Palak paneer is a delicious and healthy vegetarian Indian recipe that is made with pureed spinach and Indian cottage cheese. This homemade palak paneer gets ready within 30 minutes. Serve it with any Indian bread or plain basmati rice it tastes awesome.
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If E. C. Seager had to create an Indian version of Popeye then the Indian Popeye would have been eating Palak Paneer all the time.
Though Indian kids also love Popeye-like all the other children in the world, they don’t need him to encourage them to eat spinach. The reason is that they grow up eating Palak Paneer which is a very tasty spinach recipe from India.
It's also one of the favorite Indian recipes of a lot of my non-Indian friends. After tasting palak paneer for the first time, most of them said that they had never imagined that spinach could taste so good.
Today I am sharing the way it's traditionally cooked in North Indian homes. The home-cooked palak paneer tastes far better than the restaurant-style.
What is palak paneer?
Palak Paneer is a dish that is made with pureed palak (spinach) and Paneer (Indian cottage cheese). The dish is flavored with warm Indian spices, onion, ginger, garlic, chilies, and tomato. To make the dish creamy and balance the heat of spices- milk or cream is also added to it.
It's one of the most popular vegetarian recipes from North India.
Though you can enjoy it throughout the year, it's especially eaten during winters when it tastes even better.
What goes in this dish?
To make this Punjabi style Palak paneer at home, you need the following ingredients:
- Spinach: Use fresh, tender leaves
- Paneer (Indian cottage cheese): Fresh/ frozen both are fine
- Green chilies: Adjust the quantity as per your heat preference.
- Tomato: Any juicy variety
- Onion: Generally red onion is used in this dish but if that's not available, use whichever variety you have.
- Ginger: It gives a very nice kick to this spinach paneer curry. You can use it in paste, grated, or chopped form. I love the fine pieces of ginger in palak paneer so prefer using chopped ginger.
- Garlic: Traditionally a lot of ginger and garlic are added to palak paneer. Not only because they add flavor but also because this is a winter recipe and these warm spices are very good for health during the season. If you like garlic add a lot of it but if you don't, adjust the quantity to taste.
- Dried spices: Cumin seeds, coriander powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves), and dried whole red chilies.
- Milk/ cream: Milk or cream is used to add creaminess to the dish. They also balance the heat of spices used.
- Mustard oil: In North India, mustard oil is a preferred cooking medium, especially for leafy greens. You can use any cooking oil of your choice. However, if you use mustard oil heat it till the smoking point and then switch off the stove. Once the oil reaches room temperature, switch on the stove again, and then add the spices.
- Ghee: Palak paneer is incomplete without ghee. You can also use butter. It's poured on top once the dish is cooked
How to make?
Though a lot of people presume that making palak paneer at home is very tough it's a very easy recipe and involves three major steps.
Prepare spinach puree: Wash and blanch the spinach for 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water. Take out from the boiling water and transfer to ice-cold water. This will stop the process of overcooking of spinach and also helps in retaining the bright green color of the leaves. Afyer 1-2 minutes, drain the water and pPut blanched spinach and green chilies in a food processor to make a puree.
Prepare masala: Heat oil in a pan. Break dried red chilies into 2-3 pieces and add to the pan. Saute for a few seconds and then add cumin seeds. Saute until they start spluttering.
Next, add garlic, cook until its raw smell goes away. Add onion and cook until it turns brown.
Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, and red chili powder. Saute for a few seconds. Powdered spices burn very easily, to avoid that either remove the pan from the flame before adding spices or mix the spices with around 1/2 a tablespoon of water before adding to the pan. The other two dried spice- powdered-garam masala and kasoori methi will be added at a later stage as we don't want to overcook them. They will lose flavor and aroma if overcooked
Next, add finely chopped tomatoes, ginger, and salt. Cover the pan and cook until the tomatoes turn mushy. Covering the pan will help in fastening the process.
Mix masala and spinach puree: When the tomatoes are cooked, add spinach puree and mix. If the puree is too thick, add some water depending upon how thick you want the palak paneer to be. However, keep in mind that we will also be adding milk later which will also make it thinner.
Cook the spinach puree with masala for around 2-3 minutes.
Add kasoori methi, garam masala, paneer cubes, and milk. Mix everything and cook for 1-2 minutes and then switch off the gas. Don't stop stirring for at least a minute after adding milk otherwise it may curdle.
Switch off the stove, cover the pan, and let it stay like that for at least 5 minutes. It will help in blending all the flavors.
Finally, pour some ghee/ butter on top. Enjoy!
Step by step photo instructions
This dish goes well with Indian bread as well as rice.
The most popular way of enjoying it is with an Indian bread like roti, naan, or paratha.
You can also serve it with some plain steamed basmati rice, jeera rice, or any other rice dish of your choice.
Always serve it hot.
Can it be made with frozen spinach?
Though traditionally palak paneer is made with fresh spinach if that's not available to you, frozen spinach can be used too.
