Easy homemade palak chicken is a tasty Indian spinach sauce curry. Delicious warm spices envelope tender pieces of chicken and I've used regular, easy to find ingredients so anyone can make this restaurant quality dish at home!
Popular at almost every Indian restaurant, palak chicken is generally served family style with sides of basmati rice, naan or other flatbread, chutney, spicy pickles and other curry dishes. (Find more on what to serve with curry at the bottom)
If you want to serve dessert after this curry, sweet coconut rice pudding is a traditional dessert. Try this mango coconut sticky rice recipe.
Read on to find out how to make this easy palak chicken curry recipe with just a few easy ingredients.
Can you believe this flavorful palak chicken recipe only uses these few ingredients?! While I have simplified the recipe a little from the original, all the big bold and complex flavors remain. Check it out!
- Spinach or palak - I've made this quick and easy by using washed baby spinach from the grocery store but you can use any fresh spinach leaves, just be sure to wash it well and trim any tough or brown stems. I used the amount that comes in one of the large salad clamshell containers in the salad section.
- Garam Masala - Besides fresh spinach, garam masala is the most important ingredient. This is where the unique flavor for palak chicken comes from. Big bold flavors of toasted and ground cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and more, give this it's authentic and addictive flavor. There is no real substitute but you can make your own blend of garam masala if you like.
- Chicken Thighs - Boneless, skinless chicken thighs ensure a tender and moist palak chicken that won't overcook easily. Pre cooked until golden brown, they are added in just briefly at the end to warm through without overcooking. You can use chicken breasts but be careful not to overcook them or the chicken will not stay tender and moist.
- Cream - Heavy cream is what I have based this recipe on and it is only a ½ cup for the whole recipe, so I recommend using it. You can use half and half if you prefer but milk is not advised as it can separate during cooking and won't give you that luxurious creaminess that we're after here.
- Jalapeno - Using jalapeno or other mildly spicy green chilies further adds to the complexity of this chicken palak.
See recipe card for quantities.
Step By Step Instructions
This easy recipe is made extra fast by skipping the blanching step most recipes use. Simply cook the fresh baby spinach leaves briefly in the pan with the onion and aromatics, then add to your blender.
- Heat ghee or butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add chicken pieces.
Fry until lightly browned on both sides and just cooked through. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. Put skillet back on the stove with remaining butter or ghee and heat to medium. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just starting to brown.
3. Add in garlic, ginger, garam masala, jalapeno and chili flakes. This photo shows the finely dice jalapeno and minced ginger garlic paste along with the chili flakes.
4. Cook until fragrant, stirring frequently for approximately 2 more minutes.
5. Add spinach a handful at a time, stirring and letting each bunch wilt down before adding more.
Hint: If you are having a hard time stirring the spinach in and getting it to wilt, scoop a splash of water from the measured ½ cup (used for later in the recipe for blending) and add it to the pan. The resulting steam will help wilt your greens down quickly.
Palak (spinach) has wilted down and is ready for another handful of fresh spinach leaves.
Another bunch of spinach has been added to cook down.
Once all the spinach is cooked down, remove from heat
6. Transfer spinach mixture to blender with cilantro and water. Remove center part of blender lid (hot ingredients will create steam that needs to escape), and cover with a tea towel.
7. Blend for 20 seconds (stopping after first 10 seconds to scrape down the sides of the blender) until spinach becomes a coarse paste.
8. Return blended palak/spinach to skillet and set to medium-low heat.
Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's as thick as you like it.
9. Stir in cream and salt.
10. Add cooked chicken and cook 2-3 more minutes until chicken is heated through. Season with additional salt and pepper if required, to taste.
Serve right away with rice and Indian flatbread.
Hint: To keep your palak curry a beautiful bright green, don't cook it for too much longer than needed. It will still taste delicious if it's cooked longer but will not keep it's vibrant color.
This thick, rich and delicious palak curry sauce can be used as a vegetarian sauce for tofu or other vegetables in addition to chicken. You can even make this easily into a vegan dish.
- Vegetarian Alternative- Use cubes of tofu, paneer cheese or bite sized, blanched cauliflower instead of chicken. Give them a quick fry in butter to brown and add flavor and texture, as seen in the next picture before adding in.
- Vegan Palak - Use olive or vegetable oil in place of the butter and full fat coconut cream (you can use coconut milk but it won't be nearly as lovely and creamy) instead of dairy cream. Sub one of the vegetarian options (tofu or cauliflower) above as the chunky ingredient.
Palak chicken is a popular restaurant dish that is easy to customize. The warmly scented spinach curry with aromatic spices is a great way to eat a lot of this healthy leafy green. Here are a few easy variations on this classic recipe.
- Palak Paneer - To make this vegetarian, quickly fry cubes of fresh paneer cheese and add into the spinach curry sauce instead of the chicken.
