indian cuisine.  

So, next time you’re cooking Palak Chana, pay homage to these silent heroes that make our dish the flavourful delight that it is! 

The Versatility of Palak Chana – A Dish for All Diets 

Being an ardent foodie, I have always been fascinated by the inclusivity of food. Our delightful Palak Chana is a testament to this sentiment, with its compatibility with various diets. Allow me to share my insights on this. 

For vegetarians and vegans, Palak Chana is a treasure trove. With the protein from lentils and the vitamins from spinach, it makes for a balanced, nutritious meal that doesn’t compromise on taste. 

For those following a gluten-free diet, Palak Chana fits right in. Its ingredients are naturally gluten-free, making it a safe and delicious option. Pair it with gluten-free bread or rice, and you’re good to go! 

The low-fat content and high fibre of Palak Chana also make it suitable for those keeping an eye on their calorie intake. It’s hearty, filling, and offers a guilt-free culinary experience. 

For those practising Ayurveda, Palak Chana aligns well with the principles of a balanced meal. The warming spices, the cooling spinach, and the grounding lentils create a harmonious interplay of the elements. 

In essence, Palak Chana is more than just a tasty dish. It’s an affirmation of the universality of food, its ability to adapt and fit into various lifestyles and dietary preferences. It truly is a dish for all! 

Navigating the Canned vs. Fresh Tomatoes Debate in Palak Chana 

Ah, the age-old question of canned versus fresh ingredients. It’s a debate I find myself caught up in every so often. When it comes to tomatoes in our wonderful Palak Chana, I have a few thoughts to share. 

Fresh tomatoes, as we know, bring a wonderful sweetness and vibrant colour to our dish. Their juicy freshness adds a unique touch, making Palak Chana even more delightful. However, I understand that sometimes, fresh tomatoes might not be within arm’s reach. 

Enter canned tomatoes. They’re convenient, have a longer shelf life, and can come in handy when you’re in a pinch. But, can they match up to fresh ones in our Palak Chana? I’d say, yes, they can! 

Canned tomatoes have a concentrated flavour that adds robustness to our dish. The trick, I’ve found, is to cook them a little longer to tame their tartness and bring out the underlying sweetness. You can also balance the acidity with a pinch of sugar if needed. 

So, my take on this? If fresh tomatoes are readily available, by all means, use them! But, if you have canned ones, don’t shy away. Just a few tweaks, and you can have a delightful Palak Chana with canned tomatoes that rival the ones made with fresh ones! 

Unearthing the Art of Cooking Lentils for Palak Chana 

Lentils, or Chana Dal, play a pivotal role in our Palak Chana, lending their hearty texture and subtle flavour. But, the key to making the most out of these humble legumes lies in cooking them right. 

One crucial aspect is soaking the lentils. While you can cook lentils without soaking, I find that it significantly cuts down the cooking time and results in evenly cooked lentils. An overnight soak is ideal, but even a couple of hours can make a difference. 

Next comes the cooking process. It’s important to remember that lentils should be simmered, not boiled. A gentle simmer ensures the lentils cook slowly and evenly without becoming mushy. 

The consistency of the cooked lentils is another factor. For Palak Chana, we’re not looking for completely mashed lentils, but ones that hold their shape yet are tender to bite. Achieving this balance might take a few tries, but it’s worth the effort. 

Finally, don’t forget to season the lentils while they’re cooking. It’s a small step, but it makes a world of difference. A pinch of salt, turmeric, and maybe a bay leaf or two can infuse your lentils with flavour. 

So there you have it, the nuances of cooking lentils for Palak Chana, mastered! Remember, the beauty of cooking lies in understanding and respecting each ingredient. With these tips, I hope your journey with lentils and Palak Chana is as exciting as mine. 

Check Out These Other Recipes 

After indulging in the rich, creamy goodness of Palak Chana, I can’t help but recommend you try some of these delectable dishes that will transport you to the vibrant streets of India. Just like our original recipe, these are a harmony of Indian flavours and heart-warming ingredients. 

The first dish I urge you to try is Chicken Palak. It’s my take on a timeless classic, combining tender chicken and fresh spinach in a lush, aromatic curry. It will surely remind you of the Palak Chana, but with a meaty twist. 

Next up is Chicken Chana. A dynamic fusion of chickpeas and chicken bathed in a tangy, spice-infused gravy that will remind you of the authentic taste of Indian street food. It’s the kind of dish that leaves a lingering taste, making you yearn for more. 

I am also excited for you to try Palak Gosht. It’s a dish that blends the earthy flavours of spinach with succulent mutton, all simmered together in a medley of exotic spices. If you’re looking to explore beyond chickpeas, this is an excellent alternative. 

Our Aloo Palak is another must-try! A delightful blend of spinach and potatoes, it’s a vegetarian treat that oozes comfort and tastes incredibly satisfying, just like our Palak Chana. 

And finally, if you’re a fan of fusion, the Potato and Spinach curry is a star on its own. This is a simple and hearty dish that brings together potatoes and spinach in a deliciously spiced curry, adding a twist to the flavours you already loved in Palak Chana. 

I can’t wait for you to try these out! Don’t forget to let me know how they turn out and any variations you might’ve tried. I’m always eager to hear your thoughts. 

Palak Chana

Palak Chana

by Nabeela Kauser
Whip up a heart-warming pot of palak chana, a classic Indian dish that combines the nutritious goodness of spinach and lentils. This nourishing meal, deeply rooted in Indian culinary tradition, can bring a bit of exotic flavour into your kitchen. 
5 from 21 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6
Calories 233 kcal

Ingredients

  • 500 g Spinach Palak
  • 200 g Lentils Chana Dal
  • 50 ml Oil
  • 1 Onions
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 tsp Cumin Seeds Jeera
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder Haldi
  • 1 tsp Chilli Powder
  • 2 Green Chillies
  • 200 ml Water

Instructions

  • Heat up the oil on medium heat in a pan then add the finely diced onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned
  • Add the cumin seeds and finely chopped garlic cloves then cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant
  • Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes
  • As the onions are cooking dice the tomatoes then add into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened
  • Add the salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder, and green chillies then cook the spices for 3-4 minutes
  • As the spices are cooking thoroughly wash the split Bengal gram lentils before adding into the pan and cooking for 5 minutes
  • Add the water then cook for a further 10 minutes
  • As the lentils are cooking wash and finely chop the spinach before adding into the pan and covering then cook for 6-8 minutes
  • Remove the lid and give the curry a mix before reducing the heat to low and covering again then cook for 15 minutes
  • Serve immediately with a side of chapatti and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done so merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.

Nutrition

Calories: 233kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 12gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.03gSodium: 517mgPotassium: 942mgFibre: 14gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 8277IUVitamin C: 34mgCalcium: 122mgIron: 6mg
Keyword Cooking, Curry, Food, Lentils, Recipe, Spinach, Vegan, Vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!
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evelyn
evelyn
1 year ago

5 stars
thank you for the recipe!
the flavour was delicious.
my channa dal was not soft but a bit crunchy is that right?

Cook with Nabeela

Hi, I'm Nabeela!

I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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