Sarson ka Saag: Mustard Greens from Southern Punjab

Mustard, locally known as Sarson, is perhaps one of the effortless crops to grow in both Pakistan and India during the winter and spring seasons.

Mustard leaves being picked (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation


The province of Punjab (Punj meaning five, and ab meaning water in Persian) has been given its name due to the five tributaries of the Indus River flowing through it, making the land rich and perfect for agriculture.

Mustard leaves being picked (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation


Agriculture is the life blood of households in Southern Punjab. Mustard greens are grown in abundance during the winter.

Mustard leaves being picked (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Mustard Greens

Mustard, locally known as sarson is perhaps one of the easiest crops to grow in Pakistan and India during the winter and early spring seasons. From the mustard crop, mustard greens are harvested and used to cook sarson ka saag which was first mentioned in the book, “Acharanga Sutra”, written around the 3rd century BC, which expounded on the religion and the Jain way of life, including a list of foods that were commonly consumed in the region.

Saag, The Ultimate Comfort Food (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Watch our short film on mustard greens.

Mustard leaves being picked (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Outskirts of Multan

A mere 8-10 kilometres outside of Multan are golden fields of mustard, where three types of mustard crops are grown - ranging from strong to mild bitterness in flavour. The crop is planted during November or December, depending on the weather, and then harvested soon after.

Mustard flowers and leaves (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation

The Crop

The crops are then processed into mustard seed oil and saag, which is often presented as a gift to friends and family who then use their traditional recipe passed down from generation to cook and share the delicious sarson ka saag. The word saag is interchangeably used between mustard leaves and spinach for the final product of the slow-cooked dish, which is creamy and smooth in texture.

Close Up of Saag leaves (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation


When talking about traditional Pakistani food, sarson ka saag aur makai ki roti (mustard greens with unleavened cornmeal flatbread) is mandatory to mention. Seemingly a humble and simple fare, this particular dish has a long history behind it and is perhaps one of the most popular and revered traditional meals from Punjab. 

Saag leaves (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Simple Ingredients

The magic behind this particular dish lies in its simplicity, with grandmothers and experienced saag makers vowing that the lesser ingredients involved, the better.  

Saag being cooked (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation


Even though the process of cooking sarson ka saag and makkai ki roti is an arduous one - due to the cooking time ranging from anywhere between two to three hours - it is considered worthwhile because the end product is so delicious. 

Cooked Saag leaves (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Super Food

Sarson ka saag is not just lauded for its taste, it is also known for its health properties. Mustard leaves are considered a superfood, high in vitamin A and rich in fibre, and are primarily considered a winter staple to help ward off ailments such as the common cold. 

Saag leaves being ground to a paste (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation


While mustard greens are known for their strong, peppery and bitter flavour, its combination with spinach, fresh cilantro, fenugreek, fresh green chillies, ginger and a topping of either fresh makhan (organic butter) or ghee (clarified butter), along with the cooking process that converts the simple greens into a smooth textured, comforting, filling and delicious meal. 

Saag is served (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation

The Makai Bread

The crispy, buttery makkai ki roti is perhaps what makes it one of the most popular traditional winter foods of not just Punjab, but every Punjabi household around the world. 

The Comfort Food

Punjabis describe sarson ka saag and makkai ki roti as a gift of Punjab, a treat that everyone must try at least once in their lives.

Credits: Story

Produced by SOC Films 
Project Director: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Producers: Syed Ayub , Sameer Khan
Project Manager: Huma Shah
Director of Photography: Murtaza Ali
Photography: Karim Baig , Murtaza Ali
Photography Editor: Karim Baig
Additional Video & Photography: Khurram Victor
Exhibits Writer: Nazia Latif , Sameer Khan
Exhibits : Syed Ayub , Sameer Khan
Art Direction : Rahat Niazi  
Associate Producer : Asad Pabani
Video Editors: Nina Zehri, Farhad Jamali 
Color Grade: Sourath Behan
Additional Video Editing: Mishal Adhami 
Sound Design: Sameer Khan

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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