nearly restaurant style chicken saag curry

Nearly restaurant style chicken saag is as close as you can get to full blown restaurant cooking as you can get. Unless you go all in. It has the texture. It has the flavours. And it’s a bit healthier. Added bonus.

Make every curry a great one

The internet is full of recipes written by people that have never had Indian food. Recipes that tell you adding a bit of curry powder to some chicken is a curry. I started researching this after trying one or two of them just to see what would come out the other side. Was not pretty…

I’m not being nice here. That’s true. I’m sorry. I really hope that doesn’t stop you from reading on. But seriously. Ask yourself – Is today the day I want to make bad fake Indian food?

Full blown restaurant Indian is a bit complicated but totally achievable if you plan ahead. Homestyle Indian is just wonderful, magical stuff. But it takes time.

In between – I give you nearly Indian restaurant style chicken saag. Fast enough to make on a whim. And close to what you get in restaurants. Really close, in fact. Read all about it in this nearly Indian restaurant cooking primer.

Chicken saag starts with onions

The key is the onions. That’s a big part of Indian cooking. Homestyle cooking relies on deeply browning the onions. Think onion soup. Like 30 minutes of browning.

Restaurant style replaces that by cooking huge amounts of onions in what they call the curry base. Do it once in volume and then crank out curries to order. If you are interested, read all about Indian restaurant cooking techniques.

What makes this chicken saag work is still the onions. No getting around that. But it swaps out 30 minutes of careful browning with 10 minutes in the microwave. Crazy sounding but it works.

I got the idea from a Chef’s Steps onion puree. They use it replace cream in recipes. I use it to replace curry base. That’s the secret. The gee whiz. The secret to nearly restaurant chicken saag. Or any other nearly restaurant style curry.

chicken saag curry in an Indian dish

Nearly restaurant style curry is a new way to cook

As far as I can tell, this is a first in Indian cooking. I’m probably wrong about that but I can’t find anything like this anywhere. And I looked. A lot.

Let me know if you’ve seen this somewhere else please. Don’t mean to claim honours here if it’s been done anywhere.

The technique here borrows heavily from Indian restaurant technique. That’s why it works. Some tweaks of course. But that’s breaking new ground… Nearly restaurant ain’t bad. Pretty good even. Try it and let me know what you think…

Looking for other nearly restaurant style curries?

Madras chicken curry

Chicken jalfrezi

Chicken tikka masala

Chettinad chicken curry

chicken saag curry from above
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4.68 from 130 votes

nearly restaurant style chicken saag

This isn’t full blown Indian restaurant cooking but it’s a lot closer than most recipes out there…
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken saag
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 435kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The onion paste

  • 2 cups onions – coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

chicken saag

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 3 pieces per thigh.
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 tsp mild kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp kosher salt – use a bit less if you are using table salt
  • 2 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste diluted to the consistency of tomato sauce
  • 4 oz frozen spinach (frozen weight) thawed and drained
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil


The onion paste

  • Place the onions in a microwave safe dish and cover loosely. Microwave at 70 percent until the onions are soft and translucent. This takes 10 minutes in my  1100 watt microwave. I can’t predict how long it will take in yours…
  • Remove the onions from the microwave. Be careful. They will be hot. Let them cool slightly. Place the onions, 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 3/4 cup of warm water in a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.

chicken saag

  • In a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, Kashmiri chili powder, kasoor methi and salt. This is your spice mix.
  • Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat until it shimmers. 
  • Add the garlic ginger paste and cook until it stops spluttering. 
  • Turn the heat to medium low. Add the spice mix and stir continuously until it starts to smell really good – around 30-40 seconds. Watch it carefully. If you burn the spices at this point you have to start over.
  • Add the diluted tomato paste and stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the onion paste and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes. Don’t worry if it seems a bit dry. The chicken will release juices as it cooks and you should be left with a nice amount of sauce.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the chicken and stir. Cover and simmer until the chicken is done. It’s done when you measure the internal temperature and it says 170F, about 12-15 minutes. There’s no other way to really tell when chicken is cooked. Get an instant read thermometer if you haven’t already bought one. Just do it! That’s what the pros do. 
  • Add the thawed spinach and stir to distribute it. If the curry is a bit thick add a bit of water or chicken stock and stir. Let the chicken saag simmer another minute or so. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 435kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 805mg | Potassium: 704mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 3625IU | Vitamin C: 8.3mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 2.9mg
You can make chicken saag at home that will rival what you get in Indian restaurants

