Chickpeas and spinach is a healthy, easy vegetarian dinner. It's made with just a few ingredients in less than 30 minutes.
To make this simple dinner, canned chickpeas and baby spinach are simmered in a flavorful tomato-based sauce flavored with garlic, cumin and lemon. Served over brown rice, it's a delicious vegetarian meal.
This recipe is inspired by Martha Rose Shulman's delicious Chickpeas with Baby Spinach. I make a simplified version that doesn't require chopping an onion or toasting cumin seeds.
(Yes, chickpeas and garbanzos are the same thing!)
Chickpeas: I always keep canned chickpeas in my pantry, for salad and soups and recipes like this one. You can, however, make a batch of dried garbanzo beans before you start this recipe.
Tomato paste: The tomato paste is a key ingredient and can't be skipped or substituted with another tomato product. Tomato paste has a concentrated tomato flavor and when simmered with water it creates a thick, surprisingly flavorful sauce that coats the soft and creamy chickpeas.
Spinach: A bag of baby spinach is your best friend! Pre-washed and easy to toss into recipes, a few handfuls of baby spinach adds instant color. If you want smaller pieces of spinach in the finished dish, then use a knife to roughly chop the baby spinach leaves before adding them.
Cumin: This spice adds needed to flavor to a simple recipe, but if you really don't like cumin you can substitute other spices. Try curry powder, coriander or smoked paprika instead.
Garlic: The more the better!
Lemon: A squeeze of fresh lemon is more of a finishing touch than a main ingredient. It brightens up the flavor, but is optional.
Step 1: Saute olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, cumin and salt for 2 minutes.
Step 2: Whisk in water.
Step 3: Add canned chickpeas.
Step 4: Simmer until a sauce thickens & coats the chickpeas, about 15 minutes.
Step 5: Add baby spinach. Simmer a few minutes more to wilt the spinach.
Step 6: Season with sea salt and lemon.
What to Serve with Chickpeas and Spinach
This dish is light but high in protein and can easily be turned into a full meal. Serve the chickpeas and spinach with:
- Brown or white rice
- Whole grains, like barley or farro
- Orzo (pasta)
- Polenta, either creamy oven-baked or a sliced tube of polenta
- Pita bread, or slices of toasted garlic bread (mash the garbanzos on top)
- Yogurt flatbread
- Use white beans instead of chickpeas
- Use frozen spinach or kale (add at the same time as the canned chickpeas, instead of at the end)
- Add chopped onion or ginger
- Add fresh herbs, like cilantro, parsley or mint
- Add coconut milk in place of some of the water
- Add a teaspoon or two of curry powder
Chickpeas are a good source of vegetarian protein. They are high in fiber, folate, iron.
Yes! They are the same thing. You can call them either chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
Yes, chickpeas are gluten-free. They are not a grain. Chickpeas are legumes (a member of the pea family).
How to Store Tomato Paste
For a long time, tomato paste and I were frenemies. I love its intense tomato flavor, but the leftover paste in the can, after I scooped out the tablespoon I needed....that drove me crazy.
These days, I almost always buy a tube of tomato paste instead of a can. Tubes of tomato paste are a convenient short-cut for any busy parent trying to get dinner on the table.
A tube of refrigerated tomato paste should stay fresh for months, so you can use a tablespoon here or there as needed.
If you do end up with an open can of tomato paste, you can scoop tablespoons of the paste onto wax paper and freeze until solid. Put the frozen tablespoons of tomato paste in a freezer bag, and grab one or two as needed. Frozen tomato paste can go directly into a hot skillet with oil.
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Chickpeas and Spinach Recipe
A healthy vegetarian meal and easy dinner. Canned chickpeas and baby spinach are simmered in a flavorful tomato-based sauce flavored with garlic, cumin and lemon. Serve over brown or white rice, a grain like farro, or with warm pita bread.
This recipe is adapted from Martha Rose Shulman's Chickpeas with Baby Spinach in the New York Times.
This recipe was updated in March 2023
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 25
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Vegetarian
- Method: Saute
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 2 cups water
- Two 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained
- Several big handfuls of baby spinach
- Squeeze of lemon
- Warm the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin and salt and cook for no more than 2 minutes, stirring almost constantly. You want the garlic and tomato paste to be lightly cooked without browning or sticking to the pan.
- Add water, and stir or whisk to blend the water and tomato paste until smooth.
- Add the chickpeas. Bring to a simmer.
- Cover and simmer gently for about 15 minutes over medium or medium low. Lift the lid and stir a few times while it cooks.
- Remove the lid. Continue to simmer if necessary, so the sauce thickens and no longer looks watery. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the chickpeas, with a little bit of sauce remaining loose in the skillet.
- Add several handfuls of spinach - how much you want to add is completely up to you. Cook another 3 minutes or so, stirring to wilt the spinach as much as you like.
- Finish with a generous squeeze of lemon and sea salt as needed.
Keywords: chickpeas, chickpeas and spinach,