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chana saag [or at least really close]

Luckily, these were not the photos I deleted off my camera the other night.  This is not a meal you want to reheat and photograph on the second day. 

Although, it is a meal you want to reheat and eat on the second day.  I’m definitely a leftovers fan.  You know this. 

chana saag | edible perspective

If you’ve been around here for awhile, you may remember my attempt at dal saag last year.  I actually named it not dal saag because it was not dal saag.  I don’t expect you to remember that, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since!

chana saag | edible perspective

In the past three weeks I’ve made this meal three times, three different ways.

First in the slower cooker.  Second on the stovetop in a huge pot—not a fan.  Third was back in the slow cooker.

Yes.  That is a lot of spinach.  Yes.  We’ve eaten it all.  I believe I ate the second trial all by myself.

The slow cooker is definitely where it’s at—in my opinion—for this type of recipe.  The 8 hours of cooking really let the flavors develop.

chana saag | edible perspective

I wouldn’t say this is authentic.  Heck, I’m not even sure I’ve ever really tasted authentic Indian food!  All I have to compare it to are my favorite Indian restaurants. 

While not authentic, it’s as close as it’s going to get to what I think chana saag is supposed to taste like. 

chana saag | edible perspective

chana saag | edible perspective

Print this!

Chana Saag [or at least really close] serves 4-6, adapted from The Vegan Slow Cooker, Chana Saag and 101 Cookbooks, Saag Paneer

Check my notes for easy vegan substitutions.

  • 1lb baby spinach, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained + rinsed
  • 1 cup low/no-sodium veggie broth
  • 1/4 cup 2% or whole milk
  • 1/4 cup half + half creamer
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
  • 3/4 – 1 1/4 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/2 – 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/16 teaspoon clove
  • cayenne pepper to taste [opt]
  • paneer cheese or fresh mozzarella [opt]
  • cooked brown rice or quinoa
  1. Chop your spinach.  Seems silly but it’s important for the cooking down process of the spinach.
  2. Heat a pan over medium and add the ghee.
  3. Once hot, add the chopped onion and stir every minute or so for about 5-7 minutes until the onion is translucent and soft.
  4. Stir in the garlic, cumin, 3/4t garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon salt, mustard seeds, coriander, turmeric, and clove for about 30 seconds - 1 minute until fragrant.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in the ginger, and pour into your slow cooker.
  6. Add the veggie stock and then the chopped spinach on top.
  7. Cover and set to low for 8 hours. [or 4 hours on high – tried it!]
  8. Remove the lid, stir, and taste.  Add more salt, garam masala, and cayenne pepper if desired.  If it tastes bitter it needs more salt.  I used 1 1/4t garam masala in total.
  9. Stir in the milk and creamer, then lightly blend with your immersion blender [optional].
  10. Add the chickpeas, leave the lid ajar, and let cook for 30 more minutes on high.
  11. Stir, taste, adjust seasonings if needed, and serve.  Top with paneer cheese or fresh mozzarella if desired.  It will thicken more upon serving.

notes:  If desired, instead of ghee use 2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons sunflower/safflower oil to make vegan.  For vegan version, sub unsweetened/unflavored soy milk for the 2% and unflavored soy creamer for the half + half.  I used no-sodium veggie broth and needed to add just over 1 teaspoon of salt. 

chana saag | edible perspective

And that’s a wrap on my as close as it’s going to get chana saag trials.


Reader Comments (30)

ohh you need to try authentic indian food... easily one of my favorite cuisines. This looks authentic though for sure!
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie @KatieDid
I was just talking about how I have the hardest time recreating Thai food at home but I didn't even think about Indian! This looks fantastic!!! I don't think I would ever be able to come close but you definitely did a fantastic job!
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren
I love meals in the slow cooker, set and forget! This looks divine, I love the combo of chickpeas and spinach.
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbby@Totes Delish
Plz send to Cleveland... thx.
@Katie - I've definitely eaten at many, many Indian restaurants but I'm never sure if it's truly authentic or not. Kind of like sushi!