124 thoughts on “nearly restaurant style chicken saag curry”

  1. 5 stars
    Very nice. I didn’t microwave the onions, nor did I blend them, I just slowly cooked them. I also added garlic. Turned out better than other Chicken Saag I’ve cooked before, and a fairly simple recipe.

  2. Dear Creative Cher,
    I have been eating Indian dishes for 40 years; this recipe was outstanding! I was skeptical about putting the onions in the microwave, but you were spot on. I am definitely going to make this dish for friends and my daughter.

    Thank you for sharing your passion and research with lay cooks like me 😉

  3. What’s the difference between the onion paste you make at the start of this recipe and the curry base you advocate in others ? Are they the same thing and perform the same role in the recipe ?

    • It’s two different paths to the same approximate end. Curry base gravy takes time to cook and is best suited to large batches. This is a faster approach but in both cases pre-cooked onions are pureed and fried to make the final dish.

  4. Question – I purchased dried fenugreek leaves for this recipe, not the seed, will the recipe still be ok? Thanks so much and love your blog!

  5. 5 stars
    Hi. I like to leave my curries overnight to develop the flavour, but tonight I was desperate for a curry and came across your recipe.We absolutely loved it and it’s now on our list of favourites.

    Btw, thank you for the effort you put into researching, cooking and publishing your recipes, it does not go unnoticed…😊

    • Thank you for that! Very kind of you to say:-).

      I have started revamping this series as 30 minute curries if you’d like to try more in this style.

  6. 5 stars
    This turned out to be the best curry I have ever made. The only difference was my curry was quite pale should I have cooked the onion mixture on a higher heat for longer to brown it? It still tasted great!

    • Absolutely delighted to hear that. I suspect you are right. Maybe try to cook the onion mixture a little more next time. Or not. If it turned out to be the best you’ve ever done I’d say you are doing something right!

  7. 5 stars
    I have to say, that as a Uk based restaurant curry lover, I have never successfully made a “restaurant quality” curry. Oh My word Glebe kitchen. Every recipe of yours is fantastic. We haven’t eaten out since I have been making your recipes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart (and my stomach!) xxx

  8. 5 stars
    Excellent dish. I used lamb instead of chicken, ghee instead of vegetable oil and fried the onions because I do not have a microwave.
    It took some time to prepare, but definitely worth the wait.

  9. “Let me know if you’ve seen this somewhere else please” – Gavin at Curry Frenzy in the UK has been advocating puree onion for ages. He boils his first then purees but I’ve been micowaving mine to save time. Glad that the idea is catching on with your recipes which I greatly enjoy.

    • Not exactly what I meant (I was thinking using onion puree the way I describe) but yes, he definitely did a pureed onion post before this one. I had a quick peek to see if he had done the whole approach but didn’t find anything so I’m hoping my claim still stands:-)

      Glad to hear you are enjoying the recipes.

  10. 5 stars
    This is an excellent dish. Really impressive and very tasty. I did go the long route and fry the onions rather than microwave, because I had time and the inclination but will try the microwave method next time!

    • The sweetness is a function of the onions. If you are using plain old yellow onions there’s not really anywhere else to go. You could try a few tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped tomatoes instead of the tomato paste perhaps?

