Flavors of India: Aloo Palak (potato + spinach curry)

For more on the flavors of India series, check out: Dhal Aloo Kofta, Payasam Pudding, Gluten-free naan and Malai Kofta.

Pure, natural, flavorful, colorful, exciting and rich are just some of the words that come to mind when I think about my food experience in India.

All of the ingredients were straight from the source, you could taste the purity.

Flavor combinations I had never dreamed of, danced on my tongue and brought an instant smile to my face.

Chutneys, banana leaves, and curries livened up the color of every dish.

The variety was vast. I had no issue staying intrigued and curious at all times.

Dairy was unpasteurized and in it’s most purest form, making it easy to digest and added incredible richness to everything. Butter and ghee were consumed in excess and enjoyed thoroughly.

As the days of my visit continued, I developed a new-found respect for my body and a fresh perspective on the principles of nourishment. I only ate when I was hungry, sat in silence while I enjoyed my meals, chose foods with intuition over logic, and in turn, came home with a healthier relationship with food.

Oh yes, and a strong urge to eat Indian inspired meals at least twice a day.

Thankfully, I foresaw missing the curries, puddings, and samosas, so on the last day of my trip, Jody; a fellow yogi and dear friend, and I signed up for a 2 hour cooking class with a local kitchen.

Seriously, it was the best idea ever.

Although I annoyed the teacher to no end when I chose to sub out milk for water, butter for cashew paste, and wheat flour for chickpea flour, I learned how to make authentic Indian food, Healthful Pursuit style – limited dairy, gluten-free, healthy, and delicious.

What more could a girl ask for?

Over the next 6 weeks, we’ll be exploring the techniques, spices and recipes I was introduced to on what was easily my favorite day in India. And heck, who knows… if you all like Indian food as much as I have come to love it, then maybe we’ll just continue with weekly Indian recipes?

Okay…

First up, aloo palak.

It’s easy, quick, delicious, vegan, and will pretty much rock your world.

No lie.

Healthy Aloo Palak (Potato + Spinach Curry)

Vegan, Gluten free, Dairy free, Sugar free, Yeast free, Corn free, Grain free

Aloo palak is a curry dish popular in North India and made up of tomatoes and potatoes smothered in a spinach based sauce. It’s best served with rice, naan, or chapati. There are many other aloo dishes. Some with cheese (palak paneer), lentils (palak daal), or mixed vegetables (palak bahar). Generally it’s loaded with dairy, but I’ve made a dairy-free aloo palak that everyone can enjoy!

Yield: 1 cup

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 small potato, quartered
  • 1/2 tomato, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan rock salt
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance or ghee *see note
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chat masala
  • 2 tablespoon cashew paste *see note
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups cooked rice

Directions

  1. Steam the potato for 15 minutes, or until crisp-tender. When complete, set aside with fresh tomato.
  2. Add vegetable oil, onion, and salt to a preheated frying pan on medium-high heat and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Remove from heat and blend with water until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Place earth balance, cumin seeds, ginger, and garlic in a pre-heated frying pan on medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add spinach puree and remaining masalas, coriander, cumin, cashew paste and water.
  4. Add tomato and potato and cook until just heated.
  5. Serve on a bed of rice.

note: if ghee is used, recipe is no longer vegan

note2: to make cashew paste, grind 1 tablespoon raw cashews in a coffee grinder. Drop into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon water.

View nutrition info

Also, speaking of ingredients… many of you have been inquiring about the possibility of me setting up an ingredients page, a list of items I use most frequently here on the blog. After a bit of planning, I’m happy to report that the page is up and running! You can go to it here, or find it on the main navigation menu at the top of the blog.

Would love to know what you think of it, or if you feel I’ve missed any items.

Now that I have 6 recipes behind my belt, I’d love to know – what are your favorite Indian dishes?

