Chickpea, Coconut, and Cashew Curry Recipe

This curry is intense with garam masala and ginger, cooled by coconut milk and ground toasted cashews.

A double-handled serving crock with chickpea, coconut, and cashew curry. Some naan and a bowl of steamed rice are next to it.

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Why It Works

  • Using canned chickpeas speeds the cooking process. 
  • Deeply browned onions, garlic, and ginger make a flavorful base for the curry. 

My own personal Vegan Experience is behind me now, but there are many things that have stuck: Dining habits. The way I approach a menu. The way I stock my pantry. Even the basic ingredients I reach for first when I'm saying to myself, "What would my wife want for dinner?" (Which is just the nicer way of thinking, what would I personally really like to eat that my wife may or may not but hopefully may like to eat as well?)

The Advantages of Using Canned Chickpeas

The answer, more often than not, is chickpeas. And I'm not talking fancy, soaked overnight, simmered in flavorful liquid, carefully cooked chickpeas; I'm talking chickpeas drained out of a can and used as the base for a quick dish.

Now I can hear you bean lovers shouting already, "But canned beans are flavorless! Dried beans rule!" and I'm with you, but this is a case of diminishing returns. Provided you treat your canned beans right—that means spending a bit of time simmering them in a flavorful liquid (read up more on cooking with canned beans here), they can be tasty as heck and ready to eat in under half an hour. Will they be as creamy and flavorful as dried beans? Definitely not, but they'll be about 85 percent of the way there and take about 10 percent of the time and 5 percent of the effort.

Earthenware bowl of chickpea curry with accompaniments in the background

Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

On most days, that's a pretty good trade-off.

The Key to Making a Flavorful Base

Chickpeas—known as chana in Hindi—are a staple in Indian and British Indian vegetarian cuisine. It's meaty texture and flavor hold up well to rich sauces like masala or korma. This recipe, a chickpea stew flavored with coconut and thickened with ground cashews, comes from no particularly authentic Indian legacy, but it's delicious and rib-sticking. There are a few keys to success. The first is to cook the onion, garlic, and ginger base until you think it's too cooked—deep brown and on the verge of burning in spots. This adds sweetness and layers of intense flavor to the sauce.

For the Best Flavor, Toast the Spices Before Grinding

The garam masala I use in this recipe is a homemade cumin and coriander-heavy mix (the flavors I like), but you can use your own blend or even a store-bought mix to make the recipe even quicker. In any case, toasting the spices in the oil will help intensify and distribute their flavor.

Once the base for the sauce is set, I deglaze with coconut milk, add toasted cashews, and grind the whole thing with plenty of fresh cilantro. A quick simmer for the chickpeas in the flavorful sauce, a big squeeze of lemon or lime at the end, and some warm homemade naan or rice, and dinner's on the table in under half an hour.

May 2012

Recipe Facts



Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Active: 30 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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For The Spice Mix (see notes):

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds, toasted

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted

  • 1 whole star anise, toasted

  • 2 cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, toasted

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

  • 1 blade mace

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 black or green cardamom pod

For the Curry:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, butter, or ghee

  • 1 small onion, finely minced (about 1 cup)

  • 4 cloves garlic, grated on the medium holes of a box grater

  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated on the medium holes of a box grater

  • 1 small red or green chile, finely chopped

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts

  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 1 bunch (about 3 ounces) flat spinach leaves, trimmed, rinsed, and roughly chopped

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup fresh juice from 3 to 4 limes

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, coarsely chopped


  1. Combine cumin, coriander, star anise, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, turmeric, and cardamom in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

    Collage of grinding spices in a spice grinder

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

  2. Heat oil, butter, or ghee in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until melted (or until oil is shimmering). Add onion, garlic, ginger, and chile. Cook, stirring frequently, and scraping bottom of pan until golden brown and starting to burn in spots, about 10 minutes. Add cayenne, cashews, and half of spice mixture. Cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add coconut milk and remove from heat. Scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan.

    Collage of cooking aromatics, spices, cashews, and coconut milk in a saucepan

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

  3. Transfer mixture to blender and starting a low speed, slowly increase speed to maximum. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Return mixture to pot. Add chickpeas, spinach, and remaining spice mix and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until vegetables are heated through and spinach is wilted, about 10 minutes. Add salt and lime juice to taste. Stir in half of cilantro.

    Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle with extra cilantro, and serve with lime wedges, basmati rice pilaf, grilled naan, and cilantro chutney, as desired.

    Collage of blending curry, combining puree in a pot with chickpeas and spinach, and the fully cooked dish

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Special Equipment

Spice grinder, blender


1 tablespoon of store-bought or homemade garam masala or curry powder can be used in place of dry spice mix.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
742 Calories
44g Fat
71g Carbs
24g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 742
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 44g 57%
Saturated Fat 27g 135%
Cholesterol 25mg 8%
Sodium 1138mg 49%
Total Carbohydrate 71g 26%
Dietary Fiber 18g 64%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 24g
Vitamin C 40mg 201%
Calcium 194mg 15%
Iron 12mg 68%
Potassium 1159mg 25%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)