Easy to make and loaded with flavor, this Indian-inspired chicken saag recipe has become a favorite for weeknight meals! It’s a healthy dish featuring spiced chicken and spinach tossed with a flavor-packed sauce.
Whenever I’m craving Indian takeout, I make this my family’s favorite Indian spinach chicken dish, AKA chicken saag. It’s packed with warm spices that give it incredible flavor, plus greens for some sneaky nutrition!
Served with a side of homemade naan bread and coconut rice, this is the ultimate way to enjoy Indian takeout without spending the money. It rivals my butter chicken as one of my favorite dishes to make, even on the busiest nights.
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What is chicken saag?
Chicken saag is a type of Indian spiced chicken curry that tosses seasoned chicken breast pieces and spinach in a creamy and bold sauce. It’s a popular menu pick at Indian restaurants for good reason: the pan-fried chicken is super juicy and tender, while the Indian spice blend is a flavor explosion in your mouth!
I love making chicken saag at home because it’s really simple to put together and is always a filling and flavorful dish the whole family enjoys. If that doesn’t convince you to try it, maybe these other features will:
- Easy to make. This recipe is simple and can be on the table in under 20 minutes!
- Super flavorful. A blend of classic Indian spices infuses this chicken dish with incredible layers of flavor and warmth.
- Pairs well with lots of sides. In our household, we always serve this dish with lots of sides (just like what you’d see in an Indian restaurant). We like it with naan, basmati rice, yogurt, curried cauliflower, and more.
- Inexpensive! This dish is an affordable way to enjoy takeout at home, like my Paneer tikka masala and lamb Rogan Josh.
This recipe calls for simple and easy-to-find ingredients. However, if you want to enhance the taste, I highly recommend making it with the high-quality spices and ingredients found at your local Indian grocer. Here is what you’ll need:
- Chicken breasts. I like to make this with boneless skinless chicken breasts, but you could use chicken thighs if you like.
- Olive oil and butter. Making this dish with both olive oil AND butter gives it a ton of body and encourages the chicken to develop a gorgeous golden crust.
- Aromatics. Diced onion, chili peppers, ginger, and garlic are must-have aromatics. I used store-bought ginger garlic paste but you can use the fresh stuff if you want. And if you don’t have fresh green chili peppers, use a pinch of cayenne instead.
- Spices. I used salt, garam masala, cumin, coriander, ground chili powder, and turmeric to replicate those restaurant-quality flavors.
- Tomato paste. This gives the meal some additional color and subtle sweet-umami notes.
- Baby spinach. You can technically make chicken saag with any kind of leafy greens but I prefer spinach.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
How to make chicken saag
Step 1 – Season the chicken. Coat the diced chicken with salt and garam masala.
Step 2 – Pan fry. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Once hot, add the seasoned chicken and cook until fully browned on all sides. Set aside.
Step 3 – Make the marsala. Melt the butter in the now-empty skillet. Add the onion, chili pepper, ginger, and garlic paste and cook until the onion softens. Next, stir in the tomato paste, spices, and water.
Step 4 – Add the spinach. Cook the spinach leaves in the sauce until they’re fully wilted.
Step 5 – Coat in sauce. Return the cooked chicken to the skillet and toss until it’s well coated in the spiced spinach mixture. Serve with naan bread and basmati rice on the side, then enjoy!
Recipe tips and variations
- Get your hands on good-quality aromatics and spices. It’s the only way to recreate the bold flavors you’d typically find in an Indian restaurant. Also, most mainstream grocery stores have a dedicated Indian foods section.
- Use frozen chicken. You can cook the diced and frozen chicken breasts right from frozen, but I’ve found it’s easier to thaw them in the fridge first.
- Use frozen spinach. Just like the meat, you can use frozen spinach instead of fresh. Remember to only use about half the amount of frozen spinach instead since all of the water has already been cooked out.
- Skip the meat. Make vegetarian saag by swapping the chicken for pan-fried or air fryer tofu or chickpeas.
- Try a different kind of greens. Did you know that saag = leafy greens in Hindi? That means you can make this with any kind of leafy green you like, such as kale, chard, mustard greens, collard greens, or escarole.
- Add more veggies. Add bulk to this dish with extra vegetables, like green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, or peas.
To store: Transfer the cooked and cooled leftover chicken saag curry to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze: The leftovers also freeze well for up to 3 months. Just let them thaw in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat: You can easily reheat the leftovers in the microwave or a skillet over medium heat with a splash of water or chicken broth.
Frequently asked questions
This dish could technically be called chicken palak because palak means spinach in Hindi. Saag is a broader term, meaning leafy greens in Hindi. We call this recipe chicken saag because it works with both spinach and other types of leafy greens.
Yes, there’s a little bit of heat here because of the diced green chilies. If you don’t like spicy food, omit the chili pepper and/or ground chili powder from the recipe.
More Indian-inspired recipes to try
- Chicken Tikka Masala – Mouthwatering chicken tossed in a rich yogurt-curry sauce.
- Chicken Vindaloo – A deeply flavorful 40-minute chicken dinner.
- Chana Masala – Spiced chickpeas simmered in a rich tomato “gravy”. Easy and vegan!
- Quick and Easy Dahl – The king of hearty vegan Indian stews! Ready in 30 minutes.
- 1 pound chicken breast chopped into chunks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 chili pepper minced
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste * see notes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground chili pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 ounces baby spinach
- Season the chicken with salt and garam masala.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook the chicken until browned on all sides. Set aside.
- Add butter to the pan, followed by cumin seeds. Cook until the mixture starts sizzling, then add onion, green pepper, and the ginger garlic paste. Cook until onion softens, then add tomato paste, spices, and water and combine well. Add spinach and cook until spinach wilts.
- Blend the mixture and return the chicken to the pan. Cook together for several minutes then serve.
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