@RandomIndianFoodandTableLover - Hi, bro. Nice comment name. :) Definitely wish you were here to help eat it!
October 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterAshley
So cozy! I love those bowls, too.
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Do you think this would work with kale instead of spinach? I just picked a whole crisper drawer of kale from our garden and am looking for some recipes!
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
@Anna - It will definitely still work with all kale. Just be sure you use a full pound [without stems] and that you chop it finely before adding to the crock pot. I would recommend using the immersion blender to get a creamier texture, which isn't totally necessary when using spinach. It's noted in the directions where to do that. If you end up making this let me know how it turns out!
October 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterAshley
girl, i don't know if i've ever had truly authentic indian food, but i'll take this version and eat it like it's going out of style!
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather @ Heather's Dish
I made the recipe from the Indian Slow Cooker book a couple of weeks ago and the house smelled sooooo good...but the outcome was really bitter, and I couldn't figure out why. (Disappointing, as I have loved all the other recipes I've tried from that book - the Gobi Aloo is fantastic!) Do you think adding more salt would help?
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIngunn
@Ingunn - Yes, I had the same problem. I thought there was too much liquid, so I reduced from 1 1/2 to 1 cup broth. Also, I felt it was very bitter and didn't have enough flavor. I had to add quite a bit of salt - just over 1 teaspoon, using no-sodium broth. Also, I lowered the amount of turmeric by half, as it's a very bitter seasoning. I also doubled the garam masala, added a bit more cumin, and mustard seeds. The extra little addition of clove and cayenne really helped bring the flavors together as well. You could also add 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey to help balance the bitterness. Hope this helps!!
October 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterAshley
What are your thoughts on using frozen chopped spinach? I have a bunch that I got for free and I was thinking about pressing it in my tofu press and using it for this...
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKait @ yogabeautylife
This looks so good. Thanks for going through the trouble of testing it all out :)
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie @ Blonde Ambition
It looks and sounds delicious. I just started to dabbling in cooking Indian dishes about a year ago and have had much success at home. I love that I can control how nutritious it is at home. Did you make your own paneer cheese?
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTami@NutmegNotebook
Mmmmmm! And you knowww I remember last years post!
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey
Impressed! I'm Indian and I can tell you you got pretty close. It's just important to temper all the spices in the beginning in the oniony oil along with the ginger. This way you'll actually require less spices because it intensifies the flavours as well as take away that raw bitter edge. Also adding fresh cilantro during the last 10 minutes really helps with the flavour profile. And if you want to be really authentic serve it with a glob of ghee and small bits of fresh ginger, yum!
October 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAM
@Kait - I think it could work if you let it defrost and press or blot most of the moisture out. You may need to cook it a bit longer with the lid ajar at the end, but it should work. If it's really soupy at the end, you could also just add the 1/4 cup half and half instead of adding the milk and half + half. Hope that helps!

@Tami - No, but that is definitely something I would love to do in the future!

@AM - Thank you so much for your comment! I am excited to hear that I'm not far off. :) Good to know about the ginger and adding ghee at the end sounds amazing. I'm not a cilantro fan, but I can see how that would also help. Thanks again!
October 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterAshley
This looks and sounds amazing, but that is a lot of spinach!
October 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdeva at deva by definition
This looks great! I love the picture with the steaming quinoa.
October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
You are a blogger after my heart. Slow cooker + chickpeas + indian spices. My goodness this is my dinner for next week. Thank you for the recipe!
October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan@eatmybeets
This looks amazing!! Such an easy recipe. My favorite Indian restaurant is about 30 minutes from me. This makes it so much easier to feed my cravings :)
Oh my gosh. I HAVE to make this!!!!! :D
This looks so good! I love indian food!
So I made cooking mistake #1 and didn't read the recipe all the way through before buying the ingredients to make this for dinner tonight.....I don't have a slow cooker. What's your recommendation for doing this on the stovetop w/o a slow cooker?
November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa
@Alyssa - Not to worry. I do the same thing very frequently. :) You can follow the stovetop cooking instructions at - The recipe is a little different but it should work. You won't need the vegetable broth but just about 1/2 - 1 cup of whole milk, buttermilk, or a mix of 2% and some half + half. It should still be delicious! If you want the flavors to come out more you can also just keep it covered on low for 30min - 1hr, with 1/4 cup of broth [to keep things moist] and then proceed with the milk, etc. like in the directions. If you do leave it on low, just check back every 10min or so to make sure it hasn't dried out. Hope this helps!!
November 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterAshley
Thanks for the help! I just cooked my beans, from scratch and both my boyfriend and I are super excited about this recipe. I'll let you know how it goes.
November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa
Just finished making this after work.... I am in love! Basmati rice puts this over the edge, BTW.
November 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAwel
Wow, I made this yesterday and it was DELICIOUS! The proportions you said you ultimately used for all the spices were perfect. I love your blog and always find amazing recipes. Thank you so much!! It is a really good feeling to find such great recipes every time I visit your website!
January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSally
@Sally - I'm thrilled to hear it! Thanks for trying it out and leaving feedback. Much appreciated!
January 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterAshley
I made this last night and used 10 oz frozen chopped spinach in place of the fresh. I think the substitution worked great and I would definitely do it again. It practically makes this a pantry meal!
October 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

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