  11. 5 stars
    I commented on this recipe a couple of years ago and it deserves another comment. This may be the best chicken saag in the history of chicken saag recipes. Things I forgot- I did not purée the onions bc I was swamped with kids. So- I put the onion, tomato paste, spice mixture in my immersion blender cup and immersioned the heck out of it. I put it back in the pan and followed the directions from there. I added cream bc I had grandchildren over. Basically the dish was destroyed by people fighting over its deliciousness. R- you may remember my frail mom who doesn’t eat- true to form, if I’m Glebing, she’s eating! Yet another Glebe recipe that brought joy to Kansas! Family favorite!

    • Of course I remember your mom. And I’m delighted to hear from you. Hope you’ve been well. And please tell your mom I say hi!

  12. dope recipe and tastes great!!! love your website too pretty awesome, try cooking with soybean oil to achieve that authentic taste you’re researching / near perfected, you are a talented human ! thanks again –

    • Awesome to hear. There are a few recipes in this style on the blog if you want to try some others. Look under easy Indian for nearly restaurant style.

  13. Hi Romain,

    I love your recipes, the best I have found. But due to a failure on my part, I had defrosted a portion of your hotel base, so I altered things a little, I had pre cooked my Chicken in the base. Then cooked 3 onions in the way descibed and blended them into the base. I used fresh bag of 200gms of Spinach that I wilted in the pan used for the onions. Added 1 fresh chili and corriander stalks towards the end. I am not a believer but if I was…………….Thank you!

    • Delighted to hear you are enjoying the blog.

      Your version sounds completely over the top delicious. I love the idea of combining the hotel base with additional onion. Moves it in a whole different direction. My hat is off to you!

  14. 5 stars
    Well what can i say👌 Just made this curry and followed your recipe to the letter other than i had to use fresh spinach so lowered the weight. Absolutely amazing, the best ive ever managed to make👍 slowly working my way through your recipes, started with the homestyle beef rogan josh which turned out really nice but this is another level😁 gonna go full restaurant style next with a madras (my favourite) Keep up the good work👍

  15. Making this tomorrow, I’m assuming from the method that the chicken goes in raw in this recipe then? Or do i need to pre cook? Thanks

  16. 5 stars
    This is an incredible dish. Easy to make, and bursting with flavour. My wife said it was restaurant quality without knowing that’s how it’s described. Thanks so much, I’ll be working your way through all your amazing Indian recipes.

    • Sorry – I missed this one.Do you have an attachment to make it work like a blender or do you just have the stick? It will be pretty hard chasing around the bits in a bowl with just the stick. With enough determination it would probably work. I have never tried it this way so I really have no idea I am afraid.

  17. Hi can you use small chunks of chicken breast, what difference using ghee instead of veg oil …. you say cup but I only have mugs? And is it correct that onions don’t need to be brown?

    • You can use white meat of course. You need to be careful not to overcook it as it is less forgiving. I find ghee to be rich for recipes like this and the flavour of the spices gets blunted. I developed this recipe using cups. I have no idea how big your mugs are but a cup is 237ml. The onions fry in the oil but you are correct it’s not browning like regular traditional curries. The Maillard reaction happens though – so the flavours are there.

  18. 5 stars
    Great Recipe. My wife said its the best curry we have ever made. I have tweaked the recipe since to make it more WW friendly, still a great curry, and will be one of our regulars.

    • Absolutely delighted to hear that. And good to know it can be lightened a bit and still hold its own. Thank you for sharing that tip!

  19. i am so impressed and happy with this recipe! this is restaurant quality without a doubt, and the recipe is easy to follow. i used fresh spinach, but we cooked then drained it before adding to the curry. it turned out marvelously! i plan to add more spinach next time. this is my favorite indian dish when i go out, so i’m excited to have found this addition to my weekly menu. thank you so much!!

    • You are very welcome! So glad you liked it. Fresh spinach sounds so good. Great to hear you can make your favourite at home now!

  20. 5 stars
    After reading and failing to make a base I tried this… it’s my favourite and I’m very specific about how it should be. This was amazing, the texture was absolutely spot on. I made my with tikka and added chillis and it was identical to my favourite restaurant. The microwaved onions are a revelation ?

