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 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 as though you’ve stepped 100 years back in time the moment you squeeze in the door and it is a blast.  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 heroic servers are always somehow navigating 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 corks popping and glasses clinking everywhere you turn.  Guests are falling in love with their classic Catalan tapas for the very first — or the hundredth — time.  And it’s just the best.

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 every time we go, this place has a way of making us fall in love with Spain all over again.  And every time we go, I can’t help but fall in love with this yummy tapa again.

On the menu, it seems like the simplest thing in the world — chickpeas and spinach.  But Catalans have a traditional way of preparing this dish that is completely unique and simple and delicious.  Loads of fresh spinach is wilted down into a simple sauté with garlic, onions, cumin and paprika.  Hot chickpeas are then mixed 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 — 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 chickpeas and spinach (cigrons amb espinacs) at El Xampanyet a few million times since we have lived in Barcelona, I decided it was time to learn how to make this traditional tapa at home.  And turns out, it’s super quick and easy to make.  Once you have the ingredients all ready to go, everything can cook up in just 15 minutes or so, making this the perfect healthy entrée for a weeknight dinner.  Or it can also work 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, maybe some tomato bread to too, and let’s cook up some tapas together!

El Xampanyet | Barcelona, Spain

Catalan Garbanzos and Spinach Ingredients:

To make this recipe for Catalan chickpeas and spinach (cigrons amb espinacs), you will need:

  • Chickpeas: Chickpeas are typically sold extra cocidos (extra-cooked) in Spain, which makes them wonderfully soft and juicy in this dish.  But if you are living outside of Spain and want to make your chickpeas extra-soft, just boil them in water for 10-20 minutes and then strain before adding them to this recipe.  (Or you can just skip that step and use them straight out of the can.)
  • Fresh spinach: I often 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: Golden raisins are more typical in Catalonia, but any color of raisins will do.
  • Pine nuts: I love the buttery taste and crunch that toasted pine nuts add to the recipe.  But feel free to sub in toasted 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: It’s debatable whether additional spices beyond salt and pepper are authentic in this dish.  But many restaurants serve this dish with either paprika and/or cumin, which I think add great flavor, so I have included them in 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 and partly to add a bit of moisture so that the spinach will wilt well once we add it to the sauté.
  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.  While the dish is still 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 traditional sausage or bacon varieties of chickpeas and spinach before when we’ve been out with friends and they are delicious.  Just sauté some sausage or bacon before starting the recipe, remove the cooked meat from the pan with a slotted spoon, and use the leftover grease to sauté the onions and garlic.  Then stir the sausage/bacon 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)

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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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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!

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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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14 comments on “Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach”

  1. How did I manage to miss this tapa when I was in Barcelona last year??? Sounds delicious, and I always have these ingredients in stock at my house. Will definitely try it sometime this week. Thanks Ali!!

  2. This sounds delicious! Would there be any benefit to toast the pine nuts/almonds before you add them?

    • The recipe does say ‘toasted pine nuts’! So love it when it’s not just me that manages to misread the instructions. I like the tip to cook the chickpeas for a little extra time before adding them – the ones we get here in the UK can be very tough, so will try that. This looks very delicious – we have the vegan branch of our family coming to stay soon, so I reckon these with the tomato bread will make a yummy lunch.

  3. This looks so good! Is it typically eaten just with a fork/spoon, or on bread, wrapped in a tortilla, etc? I love all your posts about Spain :)

  4. Yum! Going to make this for my lunches next week!

  5. I love chickpeas and spinach and your dishes are always the most interesting to look at and taste delicious.

    Thank You

    Rating: 5
  6. I just made this and it was delicious! Simple, healthy and filling.

    Rating: 5
  7. Just returned from Spain & did not have this appetizer there. Planning to make it this week. Will review after.

  8. I made this and it was delicious. I did boil the chick peas, and used an 8 ounce bag of spinach as I love spinach. Can’t wait to serve it to my friends at my next dinner party!

    Rating: 5
  9. I knew I wanted to make this as soon as I saw the recipe. These Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach did not disappoint!!! I boiled the chickpeas as suggested and added cracked red pepper. This dish will definitely make it in my regular rotation!

    Rating: 5
  10. Yum! Going to make this for my lunches next week!

  11. I just had these on a trip at Xampanyet and I was obsessed with it- really happy to find this recipe.
    But I’m confused, are you boiling canned garbanzo beans 10-20min? Or boiling dried garbanzo beans10-20?
    And if it’s boiling canned garbanzo beans… Is there a recipe modification for making it from dried beans? Thank you!

    • Yep — different countries’ canned garbanzo beans tend to be cooked to different levels of softness. So if you’re in a country where your canned beans are on the crisper side, feel free to boil them for a bit to make them extra soft if you would like. The beans here in Spain are all very soft.

  12. This looks delicious, inexpensive and easy. My family will like this. Uses ingredients I normally use.

    Rating: 5