Simple Saag

One of my favorite popular dishes in Indian cuisine is Saag, a leaf-based side commonly served with bread or rice. Years ago, I found myself ordering it in local restaurants, often for a steep price, and wondering how to recreate this dish at home. It’s been a staple in the house ever since, and I even included a popular variation, Saag Paneer (served with homemade, pan-fried cheese), in The Ancestral Table.

While I love Saag Paneer, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with making your own cheese, it is pretty time consuming. Lately, I often stick with a simple version of Saag, which is basically just the greens with some basic spices. Additionally, my friends at Primal Palate recently added Garam Masala to their collection of spices, so it felt like to perfect time to post my Simple Saag recipe.

This dish uses a combination of tender greens (spinach) and hardier greens (collard greens, mustard greens, or kale). When preparing the hardier greens, I will typically chop them with stems included up until I get to the part of the stalk that doesn’t include leaves; I then discard the remaining stalks (or save them for pesto).

Simple Saag (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal, Whole30)

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy

3 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 jalapeño pepper or other chile pepper, diced
1 cup water
1 lb spinach, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 lb collard greens, mustard greens, or kale, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste

1. In a deep skillet or dutch oven, heat the ghee over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and jalapeño and sauté until the seeds start to brown, about 30 seconds. Add the water and enough spinach and greens to fill the skillet, then stir to coat with the ghee. As the spinach and greens wilt, stir in more until you’ve got them all in the skillet. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala, and salt.

2. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until dark green and tender, about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Remove the cover and increase heat to medium; simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, and the greens take on a buttery texture, about 5-10 minutes, stirring often. Taste and add salt if needed, then serve.

** Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) instructions:

1. Press the “Sauté” button, then warm the ghee. Add the cumin seeds and jalapeño and sauté until the seeds start to brown, about 30 seconds. Add the water and the spinach and greens to fill the skillet, then stir to coat with the ghee. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala, and salt.

2. Cover the pressure cooker and set to “Manual”, high pressure, for 10 minutes. Once finished cooking, rotate the knob to force-depressurize the pressure cooker. Remove the cover and press the “Sauté” button again; simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, and the greens take on a buttery texture, about 5-10 minutes, stirring often. Taste and add salt if needed, then serve.

19 thoughts on “Simple Saag

    1. Hi Karen, you could definitely use a pressure cooker during the simmering stage, but it may not shave off that much time. I would expect it to take about 10 minutes on high pressure, so between the time it takes to get to pressure, plus depressurizing, it may end up being a wash. Still it could be quite convenient when considering that you could do it all in one pot, so I’ll add IP instructions to the recipe – thanks for the idea!

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  1. This sounds incredible! I happen to have all of these ingreds on hand now except for the garam masala, which I’ll buy today. I even have an unusual kale-mustard cross bred from a local farm. It’s incredible – leaf is like kale, but more tender, murky purple in color and tastes like mild mustard — it should be ideal for this dish! I’m going to serve lamb chops on top of it and perhaps a sweet and savory pumpkin custard alongside it.
    Thanks for always delivering the delicious and unusual, Russ!

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  2. Great recipe! That was also one of my favorites when I traveled in India. I use to love to dip chapatis flat bread in the juices. Thanks

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  3. I added some chopped up chicken thighs. I cooked the chicken before I added the spinach and greens. Probably should have seasoned the chicken before I cooked it because I had to add a little more seasoning towards the end. However, it turned out great. Thanks Russ for the recipe.

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