Chicken Saagwala

Chicken Saagwala

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
490 Calories
25g Fat
14g Carbs
53g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 490
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 32%
Saturated Fat 6g 28%
Cholesterol 153mg 51%
Sodium 496mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 53g
Vitamin C 19mg 94%
Calcium 198mg 15%
Iron 7mg 37%
Potassium 1091mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Key ingredients in chicken saagwala, a light curry dish common in northern Indian cooking, include a light sauce made flavorful with turmeric, cinnamon, garam masala, and fresh spinach with lightly browned pan-fried chicken. It is one of the healthier dishes on the menu at many Indian restaurants. 

Team it with hot chapatis (Indian flatbread) or parathas (pan-fried Indian flatbread) to finish, and you have got a winning Indian dish that people of all ages will love.

This is also a dish that is easily prepared in advance by making the curry sauce recipe ahead of time and then cooking the full recipe with chicken and additional spices in small batches.


  • 3 large bunches spinach

  • 2 1/5 pounds skinless chicken pieces, legs or breasts preferable

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking

  • 5 whole black peppercorns

  • 4 whole cloves

  • 4 pods cardamom

  • 2 large onions, chopped very fine

  • 2 tablespoons garlic paste

  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon garam masala

  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped fine

  • 1 dollop unsalted butter, for garnish

  • Salt, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Chicken Saagwala ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Wash the spinach well and chop.

    chop spinach on a cutting board

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Put into a pot with half a cup of water, salt to taste, and simmer until just cooked, 1 to 2 minutes.

    spinach cooking in a pot

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Grind the spinach into a paste in a food processor. Set aside.

    spinach in a food processor

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and fry the chicken pieces until well browned. Remove and keep aside.

    chicken cooking in a pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Again heat the same oil, then add the whole spices.

    spices toasting in a pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  7. As the spices turn slightly darker, add the onion, ginger and garlic pastes and fry till the onions are pale golden in color.

    onions, garlic and ginger with spices in a pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Add all the other spices: coriander, cumin, and garam masala. Fry for 5 minutes.

    spices cooking with the onion mixture in a pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  9. Add the tomatoes and fry till the oil begins to separate from the masala.

    tomatoes added to the masala mixture

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  10. Add the chicken to this masala, mix well, and add half a cup of water. Cook till the chicken is almost done.

    chicken added to the masala mixture in the pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  11. Add the spinach and mix well. Cook until most of the water dries up. Remove from the fire and garnish with a dollop of fresh butter.

    spinach and butter cooking with the chicken mixture in the pan

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  12. Serve with hot chapatis (Indian flatbread) or parathas (pan-fried Indian flatbread).

    Chicken Saagwala in a bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck


  • Use fresh baby spinach: A key to maintaining a fresh and light flavor in chicken saagwala is by using fresh baby leaf spinach. While some may use canned or frozen spinach to make this dish, it does not pair as well with ginger and garlic as fresh spinach.
  • Choice of chicken: You will want to use skinless chicken so the dish is not swimming in oil from the fatty skin. You can opt to cook with the bones in to give the dish another layer of flavor and unctuousness. If you remove the bones, the end product is still delicious and is easier to eat as a meal.
  • Careful with the onions: Make sure to not overcook your onions, garlic paste, and ginger paste mixture. Keep the heat at medium and only cook until the onions begin to get translucent; they should not get browned at this point. If that mixture overcooks, it can give the entire meal bitter undertones.
  • Add some zing: Another way to dial up the flavor with a little tanginess is with a squeeze of lemon added at the end.

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