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Comments | Leave Your Comment

  1. Ooooh yay I’m so excited for this series! That’s so awesome that you guys did a cooking class – had I been there, I would have been all over it too! I love the freshness of homemade Indian food, especially when the spices are ground from the toasted seeds. I don’t know if I can decide on a favourite Indian dish…. I looooove tandoori prawns, dhal, chicken tikka masala (although more prawn tikka masala these days because I’m eating less chicken), and all the flavourful spiced rice dishes. Is it odd that I’m craving curry at 7:45am!?!?

  2. Bring on the Indian food! It’s an addiction I happily suffer from… I like it all, and the hotter the better. :)

    P.S. Love your ingredients page! Our pantries must look a lot alike.

  3. I LOVE INDIAN FOOD!! I’ve only ever dared to make a few currys and tikka masala so I’m happily surprised at how simple this looks. Thanks for posting- this is going to make me very, very happy.

  4. Ohhh I am looking forward to getting a look into all these Indian foods! And I appreciate the explanations you put along with your recipes–because for newbie foodies like me, it helps to know what you’re talking about without having to google it! :)

  5. I’m so excited for these recipes. I need to just commit to trying some out even though they intimidate me. Whenever I get indian food I’m usually confused as to what to pick because they always seem so similar to me (although I know that’s not really the case). This will be a good way to learn some of the differences.

  6. This is awesome! I love Indian food so I’m so excited for this series :) And I’m really interested in hearing more about your trip! Oh and a chickpea masala recipe would be amazing!

  7. I was looking forward for this recipe…It looks yummy and sure tastes great. I grew up having this kind of food. Hence, I can vouch on it’s taste. I’m eager to know more about your experience in India :)

  8. Hooray! Indian food!!! I would love to learn how to make a dairy-free tandoori chicken (it’s usually marinated in yogurt, right?) And how about a grain-free, gluten-free naan… If anyone can make it happen, YOU can.

    • Oh my gosh, funny you said that… I was elbow deep in rice flour last night trying to make a gluten-free naan. It’s proving to be a difficult task, but it can be done. It will be done!

      • Can’t WAIT! What do you think about using a bit of coconut flour? Maybe chia seeds for stickiness? The wheels are turning… ;)

        • coconut flour was a huge failure. Never again. Chia is a good idea. I think I may have mastered the recipe this morning… so we’ll see. Going to make them again this weekend before posting the recipe.

  9. I cannot believe you were that close to a bazillion pomegranates. They look SO amazing. I am in pomegranate withdrawl!!! I can’t find any anywhere…I guess solution is I need to go to India!!

    • That is the most logical solution if you ask me. If you need anyone to go for you (because I know exactly where to get them) I’ll be more than happy to donate my time ;)

    • Oh my gosh the butter and milk were FLOWING. The original aloo palak had 1/4 cup butter and 1 cup of milk but I changed it while we were cooking hehe.

    • Thanks Adina! You know, I was the same way. I hated the stuff! Going there definitely changed my perspective and taught me what I liked and didn’t.

    • I haven’t tried it with kale, that’s brilliant. I bet it would be delicious!

  10. actually…one question/request. (i know you didn’t ask for requests…so i apologize up front)
    if you know how – or encountered it while in India – can you make something called – chicken/lamb/whatever saagwala. It’s this spinach sauce and I’m almost postive there’e some cardamom in there…and it’s pretty much the most amazing thing i ever ate.

    • Interesting… sounds good. I didn’t have it while I was away, but the lady I took the classes with is a rock star at Indian dishes. I bet she’d know how to make it or what you’re referring to! I’ll check it out :)

  11. Ahh, dosas: my favorite food on Earth. After 8 years, I’ve become an expert on making them and eat them at least once a week (I never limit myself when it comes to traditional, fermented foods!). If you ever need any tips on making them, shoot me an email :)

    • I would love some tips! I’ll be recreating them at home, but didn’t know they were fermented? That’s not the way we learned so I’m curious to find out your version!

  12. I had a vegetable Korma last night and it was great. I would love to know how to cook a Lamb Biriyani, Butter Mater Paneer…..Basically any Indian food is awesome. You could make your own Paneer. Super easy.
    I always think it’s a shame that so much allergy free cooking focuses on substitution in western food. So many cuisines of the world are naturally gluten, dairy and other allergen free. Indian typically being one of them. Thai comes to mind, too.
    Great idea Leanne!.

