Sunday, February 24, 2013

Are You Saag Savvy? A Simple Recipe Big On Flavor

Saag recipe

I come from a small community and didn't try Indian food until I was in college. My best and worst experiences actually came from living abroad in Japan.

Yeah, I know... authentic Indian cuisine in Japan??!!

Much as my small town in the US is dotted with Mexican restaurants filled with family recipes, Japan has a large Indian population scattered throughout the islands. Many foreign workers travel to Japan for construction work or technical training. When I taught English on the island of Shikoku I became very familiar with all the best Indian restaurants there and, as fellow foreigners, got to know the people cooking and running them. From watching the wood fire ovens bake fresh naan to experiencing a whole new range of spices and flavors, I was hooked. Now, back home in Oregon I haven't found a good substitute for those favorites.

Saag recipe

One thing I really fell in love with was Saag. What is it? Well, Saag is a leaf-based dish that uses spinach or mustard greens, etc. and is often served along with naan, roti or rice. My top ways to enjoy it are with chicken, tofu or paneer cheese simmered in. Yes, it is bright green, and yes it is healthy... but it has a mild sweet flavor with wide appeal.

I usually use spinach in my recipe for simplicity, but have also thrown in kale or chard with great results. This recipe only takes 8 ingredients, under 30 minutes and you can sub in your own protein. So, let's get started, shall we?


Seems like all my favorite recipes start out like this... a little olive oil and sweating down some yellow onions.

Wilt in your leaves, or warm up frozen spinach. I have used both with great success.

Saag recipe

Add in the coconut milk, stock and spices. The cinnamon and cumin are an amazing blend that goes so well with the onions and greens.

spinach saag

After a nice simmer, the mixture is ready to puree in the blender. It can be as chunky or smooth as you like, but the deep green color is so earthy.

Spinach Saag

I would brown any meat separately and then add to the sauce to simmer and let the flavors really meld. I like sliced firm tofu or paneer cheese the best.

Serve it over the starch or base of your choice. Brown Jasmine rice is my husband's favorite, but it is also pretty yummy on a simple baked potato.

Saag recipe

Saag with Tofu

You Will Need:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed or 1 lb of fresh greens
  • 1 c. chicken stock + more to achieve desired consistency
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Grain or base of your choice. I enjoy brown rice, brown jasmine rice, quinoa, naan baked potato, etc.


  1. Saute the onion in olive oil till translucent and soft. Add in the chicken stock and spinach over medium heat. Allow thawed spinach to warm through or fresh greens to wilt.
  2. Add in the coconut milk, cumin and cinnamon and simmer for 7 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a blender and puree to desired consistency.
  4. Put the mixture back into a saucepan, add in cubed tofu (or chicken, paneer cheese, etc.) and bring back to a simmer for about 8 minutes. Stir gently so the tofu doesn't break. Season to taste.
  5. Serve over rice or alongside naan. Enjoy!
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  1. I am not too much into creamy sauce type foods-but this sounds somewhat tempting--I am single and rarely have any one over-wonder if I could make this for just one-or can it be frozen and re used?

    1. Yes, this should freeze just fine. I would only add the tofu before serving though. If you tried it with chicken, etc. it would be fine. Warm slowly and stir to remix the coconut milk into the sauce.

  2. Oh my....the picture doesn't make it look good. Sorry, I LOVE spinach and eat it almost every day. Like all the other ingredients too but maybe just not together. It really it good for the healthy eater, which I am. Sorry though.

    1. So sorry to disappoint. Saag is a simple dish that takes it's natural beauty from the leafy vegetables. It may not be for everyone, but the flavors are simple and beautiful.

    2. I bet they are. I hope my post wasn't too negative. I didn't mean for it to be...just my honest opinion... I get honest opinions on my posts all the time and that's okay. I do want to see what else you have in store as far as recipes I love healthy dishes. ")

  3. This looks like a good healthy dish to give a try sometime! I'm all about eatting healthy, so will have to try this one! Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. That's just the recipe I needed for the fresh baby spinach and a package of tofu in the fridge! Thank you.

  5. I had to come over just to see what Saag was! :) Never heard of it, but it definitely does sound pretty healthy with all that spinach!

  6. When I saw the first picture my first thought was ...eeww... but then I read a little more and it does sound pretty good. I'd make it with some chicken!

    Do you use coconut milk in the can that is sweetened or can I use the coconut milk that I buy to drink?

  7. My first thought was "ewww" too! But then after reading the recipe, it looks yummy! :)

  8. I am nuts about Indian food, so it sounds soooo good!

  9. I have never heard of this, but it looks wonderful! I am writing the recipe down right now! Cannot wait to try it!

  10. I would have never guessed that Indian food was popular in Japan or that there was a large Indian community there. So interesting! The name of this recipe had me thinking there was no way I could make it but after looking at the list of ingredients and the steps, we practically have everything on hand and it really doesn't look all that difficult. I'd love to try it sometime!

  11. Hmmm, never heard of saag before. I would try the sauce, but I'm not a fan of tofu.

  12. That looks delicious! I am always looking for ways to add more spinach and this would be great for us! Even better that it's naturally gluten free for us Celiacs :)

  13. I've never had anything Indian, but have used curry a few times in recipes. I may have to try this one with chicken, and see if my family likes it. Always trying to find ways to add in those veggies!

  14. I'm from a small town in Wyoming, my first taste of Indian food was when I was 27 and we were living in Germany with the US army. Germany! There was a traveling food booth which came by every few months with his Indian food. We lived for the stuff and anxiously waited for him to come back. Now we are back in the US, we don't have anything near us for Indian food and I miss it like crazy. I can't wait to try your recipe and get some more Indian food back into our diet.

  15. I have never had Indian food before, I love spinach but have never tried tofu. I heard it's great though!

  16. I've made this two times already - most recently over jasmine rice. It was delicious! Thanks again for the recipe.

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