This quick and easy Chicken Saag (chicken and spinach curry aka palak chicken) is the fastest curry you'll ever make from scratch. It's healthy and delicious with a flavor bomb of spices. You'll never need to order Indian takeout again with this recipe in your arsenal.
(This recipe was originally published in March 2019, but was updated with new photos and content in 2020).
Since first making this chicken saag recipe, I have made it countless times. I always amaze myself with how easy it is to make, and how it satisfies my craving for Indian food. Although my favorite Indian curries when I go out to eat are chicken tikka masala and chicken korma, I have since fallen head over heels for chicken saag (palak chicken).
If you've never eaten or even seen Indian chicken saag curry, you may be a little surprised by it's appearance. It's a cooked spinach curry, so the color and texture is that of a muted green puree.
Take my word for it though, the aroma and flavors of this curry are out of this world! If you like Indian food, definitely give this recipe a try. The taste will speak for itself.
Believe it or not, this recipe rivals the saag at my favorite local Indian restaurant! I may even say I prefer my own heavily spiced concoction to theirs. It contains nearly a dozen spices and aromatics in the pureed spinach sauce.
- Chicken: Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders for this recipe, and cube them into small, bite-size 1-inch pieces.
- Spinach: I use fresh baby spinach since it's already trimmed and easy to use. You can also use regular spinach and trim the stalky stems yourself. Alternatively you can also use a combination of spinach and other dark leafy greens like kale, mustard greens, or Swiss chard. Fenugreek leaves are also quite traditional to include.
- Aromatics & Spices: For this chicken and spinach curry you'll need onion, garlic and fresh ginger for your aromatics. For spices you'll need salt, ground coriander, garam masala (a spice blend), ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground cardamom, and chili powder (such as Indian chili powder or cayenne, NOT American chili powder which is a spice blend and not pure, ground chiles). If you are missing any of the spices you can omit them, but the flavor of the curry will be a bit different than the original. I recommend using all these spices for optimal results.
- Tomato Paste: Tomato paste comes in cans or resealable squeezable tubes. If you have leftover tomato paste to use up from making this chicken saag recipe, use it to make Tas Kebab, Czech Beef Goulash, Individual Beef and Mushroom Pies, Autumn Vegetable Soup with Sausage and Green Lentils, or Armenian Lentil Soup with Macaroni.
- Yogurt: Use plain thick yogurt such as Greek-style, but any thick unflavored yogurt will work.
How to make it
The first step in making this chicken saag curry is to make the spinach sauce. Heat a little bit of oil in a non-stick skillet, and add chopped onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook until softened and aromatic (PHOTO 1). Add your mixture of spices (PHOTO 2).
Stir your tomato paste into water to dissolve, then add it to the spices and aromatics in the pan (PHOTO 3). Mix until combined, and then stir in the spinach leaves. Cover the pan to allow the spinach to wilt. Stir the mixture until all the spinach is wilted, but still vibrant green (PHOTOS 4-6).
Remove from the heat and puree the mixture in your blender or food processor. It should still have a bit of texture so don't over-do it. The sauce is ready!
Next cook cubes of chicken in a bit of oil until cooked through (PHOTOS 7-8).
Pour the spinach sauce over the chicken, and continue to cook so the flavors can meld together (PHOTOS 9-10). Stir in a big spoonful of plain yogurt, and this healthy chicken and spinach curry is ready (PHOTOS 11-12).
Please scroll to the bottom of the post for the full recipe (in a printable recipe card) including ingredient amounts and detailed instructions.
The recipe comfortably yields 4 servings, although if you are super hungry you can divide it into 2 or 3 larger portions of chicken saag.
I typically serve this simple chicken and spinach curry with plain basmati rice or jeera rice, basmati rice made with cumin seeds. You can also serve it with another dish, such as Chana Dal to expand the menu and yield more overall servings.
Making this recipe on a weeknight is fast and easy. You can prep your chicken in advance by cubing it up and refrigerating it until it's time to cook. You can also measure out all your spices, mix them together, and set them aside. The aromatics are also easy enough to chop, measure, and prep in advance. Then at the last minute, just get cooking.