  13. I think the nutritional information is wrong – it says it contanis 540% DV of sodium!

    • Wow, thank you for catching that! No idea what happened there. Just fixed it and triple checked.

  14. This looks soo amazing Leanne! I am loving all these Indian recipes, seriously. I have had my eye on this cookbook for a while one http://www.amazon.com/India-The-Cookbook-Pushpesh-Pant/dp/0714859028/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1331252525&sr=8-3 it has seriously been in my cart on Amazon FOREVER. A friend of mine has it and it’s amazing. You are making me want to buy it right away! Also, I agree with other commenters, gluten-free naan!! Seriously I would die. It has been so long and it is the only reason I hate taking my hubby out for Indian, it is painful to watch him eat it :)

  15. Hi Leanne,
    followed your whole trip to India,and could not wait for you to get back so we could all benefit from your spicy creations .I love Indian food with a passion especially the stuffed Paratha.Could you come up with a healthier version of this one for me ,please? also like to eat it with a big bowl of spicy daal which is already good for ya .
    can you pass on details of the cooking school you attended ,I would travel there just for a cooking inspired vacation.
    thank you,
    rebecca

    • Yes, stuffed paratha! Oh my gosh, all of my friends were eating those and none of them were gluten-free. I’ve been trying to work on a rice flour naan. As soon as I’ve perfected it, it’s on to paratha, that’s for sure.
      The school I attended was Kerala Bamboo House.

  16. Ohhh love that your doing this series! I can’t seem to make my Indian dishes taste the same as when I was there! My favorite was palak paneer with chipati….mmmmm!

  17. Ahhh!! You have no idea how happy this post makes me!! I love Indian food, and have tried to make it but it just never seems to cut it!! I can’t wait to try your recipes! With the great way you explain things I may finally be successful! I would also love you to make a gluten free/dairy free naan! Also, have you ever tried Vindaloo? My husband and I are addicted to the Vindaloo at Green Chili in Calgary and I have tried to recreate it….BIG FAIL!!:) If you know what it is I would be so happy if you would take a stab at it! It is very spicy but soooo yummy!!

  18. Paya (which is non- vegan) Choley, Daals , curries (never met a curry or daal I didn’t like), Palak Paneer, and dosas (which I have never learned to make) These are just a few of my fav’s…..I will be interested on how you change out certain ingredients for a healthier version.

  19. ahh i can imagine how irritated the teacher must have been…:) try telling my mom to change something while she is cooking:) She is much more open now though and adjust to the changes i suggest before starting off.. and tries some of my vegan recipes now that she is back home after her visit here..
    I cant really choose one.. I eat indian food everyday:) parathas maybe top the list.
    Hope you have a great time in India!

  20. I love your healthy take on aloo palak! Some of my favourite things to eat in India were the condiments, like chutney and raita – especially coconut chutney and pineapple raita. I also loved the street food style dishes with the mix of sweet, sour and spicy and topped with yogurt (like ragda pattice and dahi puri). A couple of dishes that I’ve learned to make myself since then are kitchdi (mix of dal and rice) and paratha…although my versions are never quite as good as what I ate there!
    By the way, I love the ingredient index – and having recipe ideas that use those ingredients is really helpful!

  21. Hi Leanne, very interested in making the aloo palak dish. I saw that you posted a link to the chat masala product on amazon, but I’m wondering if you happen to make your own? Or is it too time consuming/complicated? Thanks.

    • Hi Tasleem – I’ve thought of making my own but couldn’t find an ingredient.. I think it was mango powder? I’d love to look into making it from scratch as I do love homemade masalas! I’d love to know if you end up trying to make some.

  22. I’m just starting Paleo and am looking for Paleo recipes or modifying existing ones to be Paleo. Do you think by switching the potato here to sweet potatoes or yams, this recipe could be consider Paleo?

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