palak chicken curry (saagwala) – indian hotel style

Palak chicken curry is something you need to try. If you haven’t already. Spinach, chicken, and spice. Deceptively simple. Seriously delicious.

It’s not one of the big ones. But it’s a really good one. And a great way to sneak in a bit of greens.

Although this isn’t really a sneak. Spinach is what makes this dish great. It there. Balanced perfectly against the other big flavours. A bit of magic.

You have to taste it to understand. And you really do need to taste it. All the cool kids are eating palak chicken curry. Just ask them.

Table scene of palak chicken, tarka dal and chapati from above.

Palak chicken is spinach chicken curry

NO! You are saying NO. I can hear you. Everybody knows spinach curry is called saag. Or saagwala. It even says saagwala in the title.

I put saagwala in the title on purpose. So you’d find this. And hopefully read enough of this post to get to this point. Saag is greens in Hindi. Spinach is a green. But it’s not the only green.

Chard is a green. Mustards greens – well the name says it all. Kale is a green too. Not a great green though.

I don’t know the word for kale in Hindi. My guess is blech. Could be yuck. Hard to say.

Palak is the name of a specific green. Spinach. So palak chicken curry is spinach chicken curry.

Spinach chicken sounds terrible though. Who would order that? My guess is nobody.

Palak chicken is way better marketing. I’d totally order palak chicken curry. And I’d love it.

Maybe if they had a cool name for kale I’d order that too. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t love it.

This is the posh restaurant version of palak chicken

If you’ve been around glebekitchen you can probably skip this section. If you’re new read on.

This is fancy restaurant cooking. It’s not what you may be used to if you already cook restaurant style.

This isn’t the one size fits all base gravy approach. You don’t have to fry your gravy hard to get the taste. You don’t have to put up with the mess either.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with restaurant style. Not at all. I’m a fan. Look around. There are many, many restaurant style recipes here.

I cook them all the time. It’s fun. And it’s tasty. And it is just exactly what you’re getting at your local Indian restaurant I bet.

But if you want to cook like the best restaurants. Or like you ate in restaurants in India. Then hotel style is worth a hard look.

Bowl of palak chicken from the front.

Hotel style is about deeper flavours

When I want to pull out all the stops. When I want to really impress. That’s when I go for hotel style. It’s about a few specialized gravies. The right tool for the job.

Think fine dining. You wouldn’t make a brown sauce for rack of lamb using béchamel. And you don’t make all your curries using the same base gravy. Not when you’re cooking hotel style anyway.

It’s a different approach. Hotel style is about deeply flavoured gravies. Restaurant style gravy is bland by design.

Hotel style goes the other way. Put as much of the right flavours in a gravy. And use that gravy where it fits.

You don’t shoe-horn the wrong gravy into a recipe. You use a different one. Or you use combinations. A little of this one. A little of that one. High-end cooking.

Palak chicken, tarka dal and chapatis from above.

Put palak chicken in your curry rotation

Palak chicken curry or chicken saag may not be your go to curry. It may not even be one you’ve heard of. But it’s tasty stuff.

A little spicy. Earthy. Almost rustic. Lush at the same time. And deeply flavoured. That’s the magic of hotel style cooking.

When you need a break from madras or jalfrezi or whatever your favourite is remember this. Order it next time. Or better yet, make it yourself. You owe your tastebuds this one.

Palak chicken table scene from the front.
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4.94 from 15 votes

palak chicken curry – Indian hotel style

Spinach and spice and everything nice.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken saagwala, palak chicken
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 589kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The spice mix

  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala – garam masala is potent stuff. A little goes a long way.
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

palak chicken curry

  • 4 tbsp neutral oil e.g. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste – recipe link below
  • 2 green chilies – (jwala chilies) seeded and finely chopped
  • the spice mix from above
  • 1 cup Indian hotel curry gravy – Recipe link in the notes. It's meant to be thick. The juices from the chicken will thin it and you can adjust it to taste at the end.
  • 3 tbsp cilantro leaves and stems – finely diced
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 4 pieces each
  • 4 oz frozen spinach – the shredded stuff. Thawed and drained. See note below.
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock – up to 1/4 cup as needed. Add enough to get the curry to the consistency you like.
  • 1/6 lemon juiced


Do your prep

  • Measure out your spices. Prep your chicken. Measure out a cup (237 ml) of Indian hotel curry gravy.
  • Thaw and drain your spinach. Chop your cilantro and green chilies. Be ready to go.

Make the palak chicken curry

  • Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium heat until the oil just starts to shimmer.
  • Stir in the garlic ginger paste. Gently fry until the garlic ginger paste stops sputtering. This can get a little messy.
  • Add the chopped green chilies. Cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  • Turn your heat down to medium low and add your spice mix. Cook for about 30 seconds. You want to fry your spices in the oil. Do not skimp on the oil. Bad things happen if the spices stick and burn. The oil (and temperature control) are your friends. Nothing worse than burned spices. Chuck it and start again if that happens. There's no fixing it…
  • Add the Indian hotel curry gravy. Stir it really well to get the oil to combine with the curry gravy. You want everything mixed together at this point. Bring to a simmer.
  • Stir in the cilantro.
  • Add the chicken thigh pieces in a single layer. Nestle them down into the sauce. Cover and cook about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the lid, flip the chicken and replace the lid. Continue simmering until the chicken is done. You are shooting for an internal temperature of 160F. It will get to 170F as the curry finishes cooking.
    Don't have an instant read thermometer? Not a bad idea to get one. Done is not subjective. It's a measurement that you cannot do without a thermometer. You are guessing otherwise.
  • Add the spinach and stir it to combine.
  • At this point you have a decision to make. If the chicken threw a lot of liquid the sauce might be right. My guess is you'd like it a bit thinner. More like a restaurant sauce. Add a couple tablespoons of chicken stock. Check it again. If it's still too thick, add a bit more stock. I've never added more than a 1/4 cup.
  • Add the lemon juice, cover, and simmer for another two minutes.
  • Palak chicken goes great with chapatis or rice. A nice tarka dal rounds the meal out nicely.