However, if using frozen spinach, I will suggest tweaking a few steps.
Instead of blanching the frozen spinach, thaw it and then saute with green chilies and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Puree the sauteed spinach and then follow the remaining steps given in the recipe card below.
How to store?
To store, put palak paneer in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. It will be fine for 2-3 days. It tastes better the next day.
To store palak paneer for a longer period, freeze it in freezer-safe airtight containers and put in the freezer. It will be fine for around 3 months.
In many North Indian homes, spinach is blanched and pureed in bulk. Because that's the step which takes most of the time. The puree is then stored in the freezer in portion-size containers.
To make instant palak paneer with frozen spinach puree, the base of onion, tomato, and spices is prepared fresh. And then the frozen spinach puree is added to this mixture. No need to even thaw it. Once the spinach starts to simmer, garam masala, kasoori methi, milk, and paneer are added.
You can also try this method.
Recipe tips & tricks
- Use soft, tender leaves for making palak paneer. If there are any hard stalks remove them.
- Don't overcook the spinach otherwise, it will turn bitter and lose taste too.
- If using frozen paneer, soak it in hot water for a few minutes. The paneer will become soft and creamy.
- You can also fry or bake paneer cubes before adding to the dish.
- I have made this palak paneer in the traditional way in which a coarse paste of spinach is used. But, if you prefer it smoother as they serve in restaurants, make a smooth paste of spinach. Also, use the paste of onion, tomato, garlic, and ginger instead of using them in chopped form.
- I love fine pieces of onion, tomato, ginger, and garlic in every bite but if that's not your thing, blend it with a blender before adding milk and paneer.
Frequently asked questions
Palak means spinach in Hindi, saag is a general term for leafy greens.
No, generally palak paneer is not spicy as the heat of spices is balanced by milk or cream.
A lot of people complain that their palak paneer tastes bitter. This generally happens if you overcook palak. Blanch palak only for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to ice cold water, your dish won't taste bitter.
Baby spinach is too mild and delicate for this recipe hence use regular spinach.
To create a vegan version of this dish- use tofu or boiled potatoes instead of paneer. Also, replace milk with cashew milk or any other plant-based milk.
And, either skip ghee/ butter or add vegan butter.
More easy Paneer recipes
Looking for more easy paneer recipes from India, do check out the following links:
More spinach recipes from around the world
If you want to try more spinach recipes from the around the world, the following links are worth trying:
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Easy Palak Paneer
- 1 Cooking pot
- 1 Blender
- 500 gms spinach
- 1.5 cups paneer cubes
- ½ cup milk/ cream
- 1 large red onion finely chopped
- 1 large tomato finely chopped
- 2-3 green chilies finely chopped, adjust as per taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic adjust as per taste
- 1 inch piece of ginger finely chopped
- 2 dried red chilies
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ tablespoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder adjust as per taste
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon crushed kasoori methi dried fenugreek leaves powder
- ¼ teaspoon garam masala
- Salt as per taste
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil/ any other cooking oil of your choice
- 1 tablespoon ghee/ butter optional but recommended
- Wash spinach and keep aside.
- Boil water in a large pot. Add salt. Once the water starts boiling add spinach. Blanch for 2-3 minutes and then transfer to a large bowl of ice-cold water. Let the spinach remain in cold water for about a minute and then transfer to a grinder/ food processor.
- Add green chilies to the grinder. Make a slightly coarse paste of spinach and green chilies. Keep the paste aside.
- Heat oil in a pan. Break each red chili into 2-3 pieces and add to the oil. Saute for a few seconds and then add cumin seeds. Saute the cumin seeds for a few seconds or until they become fragrant.
- Add chopped garlic and saute for a few seconds or until its raw smell goes away.
- Add onion and cook until the onion starts turning brown.
- Next, add turmeric powder, red chili powder, and coriander powder. Saute for around 30 seconds on low flame.
- Add chopped tomatoes, ginger, and salt. Mix and cover the pan. Cook until the tomatoes turn mushy.
- Add spinach puree along with around a cup of water. Mix everything and cook for around 2-3 minutes.
- Next, add garam masala, kasoori methi, milk, and paneer. Mix everything. Cook for around 1-2 minutes and then cover the pan. Switch off the gas. Don't remove the lid for at least 5 minutes.
- Drizzle some ghee or butter on top. Serve hot with roti, naan, paratha, or rice.
- Don't overcook the spinach otherwise, it will turn bitter and lose taste too.
- If you prefer smooth palak paneer, make a smooth paste of spinach. Also, use the paste of onion, tomato, garlic, and ginger instead of using them in chopped form.
- After adding milk stir continuously for at least a minute otherwise, milk may curdle.
- If you don't like raw paneer use fried/ baked paneer.
- Vegans may enjoy this dish by replacing paneer with tofu or boiled potatoes.
- For a very smooth and creamy palak paneer, blend it with a blender before adding milk and paneer.
- More recipe tips and tricks are given within the post above. Please follow them to make this recipe.