Punjabi Buttermilk Stew with Spinach Dumplings Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: Shveta Berry



12 Ratings

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves 6

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Author Notes

Growing up, this was my favorite weeknight dinner on my mother's normal weeknight rotation The best part was that she would make an enormous pot of it so I knew I could enjoy it for days later. Similar to chili, it tastes better as the days go by and the flavors develop. It has a rich, tangy taste thanks to the buttermilk, punctuated by the sharpness from the garlic and ginger. The mustard seeds also add a distinctive flavor. The dumplings, which are essentially just little fritters or pakoras made out of spinach, become super soft -- they're fabulous just straight from the pan and there are always a few that never make it into the stew -- they end up in my tummy first! Essentially a one-pot meal, it is perfect served over simple basmati rice. Whenever I make it for my family now, I always look forward to having it for lunch the next day! —Shveta Berry

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Shveta Berry lives in the Bay Area where she cooks Indian food for her blog, Samosa Junkie.
WHAT: A vegetarian Indian meal you'll want to eat all week.
HOW: Form the spinach into dumplings with onion, coriander seeds, and herbs, then fry them in vegetable oil until golden. To make the stew, combine buttermilk, gram flour, seeds, garlic, and ginger in a Dutch oven. Allow the mixture to reduce, then add the spinach dumplings and cook for another 15 minutes.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We knew we'd like this dish after reading the long ingredient list of flavorful Indian spices, but we didn't anticipate how delicious the spinach dumplings would be. Even after they're added to the stew, they retain their golden crispiness. The best part? The stew tastes even better after a few days -- it's the ideal make-ahead dish for weeknight dinners. —The Editors

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • For the dumplings:
  • 2 10-oz boxes of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2/3 cupgram flour (also called chickpea flour and besan in Indian stores)
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 green chiles, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoonssalt
  • 1 teaspoonchile flakes
  • 1 teaspoonamchur (sour mango powder)
  • 1 teaspooncoriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoonschaat masala
  • 4 cupsvegetable oil for frying (up to 5 cups, if needed)
  • For the stew:
  • 3 tablespoonsvegetable oil
  • 2 quartsbuttermilk (low-fat or full-fat is fine)
  • 1/3 cupgram flour (also called chickpea flour and besan in Indian stores)
  • 3/4 teaspoonturmeric
  • 1 1/4 teaspoonssalt
  • 1/2 teaspoonfenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspooncoriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoonblack mustard seeds
  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
  • 1 1/2 inch ginger, crushed to a paste
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced into half moons
  • 1 teaspoonred chile flakes
  • Basmati rice, for serving (optional)
  1. For the dumplings:
  2. Squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach. In a medium mixing bowl, add the spinach and the remaining ingredients listed, except for the oil.
  3. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven until it is shimmering over medium-high heat.
  4. Drop heaping tablespoons of dumpling batter into the hot oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden.
  5. Flip the dumplings over and fry the other side until golden, about 2 minutes.
  6. Remove dumplings from oil and drain on paper towel-lined plate.
  1. For the stew:
  2. Blend the buttermilk, gram flour, turmeric, and salt in a blender until combined. If some of the buttermilk doesn't fit, it is okay to use 1 quart of buttermilk, then add the rest of it during step 6, as instructed
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add the fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds pop, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the serrano chiles and sauté for one minute.
  5. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden.
  6. Add the onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes in the vegetable oil, until softened but not brown.
  7. Add the chile flakes plus all of the buttermilk (blended and, if not all of it fit in your blender, plain). At this point the mixture is a pale yellow color. The color will intensify and become bright as the gravy cooks.
  8. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat to low and cook the stew for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Add dumplings and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  11. Optional: Serve over basmati rice.


  • Stew
  • Indian
  • Cheese
  • Vegetable
  • Buttermilk
  • Coriander
  • Mustard
  • Spinach
  • Fry
  • Vegetarian
  • Entree
Contest Entries
  • Your Best Dinner That Makes a Good Lunch

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kellia Brinson

  • Assya

  • Sarah

  • Hana

  • Erin Stodola

Popular on Food52

62 Reviews

Kellia B. April 1, 2023

Delicious! I didn’t have buttermilk, so I thinned Greek yogurt with whole milk and added some lemon juice to make up for the acidity. At first it sort of separated, but then came back together once the stew got cooking and thickened up. Based on other reviews, I made half the amount of yogurt/sauce mixture and it was the perfect dumpling to sauce ratio - it would have felt like too much otherwise. Overall a keeper! Definitely more of a weekend recipe as it’s pretty involved.