Make your Indian hotel curry gravy ahead of time. It does take time to make so think about doing it the day before. You can freeze one cup portions and pull them out when you need them. That’s what I do.
For maximum flavour consider making your garlic ginger paste from scratch. I know I say this a lot but it makes such a difference.
The weight specified for the spinach is before thawing and draining. 
1 cup is 237 ml.


Serving: 2servings | Calories: 589kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 1253mg | Potassium: 779mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 702IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 4mg

30 thoughts on “palak chicken curry (saagwala) – indian hotel style”

    • I haven’t tried that. Not sure I would like the combo of lamb or beef and chicken but if it makes you happy I say go for it!

  1. So someone offered me a big bunch of fresh homegrown spinach. I’ve never made a saag dish at home, but why not.
    It was great. I added parboiled potatoes and upon reflection could’ve added one more green chili .
    Would definitely make it again.
    Romain….loveyour work

  2. I made this last night, after spending much of the day making the hotel gravy base. Time well spent!

    This was the first of your recipes I’ve attempted and it turned out perfectly. Now I’m trying to decide what to make next time. I’m kind of limited by not being able to get certain ingredients, such as curry leaves, but I’ll work something out.
    Great website and YouTube channel!

  3. Finally I can cook curries that I’m proud of!!!

    I’ve searched for years ever since my grandmother passed away having not had the interest as a child to get all her amazing recipes but longing for them as an adult.

    And here you are – I made the hotel style gravy and I think I burnt the spices (I detected a hint of bitterness) but after chopping all those onions I persevered – still better than any curry I’ve ever made. We also made our own garlic and ginger – you were right beyond powerful stuff. Store bought tasted like porridge compared to it.

    One question does coriander powder have a distinct taste because mine tastes like nothing

    • Delighted to hear that. Also delighted to hear you made your own garlic ginger paste. I like your description – porridge. I call it cardboard but I will use porridge to describe it next time I think:-).

      Coriander powder (the ground seed) does have a distinct slightly floral flavour so perhaps its time to get a fresh batch? Your nose is your best guide though. If you can’t smell it it likely needs replacing.

  4. 5 stars
    Hi Romain I have done this one with Chicken and loved it. My partner asked for a veggie dish, so I tried this with cauliflower and paneer. Worked a treat, she was very happy. Think I added the paneer in a little early as it broke up a bit, still an easy fix. Many thanks.

  5. 5 stars
    Dear Romaine,
    I have been enjoying your delicious recipes for almost 2 years now. I get a lot of compliments from family and friends. Even my kids like to come home to eat when I cook Indian. The freezer is completely full of hotel style and restaurant style curries. Your recipes make Indian cooking a party. Thank you so much for all the delicious recipes. Actually, all the compliments are for you!
    Thanks! Ton van Klaveren

    • Delighted to hear that Ton! My pleasure. But I can’t take all the credit. You are the one in the kitchen actually making the food:-).

  6. 5 stars
    Had this for dinner tonight, outstanding. Sometimes Palak Chicken can be a bit bland but this was so flavoursome, will be making this again real soon!

  7. 4 stars
    Thanks Romaine – a success. I’ve followed three of your recipes now and have to say “you’re the man”. Keep up the good work.

  8. 5 stars
    Looks like I’m the first one to comment on the recipe (at least the first one who actually cooked and tried it out :-))
    Well, it’s amazing as all the others which I tried so far. Poor Popeye who had to choke down tinned spinach and missed out on that one.

    I wasnt sure whether the weight of spinach refers to thawed and drained state or to frozen state. So I doubled the amount of spinach (in frozen weight) and sqeezed the liquid through a sieve. Result was more green stuff in the dish (compared with the pictures you posted) but very tasty and not watery.

    Thanks for all your engagement and efforts. I can’t wait for the next recipe to come…

    • The measurement is in the frozen state. You got more than your fair share of spinach but Popeye would say there’s nothing wrong with that! I have clarified the recipe. Thanks for pointing that out.

  9. 5 stars
    I haven’t tried this recipe yet but, like all the others, I’m sure it’s worth 5 stars!

    I really just wanted to say…
    You’re too funny! And I love it! I love your style of writing and the way you present your recipes.

    And from the viewpoint of a 25+ years professional proofreader and editor, I’m Very Impressed that your intelligence shows through your writing, meaning that I have yet to find a typo! Trust me, I look for them, or rather they jump out at me!

    Soooo Few people who post online bother to check their work before posting and it shows in the number of errors in their writing. But Not Yours! Way to go!

    Thanks for all that you do! You are truly a gem in this mine field they call the internet!

    • Thanks for saying. I’m glad you are enjoying the recipes and the writing. I have a lot of fun with glebekitchen. I proof read and I have a friend review every post once published so there are two sets of eyes on the spelling.

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