The saag sauce cooks quite rapidly, as does the chicken. Your authentic, homemade Indian meal will be ready before you know it! Technically, you can even cook the spinach sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it, and then finish the dish by cooking the chicken and adding the sauce to heat it through.
This authentic chicken saag curry is just as delicious reheated the following day. I often take a portion to work for lunch and will admit it's probably the best work lunch ever! If anything the flavor gets even better over time, and it's very easy to reheat in a microwave if that's all you have access to.
This curry is quite healthy compared to many other curry dishes. The amount of oil is minimal, but can be reduced further if you prefer, especially if using a nonstick pan to cook it. You may also use reduced fat or fat free plain yogurt to save a few additional calories. Although you can make this chicken saag recipe with chicken thighs, I prefer white meat which is also leaner than the alternative.
"Saag" is more of a broad term for green leafy vegetable curries, and "palak" is specific to curries made with spinach. Both apply in this case, though I've always called it the former so that's what I'll stick with.
If using frozen spinach use about 3 ⅓ ounces of frozen spinach (or about ⅓ of a 10-ounce package) to get the equivalent of 8 ounces fresh spinach. Thaw before using, but no need to squeeze out the excess liquid (it will help keep your sauce the right consistency). You can skip the step of wilting the spinach in the spice sauce, and just transfer the spice sauce and thawed frozen spinach to the blender together and proceed as directed in the recipe. I've used as much as 5 ounces of frozen spinach in this recipe before and it's delicious too, just a bit more spinachy than usual!
Other recipes you may like
- Homemade Naan
- Chicken Vindaloo
- Chicken Korma
- Murgh Masala (Chicken Masala)
- Murghi aur Masoor Dal (Bombay-style Chicken with Red Split Lentils)
- Chana Dal
- Dal Makhani
- Gajar Matar (Carrots and Peas)
- Browse all Indian Recipes
Tried this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page. You can also follow me on social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!
Chicken Saag (Chicken and Spinach Curry)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt plus more as needed (preferably Diamond Crystal brand; start with ¾ teaspoon if using another brand—SEE NOTES)
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon Indian chili powder or cayenne pepper or to taste
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup water
- 8 ounces baby spinach or trimmed regular spinach, washed and dried
- 1 pound chicken breast or tenders cut into 1-inch pieces
- ¼ cup plain yogurt preferably thick Greek-style yogurt
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (if you plan to double the recipe, definitely use a pot instead of a skillet so you have room for all the spinach!). Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and saute until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, and lowering heat to medium-low if it starts to brown too quickly.
- Over medium heat, add the salt (SEE NOTES), coriander, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, and chili powder, and stir on medium-low heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so. Dissolve the tomato paste in the water by stirring vigorously together in a measuring cup or bowl. Then stir into the spices in the pan, creating a thick spiced sauce, about 1 minute.
- Add the spinach and gently stir to combine, as the skillet will be very full. Cover and raise the heat to medium-high, allowing the spinach to start to wilt. Occasionally remove the lid, stir, and then cover again until most the spinach has begun to wilt, about 3 to 5 minutes (can depend on the size of your spinach leaves). Remove the lid and finish stirring the spinach until it is completely wilted but still bright green, another minute.
- Transfer spinach mixture to a blender and puree until relatively smooth but still a bit chunky (you don’t want it to be super smooth, a bit of texture is good). Taste and adjust salt and spice if necessary.
- Meanwhile, wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel, return it to medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the cubed chicken pieces, sprinkle salt over the top to season, and cook until almost completely cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Pour the spinach mixture back over the chicken, using a rubber spatula to get every last bit out of the blender, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the chicken to finish cooking. Stir in the yogurt, and serve immediately with basmati rice and/or naan.
- I typically serve this simple curry with plain basmati rice or jeera rice, basmati rice made with cumin seeds.
- The recipe comfortably yields 4 servings, although if you are super hungry you can divide it into 2 or 3 larger portions.
- You can also use a combination of dark leafy greens in this recipe. Try half spinach and half kale, mustard greens, or Swiss chard as another option. Those other greens are more bitter and will change the general flavor of this curry. Fenugreek leaves are also quite traditional to include. The combination of greens is simply a matter of personal preference.
