Spanish Garbanzos con Espinaca (Chickpeas with Spinach)

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach


Easy15 minsQuick

Catalan chickpeas and spinach is one of my favorite classic tapas here in Barcelona.  It’s made with feel-good simple ingredients, it’s easy to make in just 15 minutes, and it always tastes so comforting and delicious.

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach

If you ever find yourself in Barcelona, there’s a tiny little tapas joint around the corner from our house that you absolutely must visit called El Xampanyet.

It’s one of those magical spots in the city that instantly makes you feel like you’ve stepped 100 years back in time the moment you walk in the door.  The vibe inside is always fabulously crowded and chaotic, with customers squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder around tiny marble tables or bellied up to the old-school bar.  The servers somehow heroically navigate their way through, bringing out tapa after tapa as people inevitably keep ordering “just one more round.”  Their famous house cava is always flowin’, with bottles popping and glasses clinking everywhere you turn.  And everyone is always loving it.

We try to stop by as often as we can for a few tapas and glasses of cava — which has been a bit harder lately ever since the place was featured on Chef’s Table and now has a never-ending line of tourists around the block waiting to squeeze their way in.  But it’s always worth it.  This place always has a way of making us fall in love with Spain all over again.  And every time I go, I inevitably fall head over heels back in love with this particular tapa again.

On the menu, it seems like the simplest thing in the world — chickpeas and spinach.  But I’m telling you, the way that Catalans prepare this dish is so unique and delicious.  Loads of fresh spinach is wilted down into a simple sauté with garlic, onions, cumin and paprika.  Then a big batch of hot chickpeas are stirred in, deliberately over-cooked so that they are soft and juicy.  The entire mixture is then sprinkled with a generous handful of toasted pine nuts, which add the perfect buttery flavor and crunch to the soft sauté.  But the secret to the dish lies in that favorite Catalan ingredient hiding in there — yep, raisins.  Catalans love adding raisins to their dishes for a hint of sweetness!  And once they begin to soak up those hot juices in this sauté, they get all plump and tender and absolutely make this dish.  Trust me.

Anyway, after ordering cigrons amb espinacs at El Xampanyet a few million times, I decided it was time to learn how to make this tapa at home.  Different tapas joints in town all seem to prepare this dish differently.  But El Xamp’s version is my favorite, so I tried to base my recipe off of theirs.  And I think I finally nailed it!  (Or at least came deliciously close!)

Turns out, Catalan chickpeas and spinach is super easy to make.  Once you have the ingredients all ready to go, everything can cook up in just 15 minutes or so.  It’s the perfect healthy entrée for a weeknight dinner, or it also works great as an easy side dish or appetizer (served with crusty bread) for a party.

Here’s what I know — wherever you happen to be cooking this dish up in the world, it promises to be a delicious taste of Spain.  So grab some chickpeas and spinach and let’s make a tapa together!

El Xampanyet | Barcelona, Spain

Catalan Garbanzos and Spinach Ingredients:

To make this recipe for Catalan espinacs e garbanzos, you will need:

  • Chickpeas: Chickpeas are typically sold extra cocidos (extra-cooked) in Spain, which makes them wonderfully soft in this dish.  If you are living outside of Spain, you’re still welcome to just use any normal chickpeas straight outta the can for this recipe.  But if you want to make them extra-soft, just boil the chickpeas in water for 10-20 minutes and then strain before adding them to this recipe.
  • Fresh spinach: I often actually double the amount of fresh spinach in this dish because I love it so much.  But feel free to use as much as you would like.
  • Raisins: Any color of raisins will do!
  • Pine nuts: I love the buttery taste and crunch that pine nuts add to the recipe.  But feel free to sub in almonds for a more affordable option.
  • Olive oil: Which we will use in the sauté and also to drizzle on top at the very end.
  • Garlic and onion: Which we will sauté to add extra flavor to the dish.
  • Spices: So…people debate whether or not additional spices beyond salt and pepper are authentic in this dish.  But many restaurants serve this dish with paprika, which I love.  And once recently said that they also added cumin, which was super-delicious.  So I’ve added both to the recipe below.

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach (Cigrons amb Espinacs a la Catalana)

How To Make Catalan Spinach and Chickpeas:

This recipe is wonderfully easy to make.  Simply…

  1. Rinse the spinach.  Partly to clean the spinach, but mostly to add a bit of moisture to it so that the spinach will wilt well once we add it to the sauté in a sec.
  2. Sauté the veggies.  Cook the onion and garlic in oil until softened, along with the cumin and paprika.  Then lower the heat, add in the wet spinach, place the lid on the pan and cook until the spinach has wilted down, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Add in those chickpeas* and raisins, and then season the whole dish with salt and pepper (generously!) to taste.
  4. Serve.  And dish it up nice and warm, garnished with pine nuts, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of paprika.

*If you would like the chickpeas to be extra soft and juicy (like they are in Spain), just boil them in water for 10-20 minutes before adding them to the recipe.  It’s a simple step that will make a big difference!

Garbanzos con Espinaca

Possible Variations:

People make this dish with so many different variations in Spain.  So if any of these options sound good, go for it!

  • Add sausage or bacon: We always make this dish plant-based, since my husband doesn’t eat meat.  But I’ve tried the sausage or bacon varieties before when we’re out tapas-ing with friends and they are delicious.  Just sauté the sausage or bacon first, remove it from the pan, and use the leftover grease to sauté the onions and garlic.  Then stir the meat back in just before serving.
  • Add tomatoes: Many restaurants make this dish wish fresh (or canned) tomatoes added to the mixture, which is also delicious.
  • Add white wine: A generous splash into the mixture as it simmers is always a win.
  • Add some heat: Ok, this is definitely not traditional (Catalan cuisine is never spicy!), but I like to add in a generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to give this dish a little kick.  If you like a little heat in your food, I highly recommend it.
  • Use different nuts: If you don’t have pine nuts available, toasted almonds or hazelnuts would also be delicious.

Spanish Garbanzos con Espinaca (Chickpeas with Spinach)

Yield: 4 servings

Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach

Catalan chickpeas and spinach is one of my favorite classic tapas here in Barcelona.  It’s made with feel-good simple ingredients, it’s easy to make in just 15 minutes, and it always tastes so comforting.


  • 1 (5-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained*
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste


  1. Place the spinach in a colander and rinse with water.  Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.  Add in the garlic, paprika, cumin and stir to combine.  Cook for 1 more minute, stirring occasionally.
  3. Reduce heat to medium.  Add the still-wet spinach to the pan, cover with a lid, and wait for 1-2 minutes until the spinach has wilted.  Stir in the chickpeas and raisins until combined.  Then continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, until the chickpeas are heated through.
  4. Taste and season generously with salt (I used about 1 teaspoon) and black pepper, to taste.
  5. Serve warm, garnished with toasted pine nuts, an extra drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of paprika.  Or transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

*If you would like the chickpeas to be extra soft and juicy (like they are in Spain), just boil them in water for 10-20 minutes before adding them to the recipe.  It’s a simple step that will make a big difference!

Difficulty: EasyCategory: Quick

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If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I’d love to see what you cook!

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