This creamy, saucy Coconut Chickpea Curry is the kind of quick and easy weeknight meal that's cozy without being heavy, meatless without being boring, and beautiful without being pretentious.
We had one of our cousins and our oldest daughter with us for a few days last week. They are both delightful 20-somethings with hearts full of compassion, heads full of insight, a healthy sense of adventure, and a desire to live with meaning and purpose. Having them here made me feel hopeful about the world.
In preparation for the visit I pre-cooked a big bag of chickpeas to make into hummus and soup and had some left over that I added to a coconut curry sauce along with some potatoes and spinach. It was so good I made it again this week and here we are with a new favorite weeknight meal that just happens to be vegan. 🙌
Ingredients needed to prepare this recipe
- Shredded coconut. This curry is served topped with a handful of toasted shredded coconut. I like to use sweetened shredded coconut because I like the flavor contrast of the sweet coconut with the savory curry, but if unsweetened coconut is your preference, please use that.
- Tomato paste, curry powder, and red pepper flakes. I used Simply Organics Spicy Curry Powder because I like my curry with a bit of heat, but use whatever brand you like. I also highly recommend using tomato paste in a tube rather canned tomato paste. Tubes of tomato paste last for weeks in the refrigerator and allow you to use only what you need when you need it. The amount of red pepper flakes you add is entirely up to you. Make it spicy or keep it mild!
- Fresh basil.
- Soy sauce and sugar. Soy sauce adds umami to the curry sauce but also adds sodium. Be sure to taste the sauce as you add additional salt to unsure the sauce does not get overly salty. Just 1 teaspoon of sugar helps to balance out all the other flavors in the sauce without making it sweet.
- Peanuts. Roasted, salted peanuts add a delicious nutty crunch to bowls of curry but can easily be replaced with any other kind of nut or left out entirely if you prefer.
- Coconut Milk. I like to use full-fat canned coconut in this recipe. See below for a comparison of canned coconut milk vs the kind sold in cartons.
- Yellow onion, red bell pepper, and garlic add flavor and texture to the curry sauce.
- Chickpeas. Use either canned chickpeas or dried chickpeas that have been cooked. Cooking dried chickpeas is really easy - see "how-to cook dried chickpeas" below for instructions.
- Vegetable oil, canola oil, coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil.
- Yellow potatoes. The buttery, creamy texture of yellow potatoes (Yukon gold potatoes) is the perfect addition to the rich coconut curry sauce.
- Spinach. Feel free to use either fresh or frozen spinach in this recipe. If using frozen, there's no need to thaw before adding it to the curry.
Pro tip! What kind of coconut milk is best in this recipe?
For a thick, rich, and flavorful coconut curry sauce, use full-fat canned coconut milk in this recipe. The big difference between canned coconut milk and refrigerated cartons of coconut milk is the amount of water contained in each.
The cartons of coconut milk sold in the refrigerated dairy section of most supermarkets has a lot more water than the kind found in cans. It's perfect for smoothies or to pour over your morning bowl of cereal, but not usually the best option for cooking.
The exception is the cartons of Thai Kitchen coconut milk that are often sold right next to the canned varieties.
Additions and substitutions
This is one of those easy-going recipes that can be adapted in an endless variety of ways. Here are just a few suggestions.
- Swap our the yellow potatoes for sweet potatoes for a super delicious coconut sweet potato curry!
- Add any other veggies you like. My preference for adding most veggies is to roast or sauté them at very high heat until they are charred in many places and fork tender then add them to the curry right before serving. This method concentrates their flavor and gives you more control over their consistency. For softer veggies, cook them longer. For crisp-tender, cook them less.
- Change up the spices. Instead of curry powder, use a mix of cardamom, cumin, coriander, cloves, ground mustard, smoked paprika, cinnamon, and ginger. Or, swap out the curry powder for Baharat seasoning or Ras el Hanout.
- Make some crispy chickpeas as a curry topping! Making crispy chickpeas is super easy and adds an additional crispy layer of chickpea flavor to this curry. To make them, heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Spread the chickpeas out on a paper towel and dab at them a bit just to absorb any excess liquid. Dump them into a baking dish or pie plate, drizzle a tablespoon or so of olive oil over them, sprinkle them with a bit of salt and toss them around to mix. Pop them in the oven to crisp.
- Additional curry toppings: any kind of chutney, chopped fresh cilantro, banana chips, chopped green onions, peas, chopped dried fruit, chilies - chopped or pickled, crispy fried onions or quick pickled onions.
Step-by-step photos and instructions
Peel the potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces. Add them to a saucepan, fill with enough water to cover by a couple of inches, add enough to make the water taste salty. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced with a fork, but still several minutes underdone. Drain them in a colander in the sink and run some cold water over them so they don't continue to cook.
Add the shredded coconut to a skillet and set it over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until about half the coconut is golden brown. If you try and cook it until all the strands of coconut are toasted, some of them will begin to burn.
Scrape the toasted coconut onto a plate or bowl and set aside.
Add the oil and chopped onion to a 12-inch skillet or larger. Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and just barely beginning to darken in color.
Add the chopped red bell pepper and garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Add the tomato paste, curry powder and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.
Add the coconut milk, ½ cup water, soy sauce, sugar, and salt. Bring the sauce to a simmer.
Add the potatoes and chickpeas to the sauce, stirring them around to coat.
Add the spinach. If using frozen spinach, add it all at once. If using fresh spinach, you'll need to add it in stages.
Add as much as will fit in the pan, cover, and let it simmer for a couple of minutes so the heat begins to wilt the leaves. Remove the lid and stir to encourage the wilting process, then add more. Continue until all the spinach has been added.
Cook until all the spinach is wilted and the potatoes are tender.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped basil. Serve with the toasted coconut and roasted, salted peanuts.
How to cook dried chickpeas
Cooking dried chickpeas is super easy and, I think, yields better flavor and texture. Here's what to do:
- Pour the dried chickpeas into a large bowl and add enough water to cover them by several inches. As the chickpeas soak, they will absorb a lot of the water, so it's important to use plenty! Leave them out on the countertop to soak for at least 12 hours and up to 24. If you're not ready to cook the chickpeas, drain them, place them in an airtight container, and store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Drain the chickpeas and add them to a large saucepan. Add enough wter to cover the chickpeas by a couple of inches. Sprinkle in about a teaspoon of salt and about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Bring the water to a simmer and cook, stirring every once in a while, until the chickpeas are tender. This will take about 30 minutes, but be patient if it's taking longer. Older chickpeas take longer to cook and if it's almost impossible to know how old the bags of dried chickpeas in supermarkets are.
That's it! Cooked chickpeas will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. I like to store them in a bit of water, which helps keep them fresh for longer. You can also freeze them. I like to freeze them in 1 cup portions so I can pull out as many as I need when I need them.
By the way, this basic process is how to cook any kind of dried legumes, but dried beans take much longer to cook than chickpeas or lentils. Because if their longer cooking time, I prefer to cook most dried beans in the slow cooker or instant pot. Here are two guides for cooking any kind of bean:
More coconut recipes
Crispy coconut lime chicken includes fried coconut chicken smothered in a creamy coconut lime sauce then topped with toasted coconut and some jalapeño lime hot sauce. It's both crispy and creamy, and completely addicting.
Chicken adobo with coconut milk is a Filipino-style dish that's truly one of the easiest and most delicious ways to cook chicken. This dish is especially great for entertaining because the chicken is cooked in the sauce then left in the refrigerator to marinate for up to 24 hours. Right before serving simply sear the chicken and simmer the sauce to thicken.
- 2 pounds yellow potatoes (Yukon gold potatoes)
- 1 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
- 3 tablespoons vegetable, canola, coconut, or olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion (about 1 cup chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you want spicy curry)
- One 13-ounce can of coconut milk (1 ⅔ cup)
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 generous cups (20 ounces/ 567 grams) cooked or canned chickpeas
- 8 ounces fresh spinach OR 10 ounces frozen spinach
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
- Cooked rice for serving
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces. Add them to a saucepan and fill it with enough water to cover the potatoes by a couple of inches. Add enough to make the water taste salty and set the pan over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced with a fork, but still several minutes underdone. Drain the potatoes in a colander set inside the sink and rinse them under cold water for a minute or so to stop their cooking.
- Add the coconut to a 12-inch or larger skillet and set it over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until about 50% of the coconut is golden brown. Scrape the coconut onto a plate or a bowl and wipe out the skillet.
- Add the oil and the chopped onion to the skillet and set it over medium heat. Cook, stirring every once in a while until the onion is soft and just barely beginning to darken in color. Add the chopped red bell pepper and garlic and cook for another minute or two.
- Add the tomato paste, curry powder, and red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer.
- Add the coconut milk, ½ cup water, soy sauce, sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt to the skillet. Bring to a simmer then add the potatoes, chickpeas, and spinach. If using frozen spinach, add it all at once, no need to thaw. If using fresh spinach add it a few handfuls at a time. As it wilts, you'll be able to add more. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover the skillet and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and all of the spinach has been added.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the fresh basil.
- Serve the curry over cooked rice topped with the toasted coconut and peanuts.
- Nutrition values do not include rice.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 743Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 22gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 781mgCarbohydrates: 74gFiber: 16gSugar: 11gProtein: 23g