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Recipe: Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon

Simply put, it’s a mess of colors and vegetables draped over a big, hot sweet potato.

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Photos by Faith Durand

Are you in the mood for some comfort food? Of course you are. But now that spring is here and summer is on the horizon, you might, however, be leaning towards something with vegetables — perhaps even a vegetarian dish?

I have a proposal for you: fresh baby spinach and chickpeas, slow-cooked with ginger, garlic, and onion in a creamy coconut milk sauce, finished off with a healthy dash of lemon. But it doesn’t stop there. No — this spicy, tangy dish of greens was designed to be served over a sweet potato. See? Both comforting and your daily dose of vegetables, all in one dish.

It’s a mess of colors and vegetables — green, tender spinach draped over a big, hot sweet potato.

This isn’t, by any means, an especially difficult or even original meal; there are scads of recipes out there for greens braised in coconut milk. But I was looking for a very specific taste — hot and spicy, extra tangy, rich and sweet — every sense and flavor in the dish amped up to 11, so to speak.

The stew itself is a quick one, for something stewed. I pulled it together in about 30 minutes. That is one benefit to using baby spinach, instead of the kale, collards, or turnip greens often called for in this kind of recipe. Those need to cook longer or even be blanched in boiling water beforehand, but the baby spinach cooks much faster. It also wilts down tremendously — the pound of spinach called for here will look huge before cooking!

Poured over the sweet potato, this is powerhouse vegan comfort food, with loads of flavor and solid sustenance from the chickpeas and sweet potato. I haven’t tried freezing the braised greens yet, but I think it would make a great make-ahead and even freezer-friendly meal for winter eating.

Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon

Yield: Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side


  • 2 teaspoons oil or ghee
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 dried hot red pepper, or pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 1 (13 to 14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

For Serving:


  1. Heat the oil or ghee in a large, deep Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, fresh ginger, lemon zest, and red pepper, if using. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

  2. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat for a few minutes, or until the chickpeas are beginning to turn golden and are coated with the onion and garlic mixture.

  3. Toss in the spinach, one handful at a time. This will take about 5 minutes; stir in a handful or two and wait for it to wilt down and make room in the pot before adding the next handful. When all the spinach has been added, add the coconut milk, lemon juice, ground ginger, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat and cook until the chickpeas are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and lemon juice if needed. Serve hot over roasted sweet potatoes, with cilantro leaves and toasted unsweetened coconut to garnish.

Recipe Notes

Serving: This is thick enough to eat on its own with a fork, but it's also saucy enough to serve over pasta, rice, quinoa, or another grain.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze in individual portions for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge and then reheat gently over low heat on the stove.

Faith is the Editor-in-Chief of Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks, including the James Beard Award-winning “The Kitchn Cookbook,” as well as “Bakeless Sweets.”

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This post originally appeared on The Kitchn and was published February 12, 2015. This article is republished here with permission.

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