    • Super glad to hear that. The nearly restaurant style doesn’t get the love of the flashier restaurant or hotel styles but it really does work. And it’s so easy…

  21. I made this and added small cubed potatoes 5 minutes before adding the chicken. The potatoes soak up a lot of moisture and release starch so I added extra water as it was cooking. The result was so amazing! Thank you so much for this recipe, I’ll definitely be making it again!

  22. Made this tonight & I must say you are right. It was absolutely delicious & tasted like it could of been from a restaurant. It was actually nicer than the last saag I remember ordering.
    Only thing is I could not find Fenugreek anywhere so left it out & added 1/2 tsp curry powder
    We also found it a teensy hot so added 1/4 cup of coconut cream.
    Was so yummy!

    • Great to hear you enjoyed it and were able to tweak it to your taste. Do keep trying to find kasoor methi (fenugreek leaves). It’s amazing what a difference that ingredient makes. It comes in a yellow cardboard box around here. Often it’s not with the other spices in the Indian shops around here so you do have to look around the store a bit.

  23. Okay- you are an extraordinary cook and hilarious! I made your saag last night and my family was literally sucking it off of their forks. I did add cream, because it was dry (my fault, as I just shredded chicken thighs I’d already cooked) Literally- we are obsessed with your website and can’t wait to cook something else! Thanks for doing all the hard work and making me look great in the kitchen!

    • Nice to hear you get my sense of humour. Not everyone does:-). I hope you find lots of recipes your family likes as much!

    • Glad you liked it. If you want to go full on restaurant style there are lots of recipes on glebekitchen.

  24. 5 stars
    Love this curry. One of the best I’ve tasted.
    Busy working my way through a lot of the recipes as we all love a great curry.

    One request – I’m looking for a recipe for Chicken Methi.If you can add this to your Indian recipes I’d be very grateful.
    I had this at an Indian Streatery restaurant and nothing I’ve found is as good as that meal was.

    • Glad you like it! I have thinking about doing a chicken methi for a while. I don’t know that I’ll be able to top your restaurant experience but I will try!

  25. 5 stars
    With our favourite Indian restaurant closed I had a longing for my favourite dish. After searching and finding this recipe my daughter and I made it together. It was delicious! Smooth, creamy and full of flavour. Thank you so much for sharing and making lockdown in Ireland a bit more bearable ?

  26. 5 stars
    We love Indian food and this is wonderful…I also cook it with green peas and mushrooms or potatoes…it works with these other vegetables..but spinach is our go to!

  27. I’ve just made this. Absolutely wonderful. I put 2 birds eye chillies in the onion base. Used frozen spinach. Fantastic recipe. Thank you. Quick and easy. Love it. The microwave onions are a game changer.

    • I am pretty pleased with the microwaved onion trick. Don’t know why nobody has thought it up before but it really works. Glad you liked it!

  28. 5 stars
    This is realy realy realy good! 🙂

    Done it a few times now and it is really close to restaurant taste!
    Some input:
    All Indian restaurants I´ve had Saag Chicken in use way more spinach than in this recipe making the dish greener. I would recommend at least three times as much spinage.

    The cashmiri chili isn´t very hot (and indian food is often pretty hot..). To get heat add 1 finely chopped birds eyes chili (Thai) together with the garlic ginger paste. That will add nice heat but not overpower, my children 12 and 14 both thought it was perfectly fine.

    Be sure to really cook the Onions in the microwave! I missed that a bit the first time and then you miss out on some of the sweetness of the onions.

    Thanks Romain for your great recipes!

    • You are very welcome! I spice to medium spicy on glebe kitchen because not everyone likes hot but sometimes I like to kick it up as well.

  29. 5 stars
    I wanted to make a Chicken Saag today, and when I went to my go-to recipe, I found it was one that used a base gravy, and I could not be bothered making a batch up. Cue a google search and this recipe came up. Top notch, this is definitely a keeper. Thanks very much

  30. 5 stars
    Tried this curry and it was brilliant, but the next time I made it I added potatoes about 30mins before serving and it was also fantastic.
    Thank you for the inspiration

  31. 5 stars
    Made this curry for a family party and was delicious. Made it exactly as the recipe suggested and came out just as nice as any we have had in a restaurant. Going to try some of the others next.

