Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag): So Tasty You’ll Strike Your Happy Dance!

Get ready for a revelation in how good stewed greens can be, because this recipe for Sarson ka Saag is “the bomb.”
BY Andrea Hayley-Sankaran TIMEJanuary 29, 2023 PRINT

Each time I make this dish, I am more and more amazed by its qualities. A ton of greens—packed with nutrition, antioxidants, and fiber—are cooked in a single pot, and then flavored with onions fried in pure ghee.

The result is succulent and very well balanced. I love this dish with rice, with flatbreads like roti, with eggs, with toast, or even by the spoonful, like a soup.

Before I discovered sarson ka saag, I always thought leafy greens should be cooked in a way that preserves their vibrant green color.

This meant they could only be barely cooked.

Think of broccoli that is perfectly bright green. It isn’t tender right?

When broccoli (or any leafy green) is cooked longer and becomes soft, the color doesn’t look good. So it’s a matter of both color and texture.

Still, I thought it was odd that despite my not really enjoying undercooked vegetables, the idea that I might cook leafy greens for 30 minutes had not even entered my mind.

Truly. Where had I been all this time?

Then I read that nearly every household in Northern India enjoys this dish of stewed greens, (sarson ka saag), regularly.

And in the American south, a place I have not yet visited, stewed collard greens are a traditional dinner side.

Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)
(Courtesy of Buttered Veg)

So I now stand corrected on the value of cooking greens really well. And hopefully I have also convinced you of its merits.

Stewed greens are popular with millions of people for good reason!

How to Make

The traditional recipe in India features a good amount of spinach mixed with mustard greens.

These are cooked for 30 minutes in a large saucepan with a small amount of water, and a spice mixture of sautéed garlic, ginger, and green chili, for 30 minutes.

After the greens are well cooked, they are blended until creamy. If you have an immersion blender, it would work well here.

Making Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)
(Courtesy of Buttered Veg)
Making Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)
(Courtesy of Buttered Veg)

Next, grated onion is cooked separately in ghee (a form of clarified butter).

Finally, garam masala (a warm spice mixture featuring some variation of cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and anise), and fresh lime juice, are added for flavor.

That’s it folks! These are the stewed greens that are so tasty you’ll strike your happy dance.

Or maybe you’ll sigh in admiration, as I do.

Or you can just savor every bite of balanced perfection and marvel at how lovely it is.

I am sure you will find your own way to appreciate it.

But first you have to make it! It will only take you about 20 minutes of prep time, and it’s a great way to eat your greens.

Why This Recipe is So Good

I generally don’t like to mess with traditional recipes, but with this one I am very proud of my small, yet important, innovation.

This innovation takes into account the fact that Americans don’t enjoy the bitter flavor as much as people in India do.

It also considers that most of us have access to leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens, which are all vegetables that most Indians don’t have access to.

Making Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)
(Courtesy of Buttered Veg)

So what I have discovered is that you can combine any greens, and this dish will turn out good.

The trick is to ensure a good amount of spinach, because the spinach contributes to the recipe’s succulent texture. Fresh or frozen spinach works just as well, and I’ve found that a quarter of the total greens is a sufficient amount.

I have also learned that it works well to include some leeks or scallions for pungency and texture.

Make sure to include at least something bitter, such as mustard greens, dandelion greens, radish, or turnip greens.
The bitter greens are essential to make the flavor pop in the end, since bitter of one of the six tastes.

Making Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)
(Courtesy of Buttered Veg)

You will need 12 cups of greens (loosely packed) for this recipe. Mix and match what you have, but for the ideal balance, go for a proportion as follows:

  • 6 cups mild greens: choose from kale, collards, Swiss chard, collards, leeks and scallions, etc.
  • 3 cups spinach. You can also include spinach in the mild greens category if you want to use more spinach. If you use frozen, use half the quantity since it is more concentrated.
  • 3 cups bitter greens: choose from mustard greens, dandelion, radish, or turnip greens, etc.

Why Ghee?

As a newcomer to this recipe, I was fascinated by the idea of simmering grated onion in ghee, and then adding it to the greens.

First of all, who grates onions? The way I get around it is to process my onion in a mini food chopper. Theoretically, you could try actually grating it. Or you could also chop it finely, and it would work just as well.

Once you’ve got that onion, you simmer it slowly in ghee until it starts to caramelize.

Making Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)
(Courtesy of Buttered Veg)

This is a beautiful process. Just imagine the scent of onions cooking in butter? It is one of life’s greatest things isn’t it?

Once you’ve reached that glorious allium perfection, you infuse it into your greens along with some garam masala and fresh lime juice.

The greens now have a rich depth of flavor from the ghee, and a perfect balance of tastes.

Ghee is a very pure and healthy fat. It is basically butter with the milk solids removed, so that it’s more like a cooking oil, with a wonderfully subtle nutty flavor.

If you haven’t tried ghee, check out my recommendations below, and also my recipe on how to make your own homemade ghee from butter. It’s super easy.

