This Chickpea Curry is such an easy, healthy weeknight dinner idea! It’s a cheap, healthy, vegan meal that comes together in a half an hour. The creamy coconut milk makes it rich and luxurious with a slightly sweet flavor, and the tomatoes and lime juice add bright acidity to round it out. Taking an extra few minutes to slightly caramelize the onions and garlic add so much flavor to this simple recipe, along with the curry powder, cinnamon, and cumin.
This chickpea curry may be vegan, but even meat lovers will love it for its heartiness and flavor. There are so many reasons to eat more plants and many people have been opting to eat a plant-based diet for a few reasons – health, environmental, and cost.
Chickpeas are a healthy, CHEAP plant-based protein that are a crowd pleaser. My kids ate this up so fast! The flavors in this chickpea curry work so well together, with the unique spice blend that includes cinnamon, and slightly caramelized onions and garlic that lend sweetness to the whole thing.
And I love that the bulk of this recipe uses pantry ingredients – a can of chickpeas, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of coconut milk, and rice for serving if you want.
Don’t skip adding fresh lime juice at the end – it adds a little something something that you’re going to love! Let’s get to it.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chickpeas – I used canned, but you can cook your own from dry if you want (here’s how to cook dried chickpeas).
- Diced tomatoes – I used canned here, but fresh will also work (they may take a bit more time to cook).
- Coconut milk – the canned kind you find with the other Asian ingredients at your grocery store (NOT the milk substitute you’d find in the dairy section). I recommend full-fat here instead of light.
- Onion and Garlic
- Spices: Curry Powder, Cumin, and Cinnamon – you can use just curry powder if you like, and you can add other spices to the mix such as garam masala.
- Coconut Oil – you can use another oil like canola or olive if you like, but coconut adds a nice coconut flavor to the curry.
- Fresh lime juice – skip if you must, but I definitely recommend it! Add a little bit of vinegar, like apple cider vinegar, for acidity in place of it if you don’t have fresh lime juice.
- Cilantro – optional. Omit if you prefer.
- Brown sugar – or white sugar or honey, for a sweeter flavor and to help caramelize the onions and garlic.
How to make Chickpea Curry
- First, lightly caramelize the onions and garlic in coconut oil with some brown sugar. Use a large deep skillet for this. Cook them over medium or medium low heat, stirring frequently, until they are softened an have developed a light brown color.
- Then, add the chickpeas and spices. Stir around and continue to cook so the spices toast a bit.
- Pour in the diced tomatoes and the juices, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.
- Add the coconut milk and continue heating until it’s simmering.
- Finally, turn off the heat and add the lime juice and cilantro. At this point, season to taste with salt and pepper. You’re ready to serve on top of a pile of fluffy basmati rice and/or with naan bread!
Tips and Tricks
- Speed up caramelizing the onions and garlic by adding tablespoon of brown sugar to them. The result will be a deeper darker brown color and a sweeter flavor profile, mimicking caramelized onions that have been cooking for much longer.
- Don’t skip the lime juice! It adds some much needed acidity to the curry. If you like, you can add the lime zest as well with the other spices.
- Do make sure you wait until the end to salt the curry. Depending on the brand you use, the chickpeas and tomatoes will already have some salt, and adding lime juice also brings out other flavors in a similar way to salt so you may find you need less. I used about 1 teaspoon kosher salt in mine, with about 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- For a thicker curry, you can stir in a cornstarch slurry. But I found it was already plenty thick without it, especially when mashing some of the chickpeas.
Other Canned Chickpea Recipes
- Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
- Za’atar Roasted Chickpea Salad
- Quick and Easy Classic Hummus
- Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew
- Mediterranean Chickpea Orzo Pasta Salad
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Chickpea Curry with Coconut Milk and Tomato
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or other oil of choice)
- 1 yellow onion (quartered and thinly sliced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional, or white sugar or honey, see notes)
- 30 oz. canned chickpeas (or two standard cans, drained and rinsed, or 3-4 cups cooked chickpeas)
- 1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 15 oz. canned diced tomatoes (see notes)
- 1 can coconut milk (about 1⅔ cups, see notes)
- juice of one lime (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or other herbs, like chives or basil)
- salt and black pepper (to taste, see notes)
- cooked rice and/or naan bread (for serving, optional)
- extra cilantro and lime wedges (for serving, optional)
- In a large pot or deep skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium heat until it melts. Add the sliced 1 yellow onion slivered 3 cloves garlic, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar and cook over medium or medium-low heat until deeply browned and slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes (tip: use this time to prep the remaining ingredients, cook rice, etc.). Adjust the heat if needed to not burn the garlic.
- Add the drained and rinsed 30 oz. canned chickpeas, the 1 ½ tablespoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon) and stir to coat everything in the spices. Turn up the heat to medium-high or high. Allow to cook for 1 more minute, stirring frequently, to bring out the flavor of the spices.
- Add the 15 oz. canned diced tomatoes. Continue to heat, stirring frequently, until some of the juices reduce, scraping up any stuck on brown bits as you stir (about 2 minutes).
- Add the 1 can coconut milk. Stir together, continuing to heat until it starts to bubble. Use a potato masher to mash a few of the chickpeas, leaving most of them intact. Turn the heat to low and continue to simmer, uncovered, for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until curry has reduced and thickened a bit (see notes).
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the juice of one lime and the 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro. Taste and season with salt and black pepper as needed. Serve over cooked rice and/or naan bread, or on its own, garnished with extra cilantro and lime wedges if desired.
- The tomatoes are flexible here. You can use crushed, diced, fire roasted, whole and mash them up, or even fresh diced tomatoes. Different kinds may have more or less liquid so you may need to let them cook for a little more or less time.
- Canned coconut milk can usually be found in the grocery section with other Asian ingredients. I recommend whole coconut milk instead of light – it’s just not as tasty or rich. Be sure to get unsweetened coconut milk. And be aware that this is different than the coconut milk you’d find in the dairy section as an alternative to milk, as that is much more watered down. Here’s the kind I use.
- For added salt, I usually like to specify a certain amount, but this will vary based on the chickpeas used. Different brands have different sodium in them. In addition, adding lime juice will help bring out some of the flavors in a similar way to salt so you may find you need less than you’d expect. Just taste and add as much as you think. If it helps, I added about 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
- Draining and rinsing the chickpeas is important because it helps rinse off some of the indigestible fibers of the chickpeas (which are the things that cause gas in legumes). It also helps reduce the added sodium to the recipe. (But you can save the chickpea liquid, also called aquafaba, for another recipe if you want to.).
- For a thicker curry, you can stir in a cornstarch slurry (about 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water) to the curry toward the end.
- For a spicier version, add some cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, Aleppo pepper, or your favorite spicy pepper or hot sauce to the spice mix.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools: