Pakistani Palak Chicken is an easy and delicious Pakistani chicken curry made with spinach. Over the years, I've learned plenty of tips and tricks to make this recipe easy enough for beginners, yet not compromising on the flavor!
About this Recipe
This Chicken Palak also commonly known as Saag Chicken is an everyday, hearty recipe that’s made with simple ingredients and pantry spices, that is unique in its flavors.
I didn't like palak when growing up, classifying it as a boring green. But as an adult, I've come to love it for its earthy flavor. It's also healthy!
Palak chicken goes by many names: murgh palak, saag chicken, or saag murgh. Palak means spinach, and murgh refers to chicken.
Fun fact: Saag is actually not just palak or spinach. It refers to a number of leafy greens including spinach that are eaten in Pakistan and India.
Why this Recipe Works
- Frozen Spinach: Most recipes call for fresh spinach, which is then blanched and then either chopped or pureed. I don't like doing extra work so I'm always looking for shortcuts. My solution for skipping these stops is chopped frozen spinach. All you have to do is thaw it, and then plonk it in directly to the chicken palak. This saves a ton of time without sacrificing on flavor!
- Use a blender or chopper to do all your chopping for you: My least favorite kitchen task is to chop and prep the ingredients. If you're anything like me, consider investing in a chopper. I chop everything in it! Onions, tomatoes, ginger & garlic, you name it. This saves a TON of time!
- Minimal spices: This recipe requires only a few basic spices. However, I highly recommend using the magical ingredient dried fenugreek leaves to finish off the recipe. It's perfect for saag/palak based recipes as it rounds off the flavors of any curry brilliantly.
- Easy & One Pot: With my trick for using frozen spinach, this murgh palak becomes a one pot recipe that's fast and easy to make.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Oil or Ghee
- Onion: Red or purple onions are most commonly used for Pakistani curries, but I have also used white onion with success.
- Tomatoes: Use fresh, ripe and juicy tomatoes for this curry. If in a pinch, you can also substitute with canned crushed tomatoes.
- Chicken: Bone-in chicken yields the most flavor, so I highly recommend using it. But you can use boneless chicken, although breast can dry out quickly so I would recommend using boneless chicken thighs.
- Ginger Garlic Paste: this is an essential for Pakistani and Indian recipes, and I always have some on hand. Get the recipe here.
- Spices: pretty basic spices such as kashmiri lal mirch powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder and cumin powder. I also add whole garam masala: black peppercorns (sabut kali mirch) and whole cloves (sabut laung).
- Spinach: I use frozen chopped spinach for convenience, but you may use fresh spinach leaves as well. If using fresh spinach leaves, then blanch them first and blend before adding to the curry. If you can't find frozen chopped spinach, then you can use frozen spinach leaves. Just let them thaw completely, and then puree in the blender or with a hand blender.
- Dried fenugreek leaves: these are optional, but I think they had a really nice finishing touch to the overall flavour of the palak chicken.
- Butter: I always liked to finish off my curries with butter, because it adds a delicious flavor!
How to Make Palak Chicken
- Saute the onion: Heat oil in a pot, then saute the onions for 3-4 minutes until light golden.
- Cook the chicken: Now add the chicken, and ginger garlic paste. Saute for 4-5 minutes until the chicken has changed color to white, but isn't yet fully cooked.
- Spices: Add the spices, stir and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Tomato: Add the fresh tomato puree, and mix well. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, lower the heat to medium low, and cook for 10-15 minutes (stirring occasionaly) until the tomatoes are cooked.
- Spinach: Add the thawed spinach, stir and cover and cook on medium low for 10-12 minutes, or until the spinach is cooked. The curry will be thickened and bubbly.
- Finishing touches: Add the dried frenugreek leaves and butter. Remove from heat, cover for 2-3 minutes, and then serve immediately.
- Use a chopper: My least favorite thing in the kitchen is to chop and prep ingredients for whatever I'm making. One way I've learned to come around this is to use a small chopper or blender. I chop everything in my trusty chopper including onions, tomatoes, and even ginger & garlic if I'm making it fresh.
- Bhunofying: To make Pakistani dishes super flavorful, you have to be patient and have to really let the curries cook until the oil separates from the curry and is visible on the sides and top of the curry. It takes time, but it's worth it. You never quite get the same flavor if you skip the bhunofying part.
Frequently Asked Questions
Chicken palak can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days in the fridge. You can also freeze it up to a month.
Yes, palak chicken is a healthy recipe, and you can make it even healthier by reducing the amount of oil even further and skipping the butter in the end. Learn more about the benefits of spinach here.
Note: This recipe was first published on Oct 14, 2019. It has now been edited for newer pictures, step-by-step photos of the recipe, and a video!
More Pakistani Recipes
- Kadhi Pakora Recipe
- Chicken Malai Tikka Boti
- Punjabi Chole Masala
- Daal (Yellow Indian Lentils)
- Chicken Korma
- Beef Yakhni Pulao
- Easy Chicken Karahi Recipe
- 1/3 cup oil or ghee
- 2 small onions chopped finely
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 kg chicken bone-in pieces cut into 12 or 14 pieces by the butcher
- 1 teaspoon kashmiri lal mirch powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder haldi
- 1/2 teaspoon dhania powder coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon zeera powder cumin powder
- 3-4 black peppercorns sabut kali mirch
- 2 whole cloves sabut lavang
- Salt to taste
- 2 medium tomatoes pureed
- 450 grams Frozen spinach
- Water as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
- Heat oil in a large pot and add the chopped onion. Fry for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
- Now add in the chicken pieces and ginger garlic paste. Cook for a 4-5 minutes until the chicken changes color.
- Add in the spices, and cook for another 3-4 minutes on medium high flame until you can see the oil coming to surface. You may add a splash of water to prevent the spices from burning.
- Now add the pureed tomatoes and cook for a 1-2 minutes on high flame, while stirring constantly.
- Lower the heat, add a little bit of water and cover the pot with a lid. Cook until the tomato puree is cooked, about 15 minutes, the chicken is almost cooked through, and the oil has separated from the curry.
- Add the spinach and about 1/2 cup of water (you can adjust the quantity of water as needed). Cook for 10-15 minutes on medium heat until the spinach is cooked and the chicken is fully cooked too.
- Crush dried fenugreek leaves with your hands, and sprinkle on top of the palak chicken. Add butter. Mix well, and take off heat.
- Serve with steamed rice or naan.
- Oil: You can decrease the amount of oil to about 1/4 cup if you want to make this recipe even healthier.
- Onion: I chop the onion finely in a chopper, but you can do it by hand as well.
- Chicken: I highly recommend using bone-in chicken as it yields the most flavor. However, you can use boneless chicken too. Breast is fine, but can dry out quickly, so the best option is boneless chicken thighs.
- Whole spices: Whole black peppercorns and cloves add a delicious subtle flavor to the recipe. However, you can skip these if you don't have them. The recipe will still be delicious.
- Tomatoes: I like to puree the tomatoes in my chopper because I find it the easiest. You can use chop the tomatoes by hand or even use canned crushed tomatoes.
- Frozen chopped spinach: It's the most convenient and quickest to use. I let it thaw completely while cooking the curry, and then add it.
- Fresh spinach: Blanch it first, drain excess water, and then blend it. Then use as written in the recipe.
- Frozen Spinach Whole Leaves: Sometimes you can get frozen spinach whole leaves in the freezer section. To use these, thaw the spinach completely first, then blend it, and then use it in the recipe.