I love Chana Saag! As some of you might know, I Iean more carnivore on the omnivore spectrum but I keep going back to this Chana Saag! It starts with delicious, healthy chickpeas (to learn more about chickpeas, head on over to my Spicy Crispy Chickpeas post). Super yummy spinach adds flavor and texture. Then I add something I never thought I would add to a dish: mustard greens! This Chana Saag is a hearty, weeknight meal that will satisfy the whole family.
What is Chana Saag?
Saag is a type of leafy vegetable dish most commonly eaten in Northern Indian and West Bengal. Typically it contains spinach and mustard greens. Chana is another name for chickpeas or garbanzo beans. Put them together and the name starts to become pretty obvious.
Types of Greens: Spinach and Mustard Greens
I personally prefer the taste of spinach to mustard greens. But you can use any variation of this mix that you would like. If you prefer mustard greens, you can remove some spinach and add more mustard greens. You could also substitute other leafy greens by using kale or collard greens. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even try this with broccoli.
I do try to eat healthy in my household. With that said, there is a bit of ghee or butter (depending on what you use) in this Chana Saag. I feel like it is justified by the amount of veggie that you will be consuming and the fact that this is a vegetarian dish. Also, butter is delicious (I’m of the Julia Child School of food bloggers.)
Should I use Ghee or Butter in My Chana Saag?
Normally within Indian cuisine you would use ghee. Ghee is just butter that has been cooked to remove all water and milk solids. If you don’t have ghee or don’t want to make ghee, butter is a great substitute. You should be able to find ghee in just about any supermarket these days. But if you would like to make your own, you can find a really easy recipe over on TwoSleevers.com.
Why Do I Add Baking Soda to the Onions?
Let’s go back to some middle school (high school, maybe?) chemistry class. Baking soda is a base (the opposite of an acid) on the pH scale. When you add it to acidic foods, it helps to neutralize some of their acid making it easier for the cell walls to break down. So, you add baking soda (a base) to an onion (an acid) and you neutralize the pH and make it break down faster. Rather than having to spend 30-45 minutes waiting for the onions to break down, it only takes 10-15 minutes.
I would not recommend this method for something like french onion soup. Because we are forcing the onions to break down faster than they would like, the texture will turn a bit mushy. Which is great for this application because the onions are strictly there for flavor. But when flavor and texture matter. I suggest the low and slow approach.
What to Serve with Chana Saag
Serve over white or brown rice with a side of Naan (or other flatbread).
- Blender or Immersion Blender
- 2 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter
- 2 medium yellow onions
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoon salt divided
- 4 garlic clove grated
- 2- inch piece ginger grated
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- 8 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 4 ounces frozen mustard greens
- 6 ounces water
- 16 ounces frozen spinach
- 15 ounces chickpeas drained and rinsed thoroughly
- ⅓ cup greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- In a large (4-quart) saucepan, heat ghee (or butter) over medium high heat until shimmery. Add in onions, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and caramelized, about 10-12 minutes. If onions look like they are going to start to burn, stir in 2 tablespoons of water. Continue cooking and adding water as needed.
- Once onions are cooked, add in garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, and turmeric and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and spices have bloomed, about 1 minute. Stir in crushed tomatoes, mustard greens, and 6 ounces water, bring to a simmer. Stir in spinach along with ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
- Using a blender or immersion blender (see note), blend the mixture until mostly smooth. Return mixture to pan and return to a simmer. Add in chickpeas and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until heated through. Stir in yogurt, garam masala, and lemon juice continue to cook until just heated through. Serve immediately with rice and naan.
- If using an immersion blender, remove pan from heat before you blend.
- If using a blender, do not fill it more than half way full. You may need to blend in multiple batches depending on the size of your blender.
- Place a towel over the lid of the blender to help prevent any chana from being pushed through when you start the blender.
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