    • Curry for Christmas. I love it!

      I know people freeze curries but I’ve never tried it myself. It would keep in the fridge for a couple days though if you can make that work.

  32. I made this today and it was spot on. Will be trying the other recipes. Have tried many base sauces to get restaurant quality which is alot of work but this will replace base sauce for me.

  33. Years ago I bought a paperback book from a secondhand bookshop it’s by kris Dhillon called the curry secret and the base for nearly all the curries in it are onion , ginger,garlic,tomato,turmeric ,paprika. Cooked and blended into a purée I’ve made several of the recipes and they’re just as good if not better than restaurant So I know what flavour your going for here

  34. 5 stars
    Hey Romain -thank you. This has got to be with the easiest and tastiest curry that I have ever cooked – and I’ve enjoyed cooking Indian style food for absolutely years. I can’t say more except to say that this is a keeper and is now part or my repertoire when family and friends are with us. If the other recipes on your site are as good – well, here I go.

    • You are very welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’d like to think that the other recipes here are as good. Hope you have success with a few of those as well.

    • Great to hear. Thank you. There are a few other classic restaurant curries done in the nearly restaurant style to try if you are interested.

  35. Hi, I don’t have a microwave , I’ve cooked them in a covered saucepan until they’re soft, then puréed, it looks very runny, I added 3/4 cup ( 180ml) …. is this too wet…. and it’s not brown. Should I start again and cook them till brown?

    • Drain them next time. You can just reduce your puree a bit this time. They aren’t supposed to be brown at this point. They will caramelize when you make the actual curry.

  36. I’ve always been disappointed with the recipes for this dish that I have found. I own several quality cookbooks with recipes for it but they always taste a bit “healthy” and not the creamy oily restaurant version.

    Curious if anyone has done this in an Instapot? I got this as a gift and looking to put it through the paces.

    • I think this is as close to restaurant as you can get without making curry base and cooking full blown restaurant style. It relies on the oil you are looking for to give it that creamy texture. The pureed onion is effectively a quick and dirty curry base.

      There are lots of full blown restaurant recipes on this blog if that’s what you are after.

      This is stove top cooking – same as they do in restaurants. It relies on high heat as well as the ability to moderate the heat when adding the raw spices (turning it down or even lifting the pan from the element). I can’t see this working in an instant pot.

  37. I have absolutely loved eating this chicken saag this evening. I replaces vegetable oil with coconut oil and this without doubt the best curry I have EVER made and it really does taste like a restaurant standard.

    Thanks so much for the recipe, this will be my go to quick curry, AMAZING!!

    • I’ve never tried this with fresh spinach. Most restaurants seem to use frozen. Easier to stock I expect. If you do try it with fresh spinach I would cook it first and squeeze out the moisture.

      If you just toss raw fresh spinach in I think the curry would wind up too runny from the water in the spinach and I think the flavours would be too strong.

      The frozen stuff leaves a lot of water behind when it thaws.

      I would think using the same weight in fresh uncooked spinach would be about the right amount. Chop it well.

    • I used fresh spinach and it was fine. I didnt cook it first I just threw it in towards the end and made sure it was well wilted by the time I served it!
      Recipe was well received by my guests.

    • 5 stars
      I used 400g fresh, just stirred in at the end until just cooked down. Worked perfectly.
      Rather than use a microwave, I made the onion paste in a soup-maker. I also doubled the salt for ‘restaurant taste’ (!)

  38. 5 stars
    Many years ago, I went to an Indian restaurant and ate a dish called “chicken saagwala”. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Is this the same thing?

    • This is exactly that. Saag is the same as saagwala. I hope this recipe brings you back to the memory of that Indian restaurant from many years ago.

4.68 from 130 votes (97 ratings without comment)

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