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…

You can make chicken saag at home that will rival what you get in Indian restaurants

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.

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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4.34 from 15 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 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

19 thoughts on “nearly restaurant style chicken saag curry

  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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!!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. My daughter adds evaporated milk I wasn’t watching so dont know at wat point she added but it was beautiful

  6. Have made this saag several times with frozen & fresh spinach great with both very tasty curry indeed one of my favourites

    • 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.

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