Assya August 6, 2020

This was delicious. I followed the recipe and my family loved this dish. It is time consuming and you really need to squeeze the water out of the spinach. I used a tofu press and it really helped. I also decreased the chili and the oil a little and it still came out beautifully.

Cheryl September 22, 2019

No favor. Bought all these spices and the dish is awful. I do not taste anything but the whole spices when I am chewing my food. I love Indian cuisine, but this was a waste of my time. And I must say if you censor this review, I am going to have to stop using your site, because I will understand that the reviews are not truthful.

Glendi January 25, 2021

This was extremely flavorful, your spices are worn out. Find a reliable source. I have bought brand new spices from major chain stores and still all worn out when first opened. It can be very discouraging at $4-5 a pop.

txchick57 January 4, 2022

Feel free to go. Nobody will care.

Sarah March 4, 2019

Absolutely wonderful recipe. I have made it a couple of times now, and it is much thicker and creamier— and more flavorful—when made with full fat buttermilk, especially the more expensive organic-style kind. The frozen bags of spinach at Whole Foods are less water-lamented, and chopped more finely than most other frozen spinachs and thus easier to work with. And I think next time I am going to make two times the number of dumplings, because there’s enough buttermilk stew to handle a lot more yummy dumplings.

Caroline M. January 27, 2019

Could you give an idea of how much fresh spinach to use, instead of frozen? I would guess that frozen spinach would be heavier because of the heavy frozen water. I would much rather use fresh, if possible.

Hana June 28, 2018

Made this tonight: delicious. I didn't have fenugreek seeds but threw in some Garam Masala to my dumplings and the stew. Other than that I followed the recipe as written. Flavors were complex and interesting. Thanks for the recipe!

Erin S. May 23, 2018

I've made this recipe a few times now and it. is. fantastic. So delicious! I grind the coriander seeds or use pre-ground as I don't like to chomp on a whole seed.

vijender A. January 4, 2018

I make it differently as I make dumplings using Small dice potatoes and diced onions and mix it with chick pea flour and batter is thick fry in oil ( you do need to add spices to the batter : my spices include salt,coriander powder,cumin powder,ginger powder,garam masala,black pepper,asfaetida powder,chilli powder to taste ). At times if buttermilk is not available I will use yogurt ( older the better as will be more tangy. I will also add diced poatoes and long sliced onions for more substantial taste. I will usually cook large batch and freeze part of it.

chandinid February 25, 2017

I enjoy seeing more Indian recipes but why call this a dumpling stew? Its name is Kadhi Pakora. No need to change the name of a traditional Indian Dish.

Ontariobnd November 10, 2016

I have fallen in love with this recipe - curious to try steaming the dumplings instead of frying? They end up in the sauce anyway, so the crispness isn't really important I wouldn't think. Anyone else out there ever try a different treatment of the dumplings?

Sue November 21, 2016

I got very lazy and used a package of store made falafels for the dumplings! I got them in the deli section of the grocery store where they sell the tofu. I made the sauce as in the recipe, but did make my own buttermilk with 4 cups of whole milk and the juice of one lemon. I added the falafels after the 30 minutes of cooking time for the sauce, and gently heated them thru. It was delicious!! I've never made the dumplings in the recipe, so maybe they are even better but for the cooks out there that might not have the time for dumpling making, try this, I think you will like it.

Erin S. April 9, 2018

I've baked them in the oven with great results! It dries them out slightly, but as you say, they end up in the sauce anyway.

SeasonToTaste July 19, 2015

Wow! I made this for the first time tonight, and it is my new favorite dish. Unique, exotic, and comfort food, all at the same time!

Adriana P. March 15, 2015

Thank you Sandra! Looking forward to the chaat masala recipe!

Sandra N. March 15, 2015

Hello Shveta!

Yesterday I made this amazing recipe! My family liked especially the stew! The first batch of dumplings holder up in the frying oil. But most of the second one started to fall apart! Is it right that the dumplings look more green than cream, right? Cause I cou spoon them into the oil! I first formed them to walnut sized balls and after that fried them!
Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe with the food52 community!

