Chicken Saag is a classic Indian dish featuring tender chicken cooked in a creamy-spicy spinach sauce. It’s a one-pot dish that you can cook on the stove or Instant Pot!

An overhead shot of a bowl containing chicken saag, an Indian curry with spinach and chicken.

One of my favorite Indian takeout dishes!

If you’re as obsessed as I am with the bold flavors and the delightful interplay of heat and spice in Indian cuisine, you should try this simple chicken curry recipe. It doesn’t matter if you call this dish chicken saag, palak chicken, saag chicken, murgh saagwala, or chicken saagwala—this fabulous one-pot recipe will knock your socks off!

My good pal Shiraaz, who hails from Mumbai, recently shared her chicken saag recipe with me—which I then tweaked slightly to make it Whole30, paleo, keto, and Instant Pot compatible. I also simplified it a bit so the ingredients can be easily found at the neighborhood supermarket, but trust me: this dish retains all the deliciousness of the original recipe!

An Asian woman is scooping up some chicken and spinach curry from an Instant Pot.

Why you’ll love this chicken saag curry recipe

  • It’s simple to make this Indian chicken recipe on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot!
  • This chicken saag is adapted from an authentic recipe from one of my best pals, Shiraaz, who happens to be a fabulous and discerning Indian home cook. Note that this dish is a home-style version of chicken saag, rather than the cream-filled version served at restaurants.
  • The recipe is naturally Whole30, keto, paleo, and gluten-free.
  • Chicken saag reheats like a dream, so you can make it ahead and freeze it for later.

Tips on how to make the best chicken saag

  • Prep and measure all the ingredients before you start.
  • Don’t skimp on the spices! That’s what makes Indian food taste so amazing! (And more spices doesn’t necessarily mean increased heat! Want a milder dish? Use less pepper!)
  • Chop the spinach in a food processor to make it fast and easy. (Using thawed and drained frozen chopped spinach also works!)
An overhead shot of chopped spinach in a food processor.

Can you make this chicken saag recipe in the Instant Pot?

Yes! I’ve included Instant Pot instructions in the printable recipe card below. Bonus? When you pressure-cook the dish, you can get it on the table in just 30 minutes!

An open Instant Pot filled with a green chicken curry, Chicken Saag.

Ingredients

An overhead shot of the raw ingredients to make Indian chicken saag, a chicken and spinach curry.
  • Ghee or avocado oil
  • Skinless and boneless chicken thighs: I prefer chicken thighs in this dish because they taste better and reheat beautifully if you have leftovers. You can use chicken breast if you insist, but don’t blame me if you overcook the meat!
  • Aromatics: Onion, garlic, and fresh ginger
  • Spicy green chili pepper: A serrano pepper or jalapeno pepper are interchangeable in this dish. If you like spicy foods, definitely add more than one pepper. If you don’t, leave it out.
  • Baby spinach leaves: Chop the spinach in a food processor to make it quick and uniform. You can also substitute 12 ounces of frozen spinach—just thaw and squeeze out the liquid first. Want to vary the greens? Use chopped kale, collard greens, or chard.
  • Tomato purée
  • Spices: Ground coriander powder, ground cumin, ground turmeric, and garam masala spice blend.
  • Ground Kashmiri chili: If you can’t find ground Kashmiri chili, you can substitute cayenne pepper. (If you don’t like spicy food, leave it out!)
  • Fresh lemon juice: Adds a zing of acid at the end which brightens the dish.

How to make chicken saag

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the ghee when the pan is hot. Toss in the onions…

Adding a bowl of chopped onions to a gray Dutch oven with ghee at the bottom.

…and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. (If you have extra time, cook the onions for 30 minutes or until golden brown to develop even more flavor.)

Lightly browned chopped onions being cooked in a large dutch oven.

Add the green pepper, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant—about a minute.

A red silicone spatula is mixing sautéed chopped onions, minced ginger, minced garlic, and diced green peppers in a pot.

Toss the chicken with 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Add the chicken to the pot.

A person in an off-white apron is adding a small spoonful of salt to a plate filled with raw cut-up boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 to 8 minutes. (If you’re using chicken breast, the cooking time will be closer to 3 to 5 minutes.)

An overhead shot of cooked cut-up chicken thighs that are no longer pink.


Stir in the coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, turmeric, and ground Kashmiri chili powder.

Adding the dried spices and seasoning to the chicken and onions in a pot to make chicken saag.

Cook, stirring well to distribute all the spices, for about a minute.

A closeup photo of cut-up cooked chicken thighs and spices in a pot.

Pour in the tomato purée and ½ cup of water and stir to combine.

Pouring water into a large pot filled with chicken, spices, and tomato puree.

Increase the heat to bring the sauce to a boil. Then, cover the pot and decrease the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender. (Using chicken breasts? The cooking time will be around 5 minutes.)

