Palak Paneer is one of the most popular Indian dish made with succulent paneer cubes (Indian cottage cheese) in a smooth spinach sauce. This vibrant green palak paneer is made with fresh spinach leaves (palak in Hindi), onions, tomatoes, herbs and spices. Make this super delicious palak paneer with my easy step by step photo guide and video.
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About Palak Paneer
It is one of the most popular Indian curries around, and with good reason. This deliciously creamy and vibrantly green dish is made with paneer in a mildly spiced fresh spinach sauce. This is a delightful and easy to make vegetarian main you just have to try!
This delicious palak paneer is a family recipe that my Mom passed down to me. She has been making this recipe for our family for years, and I am so happy to get to share it with you here.
It is one of the most popular and well-liked palak recipe on the blog, not to mention our favorite at home. Packed with healthy nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamin C, this is a meal that I can feel good about eating.
In this recipe, I show you how to quickly blanch the spinach. This is done so that the dish has a nice green color, as well as for some health benefits. Did you know that blanched spinach is healthier than raw? For this reason, I always recommend blanching spinach before using them in my collection of Palak Recipes.
This delicious palak paneer goes well with roti, naan, or paratha. If you are gluten-free, you can also serve it with cumin rice or biryani rice, saffron rice or ghee rice.
Palak Paneer and Saag Paneer Difference
Saag paneer and palak paneer are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different dishes. Palak paneer is an authentic Indian dish made with only spinach puree, whereas saag paneer is made with a mixture of 2 to 3 various types of greens.
In the Punjabi or Hindi language the word ‘saag’ means greens, and ‘palak’ means spinach. Various leafy greens fall under this category of ‘saag’, including: amaranth leaves, spinach, dill leaves, radish leaves, mustard leaves, fenugreek leaves and purslane.
Saag paneer seems to have been popularized outside of India, however it is still very uncommon in India. My mother-in-law never makes saag paneer per se, however, there are four variations of palak saag that she makes.
Even though they are different dishes, both palak paneer and saag paneer are healthy and delicious vegetarian curries.
How to make Palak Paneer
Blanch & Purée Spinach
1. Using a colander or strainer, rinse the palak (spinach) leaves (250 grams or 0.55 pounds), very well under running water.
2. Boil 3 cups water in a pan, microwave or electric heater. Add ¼ teaspoon 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.
While the water is coming to a boil, make a bowl of ice water and set it aside. Just add 8 to 10 ice cubes to 3 cups water to get cold water.
3. After 1 minute, strain the spinach leaves.
4. Immediately transfer the palak (spinach) leaves to the bowl containing ice cold water. This method of “shocking” the spinach helps preserve the vibrant green color of the spinach. Allow the spinach leaves to stay in the cold water for a minute to stop the cooking process.
5. Drain the ice cold water and press the spinach to remove any excess moisture. Add the spinach in a blender or grinder jar with 1 inch chopped ginger, 1 to 2 garlic cloves and 1 to 2 chili peppers (green chillies). You can use a hand-held immersion blender to make the puree if you prefer.
6. Make a smooth spinach purée by blitzing the ingredients together. There should be no need to add any water to make the purée. Set the spinach purée aside.
Make Palak Gravy
7. Heat 2 tablespoons oil, ghee or butter in a pan or kadai (wok). In the photos below I 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, but stop short of browning 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 substitute 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. Also, please note that many commercially available brands of asafoetida are processed with wheat. If you are gluten intolerant, please be sure to purchase gluten free asafoetida.
16. Mix very well.
17. Add the spinach purée to the pan.
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 puree is cooked. Season with salt as required. The gravy will have thickened by now.
21. Stir and add ¼ to ½ teaspoon garam masala powder.
Assemble Palak Paneer
22. Stir again and then add the paneer cubes (200 to 250 grams cottage cheese) directly to the gravy.
You can also opt to 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 gently and switch off the heat.
24. Lastly add 2 tablespoons of light cream or cooking cream or 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 so that the cream gets uniformly incorporated into the gravy.
26. Serve palak paneer hot with 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. Enjoy!
Palak Paneer Tips & Variations
- Spinach: Use fresh, tender spinach leaves. Remove the stems from the leaves if they are dense or stringy; any tender stems can be added. You can also use frozen spinach instead of fresh. If you use frozen, the leaves have already been blanched, so you can skip that step. Squeeze of the water from the frozen thawed spinach very well.
- Blanching: I recommend blanching the spinach in this recipe. It only takes a few extra minutes and has so many benefits! Blanching removes the raw taste, bitterness and metallic flavor of spinach making it more palatable.
Blanching also gets rid of harmful microorganisms and pesticide residues, as well as makes the nutrients of the spinach more bioavailable. It also helps to preserve the green color of the spinach leaves, making your palak paneer more beautiful. That, my friends, is a win-win-win.
- Paneer: The paneer cubes can be lightly pan-fried and then added to the spinach sauce for added richness. If possible try to use fresh, Homemade Paneer. For packaged or frozen paneer, follow the instructions written on the pack.
- Special Ingredients: Kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and asafoetida (hing) can be skipped if you do not have these.
- Vegan options: If you’re vegan, you’re in luck! You can easily swap in tofu for the paneer 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 by smoking the dish using charcoal. Smoking the dish is also known as dhungar method. I have shown the smoking method in detail in my Dal Makhani recipe.
Sounds like you skipped the blanching step. Raw spinach leaves have high levels of a compound known as oxalic acid that causes a bitter taste. Blanching your spinach leaves (i.e. cooking them briefly in hot water) will remove the oxalic acid, which not only makes the spinach taste better but will also make the nutrients more available for your body.
If you blanched the spinach and it still tastes bitter, try adding a tablespoon or two of 35-50% cream. The fat content will help to smooth the bitter taste.
I would not recommend freezing palak paneer because the paneer will lose its soft texture when you reheat it again. Moreover as per Ayurveda, fresh cooked food has maximum prana (life force). It is therefore better to eat palak paneer (and all foods) when they are freshly cooked and hot or warm.
Feel free to swap in cashew paste, malai (a layer of cream collected on top of cooled milk that has been boiled earlier), or coconut cream.
Good question! Prior to freezing, spinach is already blanched to protect the cellular structure of the veg. As such, you can skip the blanching step and move along to blending. But remember to squeeze all the water from the thawed spinach.
Spinach stems become rather fibrous as they get older and bigger. Be sure to remove any thick stems prior to blanching. You can also opt to use baby spinach leaves instead, as they are extremely tender and don’t require you to remove the stems.
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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 cooking 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 Indian 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 (Indian cottage cheese) cubes.
- Mix very well and switch off the heat. Be quick as we don't want heat the paneer for more 30 seconds to 1 minute. Overcooking paneer will make them chewy and dense.
- 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, saffron 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 and soft 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.
- Scaling: Make a large batch of this recipe if making for parties or get-togethers.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Palak Paneer post from the archives (originally published on May 2013) has been updated and republished on 23 Jun 2021.