Chicken Saag

Every culture, it seems, has a dish incorporating chicken and greens. In northern India and Pakistan it is variously called murgh saagwala, saag murgh, or palak murgh: murgh meaning chicken, saag referring to greens in general, and palak being specifically spinach. Aromatic but mildly spiced, this is a south Asian dish to appeal to even the most timid palate. Try it with collards, kale, or even mustard greens for variety. It is best made with fresh greens but frozen work almost as well. Traditionally, it is served with naan but it is equally good with rice, or both. A dollop of yogurt is a nice finishing touch.

I adapted this recipe from Rafi Fernandez, ed., 1000 Recipes: Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Asian (London: Hermes House, an imprint of Anness Publishing, Ltd., 2009), 177.

Makes two servings with bread or rice



Spinach, frozen chopped

140 grams

5 ounces

Ginger paste

15 milliliters

1 Tablespoon


1 or 2 cloves

1 or 2 cloves

Green chili (optional)

1 or 2

1 or 2

Oil or ghee

15 milliliters

1 Tablespoon

Bay leaves

2 small

2 small

Black peppercorns

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Onion, finely chopped

1 medium

1 medium

Diced canned tomato

½ 14-ounce can

½ 14-ounce can

Curry powder*

10 milliliters

2 teaspoons

Chili powder** (optional)

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon


to taste

to taste

Nonfat Greek yogurt

45 milliliters

3 Tablespoons

Chicken thighs, cubed

220 grams

8 ounces

* In place of a commercial preparation, grind together 10 milliliters (2 teaspoons) turmeric, and 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon) each cumin seed, coriander seed, fenugreek seed, and fennel seed.  

** Indian chili powder, called mirch, not Mexican chili powder, or cayenne powder.


Microwave the spinach for about 2 minutes until thawed and cooked. Put into a food processor along with the ginger, garlic, and chili, if using. Process to a thick purée, adding a bit of water if needed. Set aside.

Heat the oil or ghee in a large, heavy pan over medium heat. Fry the bay leaves and peppercorns for 2 minutes. Add the onion and fry, stirring from time to time, until well browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add in the tomatoes and fry for another 5 minutes. Season with the curry powder, chili powder if using, and salt. Stir in the spinach purée and enough water to make a thick sauce. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Stir in the yogurt into the sauce, at bit at a time to make a smooth sauce. Add chicken thigh pieces, cover, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done.


One response to “Chicken Saag

  1. Karen May 11, 2014 at 15:31

    I haven’t had Indian food in a long time, your recipe sounds especially good.

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