Putting the lid on a gray Dutch oven filled with a red colored simmering chicken curry.

Stir the chopped spinach into the pot and mix well.

Adding a big bowl of chopped baby spinach to a pot filled with chicken and tomato curry.

Cover the pot and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the spinach is tender and absorbs all the seasoning.

A hand clasping a cloth is putting the lid on a gray dutch oven filled with chicken saag.

Stir in the remaining teaspoon of garam masala and add the lemon juice.

Pouring a small bowl of lemon juice into a pot filled with cooked chicken saag curry.

Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

A hand is holding an off-white bowl filled with chicken and spinach Indian curry.

What do you serve with chicken saag?

Chicken saag is normally served with basmati rice and/or an Indian flat bread like naan. To keep things Whole30, keto, and paleo, you can serve chicken saag with cauliflower rice. (Personally, when I’m craving something bread-like but gluten-free to sop up the sauce, I’ll heat up some grain-free Siete tortillas to serve along with the curry.)

How do you save leftovers

Leftover chicken saag can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 4 months. I always make extra because it reheats amazingly well!


Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).


 PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD

Chicken Saag (Whole30, Keto, Instant Pot)

4.90 from 38 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Servings 6
Chicken Saag is a classic Indian dish featuring tender chicken cooked in a creamy-spicy spinach sauce. It’s a one-pot dish that you can cook on the stove or Instant Pot!

Ingredients  

  • ¼ cup ghee or avocado oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 serrano chili pepper or jalapeno pepper finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt divided
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala divided
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground kashmiri chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup tomato puree
  • 1 pound spinach finely chopped or 12 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions 

Stovetop Chicken Saag

  • Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the ghee when the pan is hot.
  • Toss in the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes. (If you have extra time, cook the onions for 30 minutes or until golden brown to develop even more flavor.)
  • Add the green pepper, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant—about a minute.
  • Toss the chicken with 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Add the chicken to the pot.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 to 8 minutes. (If you’re using chicken breast, the cooking time will be closer to 3 to 5 minutes.)
  • Stir in the coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, turmeric, and ground Kashmiri chili powder. Cook, stirring well to distribute all the spices, for about a minute.
  • Pour in the tomato purée and ½ cup of water and stir to combine.
  • Increase the heat to bring the sauce to a boil. Then, cover the pot and decrease the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender. (Using chicken breasts? The cooking time will be around 5 minutes.)
  • Stir the chopped spinach into the pot and mix well. Cover the pot and simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the spinach is tender and absorbs all the seasoning.
  • Stir in the remaining teaspoon of garam masala and add the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

30-Minute Instant Pot Chicken Saag

  • Turn on the saute mode on the Instant Pot. When the insert is hot, add the ghee.
  • Toss in the onions and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the serrano or jalapeno pepper, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Add the salted chicken to the Instant Pot.
  • Stir in the coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garam masala, turmeric, and ground Kashmiri chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Pour the tomato puree on top of the seasoned chicken and do not stir to combine. (No water is needed in the Instant Pot version.)
  • Lock the lid and cook under high pressure for 5 minutes. When the Instant Pot is done cooking, release the pressure manually.
  • Stir in the spinach. Lock the lid and cook under high pressure for 2 minutes. When the Instant Pot is done cooking, release the pressure manually.
  • Open the Instant Pot and stir in the remaining teaspoon of garam masala and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Video

Notes

  • Leftover chicken saag can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 4 months. I always make extra because it reheats amazingly well!
  • If using chicken breasts in place of chicken thighs, make sure you don’t overcook it!
  • Chicken saag is normally served with basmati rice and/or an Indian flat bread like naan. To keep things Whole30, keto, and paleo, you can serve chicken saag with cauliflower rice.

Nutrition

Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 15g | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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20 Comments

  1. This was delicious!!!! And, soooo fast and easy. I did the instant pot version with a mix of chicken breast and thighs, frozen spinach and onions. It came out great. My family gave it 5 stars. Thanks Michelle for this wonderful recipe.

  2. Delicious – I made this in my Instant Pot and it turned out great. I have a feeling this will become a regular dinner in my rotation. I am not Paleo and served it with brown rice. I love these Paleo recipes since I can not eat dairy.

  3. Love this recipe! I’m lazy so just put everything in the Instant Pot at once (except for the spinach). Turns out great! This one is a favorite in my household and easy enough to pass muster with me as a less advanced/patient cook.

  4. 5 stars
    This was delicious and the flavors spot on. Saag is my favorite sauce base in Indian cuisine, but I avoid it because of the yogurt base. I made this with homemade ghee and caramelized those onions. Can’t wait to try this with lamb.

  5. 5 stars
    Yum! We made this last night. Fast, flavourful and easy ingredients, a perfect mid week dinner idea. Very nice flavours, the garam masala tastes quite sweet in it. We Served on riced cauliflower. I will definitely be making this chicken saag again.