- Saag Chicken - To make this a chicken saag recipe, simply use a combination of hearty cooked greens instead of just the spinach to make this into saag chicken! Mustard leaves, kale, chard, collards and other hearty leafy greens all work well as long as they aren't too big and tough. (Trim any tough or woody stems off the greens before using.)
Love different curries from around the world? Try my authentic, homemade Easy Snapper Laksa, a South Asian sweet and savory curry thickened with ground nuts.
Garam masala powder is a beautifully fragrant blend of Indian spices. It includes ground cumin seeds, coriander powder, ground nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. These spices give a very warm flavor profile with the subtle amount of cinnamon and cloves melding with the more pungent cumin and fresh flavored coriander.
Garam masala is not spicy on it's own but hot spices are often added to the same dishes that use it.
This spice blend is more authentic to Indian cooking than the British invented yellow curry powder. Yellow curry powder usually includes turmeric powder but garam masala does not.
Garam masala is used in many recipes (mostly Indian) including chicken tikka masala, chana masala, gobi aloo, samosas, biryani, butter chicken and even shwarma. It is frequently used as a finishing spice near the end of cooking but can be used at the beginning too.
Palak is an Indian word for spinach. Example: Palak paneer = spinach sauce with paneer cheese. In this dish, it is spinach sauce with chicken. A mixture of other leafy greens is referred to as 'saag' and can be substituted for the spinach in this and many other recipes. To make palak chicken into saag chicken, use any combination of mustard greens, fenugreek leaves and spinach. It will result in a little stronger flavor and is distinctively delicious.
Yes, this homemade palak chicken freezes really well. Simply store it in labelled airtight containers until ready to use. Let thaw in your refrigerator overnight and then gently reheat in a pan just until hot all the way through, stirring well.
Indian curry (including this palak chicken) is usually served with plain rice or jeera rice (rice flavored with cumin, ghee and other whole or ground spices.
Naan flatbread is also included to soak up the curry sauce. Indian curries are usually served family style and include many other dishes too.
Palak chicken is a vibrant green and earthy flavor. Serving a red orange curry like chicken korma or vegetable masala makes for a beautiful, textural and flavor contrast.
Kachumber salad (cucumber, tomato and onion), chutney, raita or Indian pickle (Achar) are tasty, savory condiments.
Other sides for Indian curry are samosas, pakoras, aloo gobi or tandoori dishes (foods cooked in a large cylindrical oven, often charcoal or wood fired) like tandoori prawns.
Palak chicken stores very well in both the fridge and freezer and makes delicious leftover lunches. In fact, I think leftovers might be the best part 😉
Stored it in an airtight container in the fridge, this pureed spinach curry will stay good for up to 4 days if refrigerated promptly.
Stored in the freezer, it will keep well for 1-3 months. Be sure to stir well as you reheat it once thawed.
It may be tempting to add more garam masala but proceed with caution. This wonderful spice blend of cinnamon, cumin, pepper and more, can end up adding a bitter taste if you use too much.
I hope this has made homemade palak chicken an easy and achievable recipe for you to create at home. It really is easy and will go faster the second time you make it.
Have a wonderful and delicious day!
Easy Homemade Palak Chicken Recipe (Spinach Curry Sauce)
- 3 tablespoon Butter or ghee
- 1 c Yellow Onion finely chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Ginger finely grated
- 1 Jalapeno seeds removed and finely diced
- ¼ teaspoon Chili Flakes Use more or less depending how spicy you like it.
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 11 oz Baby Spinach (One large salad clamshell container) about ⅔ lb
- 1 cup Fresh Cilantro Use stems and leaves when blending, reserving a few leaves for garnish.
- ½ cup Water
- ½ cup Heavy Cream or more to taste
- 1 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs sliced into bite size pieces.
- ½ teaspoon Salt plus more to taste
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon butter and fry bite sized chicken pieces until lightly browned on both sides and just cooked through. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Put skillet back on the stove with remaining butter and heat to medium. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until transluscent and just starting to brown. Add in minced garlic, ginger, garam masala, jalapeno and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant, stirring frequently for approzimately 2 more minutes.
- Add spinach a handful at a time, stirring and letting each bunch wilt down before adding more. (*See note below) Once all the spinach is cooked down, remove from heat.
- Transfer spinach mixture to blender with cilantro and water. Remove center part of blender lid (hot ingredients will create steam that needs to escape), and cover with a tea towel. Blend for 20 seconds (stopping after first 10 seconds to scrape down the sides of the blender) until spinach becomes a coarse sauce, then return to skillet set to low.
- Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's as thick as you like it. Stir in cream and salt. Add cooked chicken and cook 2-3 more minutes until chicken is heated through. Season with additional salt and pepper if required, to taste and serve right away.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove