Chicken Saagwala

10:00 am on 17 July 2020
Chicken Saagwala

Chicken Saagwala Photo: Nadia Lim

Saagwala is a spinach-rich curry, and one of my favourites to order at an Indian restaurant. It is also excellent with lamb, or paneer (an Indian cheese, not too dissimilar to halloumi which you could also use), or mushrooms. You could even do a chickpea saagwala. Once you know how to make the saagwala sauce, you can really turn it into whatever kind of saagwala you want!  

Serves 4 / Prep time: 15 minutes / Cook time: 40 minutes


  • 600-700g boneless, skinless chicken (thighs are ideal, but breast is fine too), cut into 2-3cm pieces
  • ¼ cup oil (e.g. canola, grapeseed, rice bran) or ghee
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3cm piece ginger, peeled, finely grated 
  • 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala (optional, if you have it)
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes (optional, if you like a little heat)
  • 1 x 400g can crushed, chopped or whole tomatoes
  • 300-350g defrosted frozen spinach or 300g chopped fresh spinach 
  • ¼ cup cream or coconut cream/milk (optional)


1.    Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season with salt. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large frypan on medium heat and brown chicken all over. Set chicken aside and keep pan on the heat. 

2.    Heat ¼ cup oil in the fry pan the chicken was cooked in. Cook onions, with a good pinch of salt, for 8-10 minutes, until starting to brown. Add ¼ cup water during cooking and use a wooden spoon to stir and rub the bottom of the pan to release any pan brownings from the chicken (which have lots of flavour) into the onions. 

3.    Add a little drizzle more of oil to the pan of onions and add garlic, ginger and spices. Continue to cook for 1 more minute. 

4.    Place spinach in a heatproof bowl. Pour over boiling water to cover, leave for 1-2 minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess moisture. Add spinach, tomatoes, and onions to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. 

5.    Pour sauce back into the pan, add chicken and continue cooking for about 10 minutes until sauce has thickened and chicken is cooked through. If you think it is too thick, stir in a little water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir through or drizzle with cream or coconut cream/milk (if using).

Tips & substitutions

o    If the onions look like they are sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning, just add a few tablespoons of water and use a wooden spoon to stir and rub the bottom of the pan and they will lift.

o    This curry keeps well in the fridge for a few days (its flavour actually improves after a day or two) or it can be frozen

o    Instead of (or in addition to) the cream/coconut cream, you can add a dollop of natural yoghurt or coconut yoghurt to the curry just before serving


From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

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