Palak Paneer is a popular Indian dish of Indian cottage cheese cubes in a mild, spiced smooth spinach sauce. This delicious creamy dish is made with fresh spinach leaves, paneer (firm cottage cheese), onions, tomatoes, herbs and spices.
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About this recipe
This delicious palak paneer recipe is the way my mom has always made it for our family. She has been making this recipe for years, has passed it onto me and now I am so happy to share it here.
It is one of the most popular and well-liked paneer recipes on the blog as well as our favorite at home.
In my palak paneer recipe, I show the method of blanching spinach. This is done so that the dish has a nice green color and it is a healthy practice as well.
I always recommend blanching spinach before making any dish where the spinach leaves are used in large quantities and where a puree is made from them. Blanching has many benefits and you can read more about them in this post of Palak Recipes.
This delicious palak paneer goes well with roti, naan, paratha or tandoori roti. Or serve it with jeera or biryani rice, saffron or ghee rice.
Palak Paneer vs Saag Paneer
Saag paneer and palak paneer are often considered the same dish, but they are not. Palak paneer is the authentic Indian dish made with only spinach puree, where saag paneer is made with a mixture of various greens.
Saag paneer seems to have been popularized outside of India, however it is still very uncommon in India.
In the Punjabi or Hindi language the word ‘saag’ means greens. Various leafy greens fall under this category of ‘saag’, such as amaranth leaves, spinach, dill leaves, radish leaves, mustard leaves, fenugreek leaves and purslane.
My mother-in-law never makes saag paneer, however there are four variations of palak or spinach saag that she makes.
One is made with mung lentils (palak mung dal), another with split chickpeas (chana dal palak), the third with potatoes (aloo palak) and the fourth with paneer – popularly known as palak paneer.
Technically saag paneer is a dish where the saag is made first by combining 2 to 3 types of greens. Then paneer is added to the pureed greens.
Even though they are different dishes, both palak paneer and saag paneer are healthy as well as delicious.
How to make Palak Paneer
Blanching the Spinach
1. Using a colander or strainer, rinse the palak or spinach leaves (250 grams or 0.55 pounds), very well in running water.
2. Boil 3 cups water in a pan, microwave or electric heater. Add ¼ tsp salt to the hot water and stir. Then add the spinach leaves to the hot water. Let the spinach leaves sit in the water for about 1 minute. If doing this on a stove-top, be sure to remove the pan from the hot burner.
3. After 1 minute, strain the spinach leaves.
4. Immediately add the palak or spinach leaves in a pan or bowl containing ice cold water. This method helps in preserving the green color of the spinach. Just add 8 to 10 ice cubes to 3 cups water to get cold water. Allow the spinach leaves to be in the cold water for a minute.
5. Then drain the ice cold water. Add the spinach in a blender or grinder jar with 1 inch chopped ginger, (1 or 2 small to medium) garlic cloves and 1 or 2 chili peppers (green chillies). You can also use a hand-held immersion blender to make the puree.
6. Make a smooth spinach puree. No need to add water while making the puree. Set the spinach puree aside.
7. Heat 2 tablespoons oil (or ghee or butter) in a pan or kadai (wok). Here I have used butter. If using butter, melt it on a low flame making sure that it does not brown.
8. Add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds and let them splutter.
9. Then add one small to medium-sized tej patta (Indian bay leaf).
10. Add ⅓ cup finely chopped onions (1 small to medium sized onion).
11. Sauté until the onions become golden.
12. Then add 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic. Sauté till the raw aroma of garlic goes away. No need to brown the garlic.
13. Add ⅓ cup chopped tomatoes (1 small or medium sized tomato).
14. Stir and sauté the tomatoes until they soften.
15. Once the tomatoes are softened and you see fat releasing from the sides of the mixture, then add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon red chili powder (or cayenne pepper or paprika) and a pinch of asafoetida (hing). You can find asafoetida at your local spice store or on amazon, but if you don’t have it, you can skip it.
16. Mix very well.
Making palak paneer
17. Then add the palak (spinach) puree.
18. Mix well.
19. Add about ½ cup of water or as required. Mix and stir again.
20. Simmer the gravy for 6 to 7 minutes or more until the palak (spinach) is cooked. Season with salt. The gravy or sauce will have also thickened by now.
21. Stir and add ¼ to ½ teaspoon garam masala powder.
22. Stir again and then add the paneer cubes (200 to 250 grams cottage cheese). I have added the paneer cubes directly to the gravy. But you can also lightly pan-fry the paneer cubes in some oil until they are lightly browned and then add them to the palak gravy. In this case, you don’t need to cook the paneer further.
23. Mix very well and switch off the heat.
24. Lastly add 2 tablespoons low-fat cream. I used Amul brand cream. If using heavy whipping cream, then add 1 tablespoon of it. You can also add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) at this step, however this is optional.
25. Stir gently again so that the cream gets incorporated in the gravy uniformly.
26. Serve palak paneer hot with some roti, naan or paratha or cumin rice or ghee rice. You can top it with some butter or cream also while serving. Drizzle a few drops of lime or lemon juice on top along with ginger julienne.
Tips & Variations
- Spinach: Use fresh tender spinach leaves. Remove the stems from the leaves if they are dense or stringy. Tender stems can be added. You can also use frozen spinach instead of fresh spinach.
- Blanching: I would recommend blanching spinach in this recipe. Blanching removes the raw taste, bitterness and metallic flavor of spinach thereby making it palatable without having any after taste. It also gets rid of harmful microorganisms and pesticide residues. It also helps to preserve the green color of the spinach leaves.
