Punjabi Saag is one of the most iconic dishes of the entire region and could even be called the quintessential Punjabi dish. It’s warming, homely, very simply spiced, and full of butter which serves to amplify the creaminess of the pureed spinach. This Palak Saag is a modern take on that!
I n Punjab, Saag is typically made with Mustard leaves (Sarson), Spinach leaves (Palak), Radish Leaves (Mooli ke Patte), Chenopodium Leaves (Bathua) and occasionally Fenugreek Leaves (Methi). This dish is called Sarson ka Saag, named after the mustard leaves which feature most predominately. Unfortunately most of these greens aren’t commonly available outside of India, and even in the UK I struggle to find them with an abundance of Indian grocery stores. I’m a big believer in making cooking accessible, so I’ve adapted the traditional recipe and made an incredibly iron-rich pure Spinach version instead.
The recipe uses really minimal spicing and relies on the complimentary flavours of spinach and garlic to really carry the dish, with little hints of spice here and there. It’s mild, with a gentle warmth from green chillis without the spicy heat of red chilli. You can adjust the heat by adding red chilli or more chopped green chilli during the tempering stage of the palak saag if you want more of a kick.
This meal is ideal for a cold, rainy evening when you want to get cozy with a nice hot bowl of comfort food.
Traditionally, saag would be simmered for hours and blended by hand using something called a ghotni (whisk, or churn). My recipe is extremely quick and uses a modern hand blender to do the work. It’s really the ideal recipe when you want to make something easy that packs a punch of flavour.
Is this recipe Vegan?
Not traditionally, no. However, you can easily use vegan butter when serving and a neutral tasting oil of choice when cooking to make an entirely vegan friendly dish. Whatever you do, just don’t skimp on the butter (dairy or vegan) – it really elevates the dish to another level!
Palak Saag - Punjabi Spinach Curry
A simple, homely and warming curry made from lots of Spinach, Onions, Ginger, Garlic, Tomatoes, Cornmeal and basic spices.
- 120g Large Salad Tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 100g White Onions, roughly chopped
- 200g Spinach
- 1tbsp Fresh Ginger, grated or chopped
- 4 Large Garlic Cloves, crushed
- 1tbsp Cornmeal (Maize Flour, Makki ka Atta)
- 1/2 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
- 3 Thin Green Chillis
- 1/2tsp Salt
- 350ml Water
- 1tbsp Butter, to temper
- 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 40g Red Onion, finely chopped
- 1tbsp Butter, to serve
- 1tbsp Cream, optional
- To begin, add tomatoes, onions, spinach, ginger, garlic, cornmeal, ginger garlic paste, green chillis and salt to a large saucepan over medium heat. Sweat the vegetables gently, stirring to mix everything, for around 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, add the required water, mix once again, and cover the saucepan with a lid. Boil for around 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes has passed, turn off the heat and wait for the mixture to cool down. Once cooled, blend to a smooth puree using a blender of your choice. I use a hand blender.
- Add 1tbsp of butter to the same saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Once the butter has melted and is slightly hot (but not browning), add the cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds splutter, add the red onion and saute for around 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is caramelized and slightly browning. Be careful not to burn it!
- Once the onion has caramelized, add the blended saag back into the saucepan and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 4-5 minutes or until the saag has thickened to your liking, then turn off the heat and serve hot with a slice of butter on top, raw onions on the side, and chopped coriander.
How to serve Palak Saag?
The traditional and most famous way to serve Saag is topped with a lot of Makhan (Homemade Butter) with Makki di Roti (Flatbreads made with cornmeal and shaped by hand) and Gur (Jaggery) on the side. This is really delicious – but the roti take time and practice to master. If you’re looking for an easier serving suggestion, palak saag tastes delicious with chapatis, parathas, or even garlic & coriander naan. You can also serve it with plain steamed rice.
For a slightly less traditional option, you can add cubed paneer to the dish in the last 5 minutes of cooking to make Saag Paneer. Alternatively, add boiled potatoes at the same time to make Saag Aloo. These are both popular dishes in the UK rather than being truly traditional Indian dishes. However, it would taste lovely and if you want a little more substance to the curry, it’s a great option.
As always, if you give this recipe a try please let me know what you think of the dish in the comments down below. If you have any questions about the ingredients, method or anything else, contact me through one of my social media channels, in the comments, or through my contact page.