- If using frozen spinach instead of fresh use about 3 ⅓ ounces of the frozen spinach (or about ⅓ of the 10-ounce package) to get the equivalent of 8 ounces fresh spinach. Thaw before using, but no need to squeeze out the excess liquid (it will help keep your sauce the right consistency). You can skip the step of wilting the spinach in the spice sauce, and just transfer the spice sauce and thawed frozen spinach to the blender together and proceed as directed. I've used as much as 5 ounces of frozen spinach in this recipe before and it's delicious too, just a bit more spinachy than usual!
- This recipe uses kosher salt (aka cooking salt, kitchen salt, coarse salt outside of the US), preferably Diamond Crystal brand which has larger flakes (this is the brand used in many restaurants, and the brand I use to test all my recipes). If you are using table salt or a fine (less coarse) kosher salt (such as Morton), scale down the salt to ¾ teaspoon to start, and add more later if needed.
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*
Perfect recipe, can't fault it, well done team. I will definitely be making more from the recipe section above.
Delicious, flavourful, easy, quick, family friendly AND healthy!! What more could you ask for, seriously brilliant recipe, thank you for sharing it.
“Kid tested, Mother approved!”
My kids might be some of the pickiest eaters ever. They drive me nuts and I was hesitant to make this because I was afraid of the tantrums. Needless to say, I should have made it a lot sooner because my 5-year old hater of poultry said it was the best thing she ever ate. So yea. I’ll definitely be making this again!!
I love this stuff and have made this recipe three times now. But the prep and cooking times are way off. Between cutting up the chicken, mincing the onion and garlic, measuring out all the spices (and getting them all out and putting them all away!). AND cooking the rice, I can’t get this stuff made and ready to serve, in under 2.5 - 3 hours. That doesn’t keep me from making it… But it darn sure is not a 30 minute start to finish recipe. No way, absolutely not.
I'm so glad that you love this recipe as much as I do! It's certainly one of my favorites. I completely understand your concerns about the total time it may take to make this recipe. The prep time for a recipe is one of the most variable aspects. I do my best to estimate it based on my own experience but also realize there are other factors to take into account. Prep time can range significantly from cook to cook. It's impacted by skill level, kitchen organization, and more. I can chop the ingredients and measure the spices pretty quickly. Blending the sauce mixture also takes practically no time at all. The chicken is cut pretty small and cooks fast as well. That being said, the time required to cook the rice is not included in the total time for this particular recipe (it's only for the chicken saag itself). Your feedback is helpful for others to account for extra time if they want to serve their chicken saag with rice, but I do think 2.5 to 3 hours is much longer than it should take most people to prepare this dish from start to finish 🙂
This was excellent. I used a bit more of each spice, but we really like Indian spices and not everyone would like it with the additional spice. With fresh spices the amounts in this recipe would have been perfect.
OMG this was delicious! Definitely one of my favourite curries ever, whole family loved it!
The recipe was very easy to follow for a tasty curry that i will definitely make again. I added a few choppped tomatoes to the sauce which gave it more sweetness but I'm sure it would taste as good without. I like fairly hot curries and was tempted to add more chilli powder but left it as it is in the recipe - the mildness allows the flavours of the spinach and all the other spices to shine through.
It was delicious! I used grilled chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts and it came out great. Hubby loved it too! Very easy to make.
Delicious, even my 4yo devoured it!
Great tasty, easy to make recipe. Thank you
Very good, all it needs is a bit of fresh coriander (cilantro) sprinkled over at the end with some more garam masala.
A great recipe.
I converted the recipe for 20 people.
I added some different items. I held back the salt and when serving added yogurt and chili sauce.
Thank you for this great recipe.
Excellent recipe! Will definitely do it again! I used chicken thighs and worked out well too! Next time, I will double the saag!
i use black cardamom seeds and i put them in early with the onions. very delicious and exotic. but I've made this recipe the other way too! about seven times.
So good! Thanks for a well-written and easy-to-follow recipe. Went on the high end of the spinach recommendation and loved it.
Super lovely healthy chicken saag recipe and really easy to make! With spinach and chicken thighs. One of the dishes I would go to brand new to Indian cuisine. I tripled the Kashmiri chili powder but some like it hot. Some like it hot. Definitely blend the spinach and spice base lightly for a great texture. It is high protein, bordering on keto, great recipe in my opinion for the bodybuilder in your life.