- Paneer: The paneer cubes can also be lightly pan-fried and then added to the spinach sauce. For packaged paneer or frozen paneer follow the instructions written on the pack. If possible try to use fresh paneer or better to use Homemade Paneer.
- Special Ingredients: Kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and asafoetida (hing) can be skipped if you do not have these.
- Vegan options: You can substitute paneer with tofu in this recipe. I have made palak tofu many times and the smooth spinach gravy tastes very good with the tofu. You can use cashew or coconut cream in place of regular cream, or just skip the cream altogether.
- Restaurant style flavors: I also make a restaurant style palak paneer recipe by smoking the dish using charcoal. This smoking method is also known as dhungar method. I have shown the smoking method in detail in my Dal Makhani recipe.
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for palak puree
- 250 grams spinach or 5 to 6 cups roughly chopped spinach
- 1 to 2 green chilies or 1 Serrano pepper or 1 to 2 Anaheim peppers – chopped
- 1 to 2 small to medium garlic cloves – roughly chopped (optional)
- 1 inch ginger – roughly chopped
- 3 cups water for blanching spinach
- 3 cups water for ice bath
- 2 tablespoon oil or ghee (clarified butter) or butter
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 small to medium tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
- ⅓ cup finely chopped onions or 1 small to medium sized onion
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic or 4 to 5 small to medium garlic cloves
- ⅓ cup finely chopped tomatoes or 1 small to medium sized tomato
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper or paprika
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) – optional
- ½ cup water or add as required
- ¼ or ½ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder – add more if required
- 200 to 250 grams Paneer or tofu
- 2 tablespoons low fat cream or 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi leaves (dry fenugreek leaves) – optional. kasuri methi is crushed and added right towards the end. just before adding cream.
- salt as required
- 1 to 2 teaspoons cream (low fat or heavy cream) or butter for garnish – optional
- ½ to 1 inch ginger – julienne
- lemon or lime wedges or slices
Making palak puree
- Rinse the palak or spinach leaves very well in running water. Tender stem are fine. If the stems are stringy, then discard the stems.
- Boil 3 cups water in a pan or microwave or electric heater. Add ¼ teaspoon salt to the hot water and stir. When the water comes to a rolling boil, switch off the flame. Add the spinach leaves in the hot water. Let the palak leaves sit in the water for about 1 minute.
- After 1 minute, using a pasta tong, take the leaves.
- Immediately add the palak or spinach leaves in a pan or bowl containing ice cold water. This method helps in preserving the green color of the spinach. Just add 8 to 10 ice cubes to 3 cups water to get cold water. Allow the spinach leaves to be in the cold water for a minute.
- Then drain the ice cold water. Add the spinach in a blender or grinder jar with chopped ginger, garlic and green chilies.
- Make a smooth palak puree. No need to add water while making the puree. Keep the spinach puree aside.
Sautéing onions & tomatoes
- Heat oil or ghee or butter in a pan or kadai. If using butter, melt it a low flame making sure that the butter does not brown.
- Add the cumin and let them splutter.
- Then add the tej patta or bay leaf.
- Add the finely chopped onions. Saute till the onions become golden.
- Then add the finely chopped garlic. Saute till the raw aroma of garlic goes away. No need to brown the garlic.
- Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and saute the tomatoes till they soften.
- Once the tomatoes are softened and you see fat releasing from the sides of the mixture. Then add the turmeric powder, red chili powder and asafoetida/hing.
- Mix very well.
Making palak paneer
- Then add the palak puree and mix well.
- Add about ½ cup water or as required. Mix again.
- Simmer for 6 to 7 minutes or more till the palak or spinach is cooked. Season with salt. The gravy or sauce will also thicken by now.
- Stir and add garam masala powder.
- Stir again and then add the paneer (cottage cheese) cubes.
- Mix very well and switch off the heat.
- Lastly, add 2 tablespoons of low-fat cream. If using heavy whipping cream, then add 1 tablespoon of it. Stir gently again so that the cream gets incorporated in the gravy uniformly.
- Pour the palak paneer in serving bowls. While serving you can top it with some butter or cream.
- You can also drizzle a few drops of lime or lemon juice on top along with ginger julienne on the palak paneer.
- Stir and serve palak paneer hot with some roti. It also goes very well with Indian breads like tandoori roti, phulka, paratha or naan.
- Being a versatile dish, it also accompanies rice dishes from the indian cuisine like cumin rice, vegetable pulao, ghee rice and even a simple steamed rice very well.
- Blanching: I always recommend blanching spinach when making palak paneer recipe. Blanching removes the raw taste, bitterness and metallic flavor of spinach and makes it palatable without having any after taste. Apart from preserving the green color of the spinach leaves, it also gets rid of harmful microorganisms and pesticide residues.
- Pan-frying paneer: The paneer or tofu cubes can also be lightly fried and then added to the spinach sauce. In this case, you don’t need to cook the paneer or tofu in the gravy as when frying they are already cooked.
- Spinach: Use fresh tender spinach leaves. Remove the stems before from the leaves if they are dense or stringy. Tender stems can be added. You can also use frozen spinach instead of fresh spinach.
- Paneer: Use fresh paneer or better to use homemade paneer. For packaged paneer or frozen paneer follow the instructions written on the pack.
- Optional ingredients: Kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and asafoetida (hing)can be skipped if you do not have these.
- Vegan variations: Substitute paneer with tofu. Use cashew or coconut cream in place of regular cream, or just skip the cream altogether.
Nutrition Info Approximate values
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