And I found this link to make your own chaat masala mix

Shveta B. March 16, 2015

Sandra, I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe! The batter for the dumplings should be more green. It generally falls apart if it is too wet. Make sure you throughly squeeze the spinach or you can add an extra tablespoon of the chickpea flour to make the batter stiffer. Let me know if that works!

Adriana P. March 13, 2015

hi shveta, thank you for this beautiful recipe and all the comments and tips. i am inspired to try and am interested in what brand chat masala to get? thank you!

Shveta B. March 16, 2015

If you decide not to go the homemade route (which is very cool btw) I like the MDH brand for chaat masala. Enjoy!

BaliThai March 9, 2015

What brand of amchur do you or others buy on Amazon? I ordered some awhile back and it wasn't sour at all (tasted like flour with a vague hint of sour), whereas the small bottle I bought on a trip to San Francisco was sour and divine! I love amchur, but am wary of buying it online unless it's from a good vendor! Thank you!

Shveta B. March 11, 2015

I like to buy either the Deep or MDH brands online. But if it all possible I like to go to my local Indian market where I know turnover is high so the spices are pretty fresh. The longer it sites the more sourness it loses which is totally a bummer.

BaliThai March 11, 2015

Thank you! We dont have any Indian markets within 4 hours of us, so it is likely going to be Amazon for me! Thank you!

Georgetown-DC March 3, 2015

Is it possible to make this ahead and freeze? Or, perhaps if I could make the spinach meatballs ahead and only freeze those? I'm just thinking of a long girls weekend I'm planning and trying to have interesting food but with little to no prep time and making whatever I can in advance. Yes, I understand that this can be made several days in advance but knowing what I have on my plate not sure it's something I can do that week. If freezing will alter the flavor too much then I won't risk it and will figure out how to have it done that week. Thanks you this sounds like wonderful comfort food.

Shveta B. March 3, 2015

You can absolutely freeze this. You can either freeze the dumplings only or freeze the finished dish. My mom would freeze individual portions of this stew for me to take back to college back in the day. Sometimes a bit of separation can occur if you freeze. To remedy just heat on the stove and simmer gently. If the stew gets too thick for your liking add some water from a freshly boiled kettle. Let me know how everyone likes it!

thebreukelenlife February 17, 2015

Made this this weekend and am surprised to say how easy it really was! All the unusual (to me) spices made things seem much more complicated but it was delight to make! I ordered most of the spices from amazon. I fried half of the dumplings and baked the other half (as per instructions below) just to see how the difference was. Both are great! Thank you - I'm looking forward to checking out your blog!

Kitchen C. February 10, 2015

I want to really thank you for this recipe. Making it became a real odyssey for me and I ended up actually blogging the experience. :) https://kitchencounterculture121.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/bu/

Diane Z. February 3, 2015

Everyone liked this including the two teens who love Indian and tangy. The spinach dumplings were fabulous but I need to practice so they don't break up so much. My only comment is that the weeknight lead-in comment on this was slightly misleading. Granted I am not that familiar with Indian cooking but it took just over two hours with a good bit of attention to make. So maybe weeknight for some...not us.

Shveta B. February 4, 2015

Glad to hear it was a hit! And yes, I totally agree that this is not a typical weeknight dish. For my mother, who would get home around 4pm and then happily cook for two hours it was totally do-able. But for me, it is definitely a weekend endeavor! One way I save time is make the dumplings while the gravy is simmering. Thanks for your comment!

jenny February 1, 2015

Can one sub fresh spinach for frozen? And if so what would be the quantity? I also imagine the moisture from the frozen spinach helps the dumplings hold together, is there any need to add water when using fresh spinach?

Shveta B. February 2, 2015

Yes, you can use fresh spinach instead of frozen. About a pound of fresh spinach should do the trick. You will need to chop it very finely and also add some water to the dumpling batter wet enough. You want it to be thicker than pancake batter. Let me know how the dish turns out!

Bushra M. March 11, 2020

Jenny, I think if you chop the fresh spinach and sprickl it with salt and rub it with your hands, it will welt and become close in texture to the frozen one.

Punjabi Buttermilk Stew with Spinach Dumplings Recipe on Food52 (2024)


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