Weeknight Cooking

Sarsoon ka Saag (Fragrant Butter-Laced Pureed Mustard Greens) From Julie Sahni

February 14, 2022
8 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Anytime you're craving deep nourishment or need inspiration for an overload of spinach or mustard greens from your CSA, turn to the legendary Julie Sahni's Sarsoon ka Saag and dinner can be little more than ultra-comforting greens, and lots of them.

As Julie wrote of this dish in Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking, “Every community in the world has a basic food that it refers to as soul food. For the Punjabi Sikhs of Amritsar, the home of the Golden Temple, it is mustard greens cooked to a velvety puree and laced with ginger shreds, garlic slivers, and sweet creamy butter. This heavenly dish is eaten with a corn bread. If children were introduced to such tastefully prepared greens as these, we probably would never need Popeye! The classic recipe for this dish calls for a mixture of mustard greens and a green called bathua, which acts as a binder for the sauce in addition to lending a marvelous flavor. Bathua is slightly hard to find; therefore you may substitute spinach in its place.”

A few more tips: The amount of water you’ll need will vary depending on the greens you use, and which ones are fresh, frozen, or dried. So that you don’t end up trying to reduce a soupy puree in the end, Julie suggests holding back some of the water and adding it only as needed to keep the greens covered. Traditionally, this puree is made with a wooden tool called a mathani that gently crushes and blends the greens but leaves them with some texture, which makes it easy to scoop up with makkai ki roti, a cornmeal-based flatbread, as you see here. When Julie wrote this recipe in 1985, she called for modern conveniences like a food processor or blender, and cautions only that the puree not be blended so much that it becomes airy and foamy, which will lead to it separating.

Recipe adapted very slightly from Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking (William Morrow and Company, December 1985).

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Hear more about this recipe from Julie herself on our podcast The Genius Recipe Tapes. Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
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Sarsoon ka Saag (Fragrant Butter-Laced Pureed Mustard Greens) From Julie Sahni
  • 1¼-1½ pounds fresh mustard greens (before trimming), or 1½ ten-ounce packets frozen chopped mustard greens
  • 1 pound fresh spinach greens (before trimming), or 1 ten-ounce packet frozen leaf spinach, stems trimmed
  • ¼ pounds fresh fenugreek leaves or 3 tablespoons dry fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
  • ¼ cups corn flour or cornmeal (preferably yellow)
  • 2 hot green chilies, chopped
  • ½ teaspoons asafetida, or ½ cup minced onion
  • cups water
  • 1 medium-size sweet green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • teaspoons coarse salt, or to taste
  • 4-6 tablespoons usli ghee or sweet butter
  • ¼ cups shredded or sliced fresh ginger
  • 2-4 tablespoons thickly sliced garlic
  1. Snip the stems off the tender leaves of both the mustard and spinach greens. For more mature spinach leaves, fold the leaf vertically along the stem and with one hand pull away the stem, including the portion attached to the leaf’s underside.
  2. Rinse the mustard, spinach, and fenugreek in several changes of water until all the sand has been washed away. Chop the greens coarsely.
  3. Put the corn flour, chilies, asafetida, and 2 ½ cups water in a deep pot and bring to a boil. Add the chopped greens, or, if you are using frozen and dried greens, add them now. Add the green pepper and cook, stirring, until the greens have wilted and the liquid comes to a boil. lower the heat and cook at a low simmer, covered, for 1 hour, or until the greens are thoroughly cooked. When the greens are slightly cool, puree them in batches, using a blender or food processor, until smooth and creamy.
  4. Return the puree to the same pot, add the cornstarch mixture, and cook over low heat until thickened and smooth (6-10 minutes). Add salt to taste, and keep the puree on a low simmer while you make the spice-perfumed butter.
  5. Heat the ghee or butter in a small frying pan until hot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the ginger and garlic and let cook, sizzling, for 3 minutes or until the seasonings begin to brown. Turn off the heat.
  6. Transfer the puree to a large shallow serving dish and gently pour the butte with the ginger and garlic over it. Stir it just a few times to lace the puree with butter in streaks.

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2 Reviews

erinrae February 23, 2023
I've made a decent number of saags that weren't quite right--this one finally hit all the right notes! I used both fenugreek seeds and leaves, and I think that ingredient is really indispensible to the overall flavor. I made it exactly as written, and used an Anaheim chili as the sweet pepper and it worked well.
KatC December 15, 2022
I'm making this for the third time this evening. As Kristen says, it's very nourishing. I've never had asafetida on hand so have always used onion. I've used a dash of maple syrup before when I couldn't find fenugreek. I love the aromatic, caramel-y, crunch of the fried garlic and ginger. One of my favorite recipes of the year!