How to Clean Greens

Cleaning leafy greens is really simple and efficient with my method.

You chop first, then wash.

Making Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)
(Courtesy of Buttered Veg)

First, cut off any tough stems you don’t want, and use your fingers to tear off any greens from the stems.

Next, chop the large leaves into bite-sized pieces. To do this, pile up a portion of the leaves one of top of each other, then use your largest knife to chop 1-inch strips across the length of the leaves. Then go through again at a 90-degree angle to chop the strips into squares.

If the bunch is large, you might need to chop the leaves in 2-3 batches.

Once chopped, pick up the pieces with your hands and place them in a large mixing bowl.

Drop the bowl in the sink and fill with cold water.

Now swoosh the greens in the water with your hands to remove the dirt, and place the bowl next to the stove.

When you are ready to put the greens into your cooking pot, lift them out of the water with your hands, allow to drain for a few seconds, then transfer directly into your cooking pot.

This works because any dirt that was on the greens will have settled onto the bottom of the bowl, so it won’t get into your food. It saves a step of draining, spinning, or whatever else you might have been doing before.

ndian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)
(Courtesy of Buttered Veg)

Indian-Style Stewed Greens (Sarson Ka Saag)

Course: Side Dish

Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: stewed greens

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Calories: 122KCAL

Author: Andrea at Buttered Veg

Nearly every household in Northern India enjoys sarson ka saag regularly. It’s got a ton of greens—packed with nutrition, antioxidants, and fiber—cooked in a single pot, and then flavored with onions fried in pure ghee.

Helpful Kitchen Tools

  • immersion blender


For the Stewed Greens

  • 9 cups mixed greens, chopped and washed, (see notes)
  • 3 cups spinach, chopped and washed, (sub with 1 ½ cup frozen spinach)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon green chilis (substitute with jalapeños), finely chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

For the Cooked Onions With Ghee

  • 2 ½ tablespoons ghee, (see notes)
  • 1 cup onion, grated or finely chopped

To Finish

  • ½ teaspoon garam masala , or more to taste
  • ½ lime, freshly squeezed


Prepare greens by separating the stems and leaves. Discard the larger stems. Roughly chop the remaining stems and leaves. Place chopped greens in a large bowl and fill with cold water. Swish greens with your hands. The dirt will sink to the bottom. Set the bowl of greens in water by the stove until needed.

Start the Greens Cooking

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Add ginger and green chilis. Sauté 1-2 minutes until you see golden brown bits. Scoop out the prepared greens from the water, and add them to the saucepan along with 1 cup water and the salt. Turn heat to medium-low, cover, and steam for 30 minutes. The greens will become very soft.

Cook the Onions

Meanwhile, in a separate small skillet on medium-low, heat ghee and add onion. Sauté until lightly browned (about 10-15 minutes). At the beginning, nothing much will happen, but as soon as the moisture evaporates it will brown quickly, and even burn. So be careful. You want it evenly and lightly browned. Turn off the heat and set aside until needed.

Finish the Stewed Greens

After 30 minutes of simmering the greens, turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender to blend the greens right in the saucepan, or blend separately in a blender after cooling slightly. (If you use the blender method, be very careful and ensure that the steam has a way to escape so the lid doesn’t blow off.) After blending, turn the heat back on low.

Add cooked onions to the greens, along with garam masala and fresh lime juice. Simmer until the oil rises to the surface (about 3-5 minutes). Taste, and adjust for salt. If you find it too bitter, add a teaspoon of raw sugar.


For the Mixed Greens

6 cups mild greens: choose from kale, collards, Swiss chard, collards, leeks and scallions, etc.

3 cups bitter greens: choose from mustard greens, dandelion, radish, or turnip greens, etc.

The recipe also calls for 3 cups spinach. You can also include more spinach in the mild greens category if you want to use more spinach.

*If you use frozen spinach, use half the quantity since it is more concentrated.

Ghee Substitutes

If you do not have ghee, substitute with a mixture of half butter and half olive oil.

Ghee is a form of clarified butter with a nutty, buttery taste, that is commonly used in Indian cooking. It is generally safe for people with lactose intolerance, it has a high smoke point of 485 degrees Fahrenheit, and is shelf stable at room temperature.

Ghee is widely available outside India. To learn more about ghee and where to buy it, see Quality Ghee & Ghee Buying Tips.

Make this Vegan!

Substitute ghee with coconut oil.

Recipe adapted from “Earthbound, Navdanya’s Guide to Easy, Organic Cooking.”


Calories: 122kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 636mg | Potassium: 349mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 3137IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 1mg

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Andrea Hayley-Sankaran is the founder of Buttered Veg, the vegetarian food blog for conscious eaters. Andrea is a vegetarian chef (now a home cook) informed by over two decades of practice and experimentation with the ancient sciences of Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine. Andrea's study of traditional wisdom deepened her understanding of how to create incredibly flavorful vegetarian food that makes you feel good, inside and out.
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