Looking for an Indian curry dish that is relatively mild, packed full of flavour, and super healthy? Then a saag curry could be for you. What is saag? You’ll know everything about saag curry by the end of this article. I will tell you all of the common ingredients, what it tastes like and even how spicy saag is! Get ready for a leafy green curry that tastes divine.
What Is Saag? | The Quick Answer
Saag is the Hindi name for spinach, and it is used in a variety of Indian dishes. The most famous of which is saag curry. The spinach is cooked into a thick paste combined with other Indian spices and ingredients to make a delicious sauce, which is served over juicy chunks of meat.
Saag is a really special ingredient that adds colour, richness and loads of nutrients to make a classy curry that is well worth a try. You’ll see it referred to by different names and spellings and included in many dishes, such as: -
- Saag bhajis
- Methi saag (a sort of fusion between saag sauce and methi curry)
- Saag gosht
- Saag aloo
- Saag paneer
- Saag masala
Want to know what makes it so great?
Let’s go through what it is made of and what it tastes like.
What is Saag Curry Made of?
The predominant ingredient in saag, where the dish takes its name, is the inclusion of heaps of spinach. You won’t find whole leaves in saag. Instead, the spinach is sauteed and cooked until soft and mixed with other spices such as garam masala and Indian mixed powder before yoghurt is added.
This makes a curry sauce that is darkish green in colour and is a little smooth and creamy.
And believe me, there is plenty of goodness in spinach leaves!
The softened leaves are combined with a rich onion base gravy and tomato puree, and chopped onions to produce a sauce that has a little texture but still retains some silky smoothness.
While different restaurants will make it in slightly alternative ways, the main saag curry recipe will contain other common elements. You can find these below: -
- Spinach Leaves
- Chilli (optional)
- Garlic and Ginger
- A Meat of Your Choice
What Goes with Saag Sauce?
The beautiful thing about saag is that it can be served in many different ways. The most traditional saag curry is normally made with chicken. However, the meat you choose to serve with the sauce is entirely up to you. Lamb saag and beef saag are viable (and tasty) options.
And don’t feel limited if you would prefer to eat saag as a vegetarian meal (it is packed with spinach after all). You might also want to try saag aloo, or maybe even saag paneer?
Saag aloo takes large chunks of tasty and tender Indian spiced potato and smothers them in this rich green sauce. It is ideal as either a main dish served with rice. Or, as a side dish!
Saag paneer is simply saag curry sauce, served with toasted chunks of Indian cheese instead of meat!
What Does Saag Curry Taste Like?
The flavour profile of saag is: -
- Smooth and creamy
But there’s much more to it than that.
What is saag?
When it comes to taste, saag curry is one of the best out there. Spinach has a relatively neutral taste but adds plenty of texture (not to mention heaps of vitamins). This makes it the ideal vehicle to carry the flavours of other spices. Saag curry is not full of exceptionally strong tastes. It’s quite mild and refined, unlike, say, vindaloo.
The spinach, when cooked, breaks down into a really smooth and mild green coloured sauce. This is combined with yoghurt to produce a curry sauce that is actually quite rich and creamy. The sauce also contains a little chopped onion, giving a slightly sweet taste with plenty of texture.
Most recipes will include ingredients that are quite common in Indian cooking.
This ingredient contains many tasty spices, including cinnamon, mace, pepper, cumin, and cardamom. It is really fragrant and is one of the smells and tastes that people most commonly associate with ‘Indian’ cooking.
Mix powder is a mild-medium curry powder containing turmeric, paprika, and sometimes a little chilli.
Saag also contains coriander in two forms. You’ll find toasted and crushed coriander seeds (most commonly a powder), which give a slightly bitter and citrusy taste to Indian dishes. Alongside this, the dish is normally garnished with freshly chopped coriander. This produces zesty and floral notes (if you don’t think it tastes like soap).
Garlic and Ginger
Garlic and ginger are the backbone of any good curry, and saag is no exception. This is normally included in paste form and gently fried to release those delicious aromatic oils.
Saag also contains two other elements that make for a rich and tasty curry sauce. Indian chefs will normally add a tablespoon of tomato puree. This cooks down and turns dark and sweet without being acidic.
And there’s more…
To get the sauce to the right consistency, Indian chefs will also add a cup or two of an onion based ‘gravy’. This base gravy adds a savoury element.
Where Does Saag Curry Come from?
You’ll find saag used as an ingredient throughout the Indian subcontinent (not to mention in most UK curry houses). However, its most commonly used as an ingredient in the Northern states of India and also in the west of Bengal.
How Hot is Saag Curry?
Saag curry isn’t too spicy. On a scale of 1 – 10, where 1 is super mild, and 10 is atomically hot, it typically sits in the region of a ‘3’. There is some chilli included in the traditional saag curry recipe. This includes fresh chopped chillis, which reduce in heat as they are cooked as part of the recipe.
Saag also includes a little Kashmiri chilli powder. However, if you’ve read my article, you’ll already know that this spice is used more for flavour and colour than to add any meaningful heat.
Saag nearly always contains yoghurt. Adding dairy to a dish works well to bring the heat back under control.
Suppose you are looking for an Indian dish that is relatively mild, with a pleasant and tolerable level of heat. In that case, saag is one to go for, without a shadow of a doubt!
What is Saag in English?
The most common use of the word saag refers to ‘spinach’. However, there is slightly more to the story.
The word saag, which is of Hindi origin, can also mean ‘leafy vegetable’. In the vast majority of cases, it refers to a spinach based sauce. However, if you have been trying super authentic Indian dishes, this could include other leaves, such as methi, collard greens, mustard, coriander, or even cabbage!
Which Curry is Similar to Saag?
If the idea of a rich and creamy spinach sauce doesn’t tickle your tastebuds, but you still want a mildish curry packed with flavour, then there are plenty of options open to you. My favourite saag alternatives are as follows: -
Like saag, methi curry uses heaps of delicious leaves to give the curry a herby taste and flavour. Unlike saag, which uses spinach, methi uses fresh fenugreek leaves with a mild and slight ‘maple’ taste. The curry isn’t quite as green as saag, but it is just as tasty.
You can read more about methi curry here.
You may occasionally see ‘palak’ on Indian menus. You’ll also notice that saag might be absent. There is a reason for this. Palak is simply another name for spinach. Some sources report that saag contains mustard leaves, whereas palak does not.
It is doubtful that most Anglicized takeaways make this distinction, so you can order a palak safe in the knowledge that it is actually remarkably, if not entirely, the same as a saag curry.
If you like creamy and flavourful curries, they don’t come much creamier and tastier than a pasanda.
Pasanda doesn’t feature spinach, but it has heaps of cream and dairy. This is a silky smooth sauce with just a touch of sweetness. You’ll also find that it has a greenish colour similar to saag.
What is saag? Well, now you know the answer. A rich and creamy mild curry sauce is made with heaps of sauteed spinach and some other tasty Indian ingredients. Still looking for a mild curry? Why not swing by my mild curry guide here, where there is a whole list!