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Lemon Coconut Chickpea Curry

By Morgana Russino, Dietetic Intern

Vegan Chana Alu Masala

This vegan curry contains a myriad of southeast Asian flavors like ginger and coconut and is brimming with beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants, satiating fats, fiber, and protein. This is a quick and easy dinner option, although it tastes like it’s been simmering for hours! The curry can also be made ahead of time on meal prep days and will last in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days.  

Health Benefits

Chickpeas: Chickpeas are rich in isoflavones, plant compounds associated with the improvement of clinical complications (e.g. hypertension) from diseases like cancer, CVD, and diabetes, due to their antioxidant and antibacterial activity [i]. They also contain ample fiber and when compared to other legumes, are a highly absorbable source of plant-based protein.

Spinach: Spinach contains phytochemicals that can inhibit oxidative stress and positively alter gene expression associated with inflammation. This leafy green may also be chemoprotective due to its high chlorophyll content, which has been shown to suppress cancer cell growth [ii].  

Coconut Milk: This creamy and delicious dairy alternative is rich in lauric acid, which has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Lauric acid may also help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lowering the risk for heart disease and stroke [iii]. Although some may be concerned about its saturated fat content, research has shown that the fat in coconut milk can help increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol [iv].



  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala 
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger powder
  • 1 (13 oz) can coconut milk
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans no-salt added chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups spinach or kale
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cilantro to garnish (optional)


  1. Heat a large pot to medium heat and add the coconut oil. Add diced onion and minced garlic, cooking until translucent for about two minutes.
  2. Add the garam masala and ginger, cooking the spices with the onion and garlic for a minute.
  3. Add the chickpeas and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring all the ingredients together.
  4. Next, add the canned tomatoes and coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high until there is a gentle simmer, partially covering the pot and cooking the curry for an additional 10-15 minutes. 
  6. With the heat off, add the spinach and fresh lemon juice. Stir until the spinach is wilted.
  7. Lastly, add the cilantro. Serve the curry over roasted sweet potatoes or your favorite grain and enjoy!


  • Chickpeas can be substituted for another legume, such as canned red lentils or canned cannellini beans
  • Try alternating the leafy greens in this curry, like adding kale, collards or Swiss chard, to vary the nutrient density
  • If you’d like to make this recipe lower in carbohydrates, it is delicious served over cauliflower rice instead of starchy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes or rice


[i] Rinkesh Kumar Gupta, Kriti Gupta, Akanksha Sharma, Mukul Das, Irfan Ahmad Ansari, and Premendra D. Dwivedi Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2017 65 (1), 6-22 DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b02629

[ii] Ramaiyan, B., Kour, J., Nayik, G. A., Anand, N., & Alam, M. S. (2020). Spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). Antioxidants in Vegetables and Nuts-Properties and Health Benefits, 159-173

[iii] Alyaqoubi, S., et al. (2015). Study of antioxidant activity and physicochemical properties of coconut milk (Pati santan) in Malaysia.

[iv] R. A. I. Ekanayaka, N. K. Ekanayaka, B. Perera and P. G. S. M. De Silva Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism 2013 Vol. 2013 DOI: 10.1155/2013/481068

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