Palak paneer with video and step by step photos. One of the most popular Indian dishes is palak paneer – soft cottage cheese cubes in a mild spiced smooth spinach sauce.
It is smooth creamy dish made with fresh spinach leaves, paneer (cottage cheese), onions, herbs and spices. Palak paneer can be made vegan by substituting paneer with tofu and using cashew cream or coconut cream or skipping cream altogether.
Our favorite palak paneer
This delicious palak paneer is the way my mom would make for us. she has been making this recipe for years and now I make it for everyone. It is one of the favorite paneer recipes on the blog – not only readers’ favorite but also ours.
In this palak paneer recipe i have shown 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 the leaves. Blanching has many benefits and I have shared about these benefits in this post of Palak recipes.
I also make a restaurant style One pot palak paneer, which has the smoking or dhungar method incorporated in it. I use dhungar method in recipes where I want to add smoky charcoal aroma to the dish.
Palak paneer vs saag paneer
In the west, both palak paneer and saag paneer are terms used for the same dish – which means palak paneer is called as saag paneer outside India. But in India I have never heard nor seen anyone making saag paneer. We call palak paneer as palak paneer only and not saag paneer. Even the North Indian restaurants here do not serve saag paneer. At home also we don’t make saag paneer. Palak paneer is made often but not saag paneer.
It looks like saag paneer is an invented dish that has been made very popular outside India. Saag paneer and palak paneer are often considered to be the same. But palak paneer is not saag paneer. Both are different. Palak paneer is made only with spinach puree and saag is mixture or puree of various greens.
In Punjabi or hindi language the word ‘saag’ means greens. various leafy greens fall under this category of ‘saag’ – example amaranth leaves, spinach, dill leaves, radish leaves, sarson (mustard leaves), fenugreek leaves (methi), chenopodium (bathua), tender leaves of chickpeas (chane ka saag) and purslane (kulfa).
My mom-in-law tells me that she has never ever made saag paneer. She told me there are four variations of palak or spinach saag that she makes. One is made with mung lentils (palak mung or palak dal), another with split chickpeas (chana dal palak), third with potatoes (aloo palak) and 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. Whatever be the case, both palak paneer and saag paneer are healthy as well as delicious. I have shared a variation of saag paneer earlier – Methi palak saag paneer.
This delicious palak paneer goes well with roti, naan, paratha or tandoori roti and even jeera rice or biryani rice or saffron rice or ghee rice.
Vegans can substitute paneer with tofu in the dish. I have made palak tofu many times and even with tofu, the palak gravy tastes very good.
How to make palak paneer
1. Using a colander or strainer, rinse the palak or spinach leaves (200 to 250 grams), very well in running water.
2. Boil 3 cups water in a pan or microwave or electric heater or in a pan. Add ¼ tsp 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.
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 ½ inch chopped ginger, (1 or 2 small to medium) garlic cloves and 1 or 2 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. Keep the spinach puree aside.
7. heat 2 tbsp oil (or ghee or butter) in a pan or kadai. Here I have used butter. If using butter, melt it a low flame making sure that the butter does not brown.
8. Add ½ tsp cumin 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. saute till the onions become golden.
12. Then add the finely chopped garlic (4 to 5 small to medium sized). Saute 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 saute the tomatoes till they soften.
15. Once the tomatoes are softened and you see fat releasing from the sides of the mixture. Then add ¼ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp red chili powder and a pinch of asafoetida (hing). If you do not have asafoetida, then skip it.
16. stir very well.
Making palak paneer
17. Then add the palak puree.
18. Stir well.
19. add about to ⅓ to ½ cup of water or as required. Stir again.
20. Simmer the gravy for 6-7 minutes or more till the palak or spinach is cooked. Season with salt. The gravy or sauce will also thicken by now.
21. Stir and add (¼ to ½ tsp) 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 fry or saute the paneer cubes till they lightly browned and then add them to the palak gravy. In this case, you don’t need to cook the paneer further.
23. Stir gently and simmer on a low flame till the paneer cubes become soft and succulent. Cook for about half to 1 minute.
24. Lastly add cream (1 or 2 tablespoons cream, low fat 25% to 35%. I used amul cream). You can also add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) at this step. Kasuri methi is optional though. If using heavy whipping cream, then add 1 tablespoon of it.
25. Stir gently again so that the cream gets incorporated in the gravy uniformly. Switch off the flame.
26. stir and Serve palak paneer hot with some roti or naan or paratha or cumin rice or ghee rice. You can top it with some butter or cream also while serving. Also drizzle a few drops of lime or lemon juice on top along with ginger julienne on the palak paneer.
Few more popular Paneer recipes for you
for palak puree
- 200 to 250 grams spinach or 5 to 6 cups roughly chopped spinach or about 7 to 9 oz spinach
- 1 or 2 green chilies - chopped
- 1 or 2 small to medium garlic cloves - roughly chopped (optional)
- ½ inch ginger - roughly chopped
- 3 cups water for blanching spinach
- 3 cups water for ice bath
- 1 small to medium sized onion - finely chopped or about ⅓ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 small or medium sized tomato - chopped or about ⅓ cup finely chopped tomatoes
- 4 to 5 small to medium garlic cloves (lahsun) - finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder - optional
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) - optional
- ¼ or ½ teaspoon garam masala powder - add more if required
- 1 small to medium tej patta (indian bay leaf)
- 200 to 250 grams paneer or tofu or about 7 to 9 oz paneer (cottage cheese)
- ⅓ to ½ cup water or add as required
- 1 or 2 tablespoons cream - low fat 25% to 35% (i used amul cream) or 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoon oil or ghee or unsalted butter
- 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 of cream or butter for topping the palak paneer (optional)
- ½ 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 tsp 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.
- 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.
- Stir very well.
making palak paneer
- Then add the palak puree and mix well.
- Add about ⅓ to ½ cup water or as required. Stir 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.
- Stir gently and simmer on a low flame till the paneer cubes become soft and succulent. Cook for about half to 1 minute.
- Lastly, add 1 to 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. Switch off the flame.
garnishing palak paneer
- 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.
serving palak paneer
- Stir and serve it hot with some rotis. It also goes very well with indian breads like tandoori roti, chapatis, phulkas, parathas or naan.
- Being a versatile dish, it also accompanies rice dishes from the indian cuisine like cumin rice, veg pulao, ghee rice and even a simple steamed rice very well.
- The paneer or tofu cubes can also be lightly fried and then added to the curry. In this case, you don't need to cook the paneer or tofu in the gravy as when frying they are already cooked.
- Use fresh tender spinach leaves.
- Remove the stems before from the leaves if they are dense or stringy. Tender stems can be added.
- Use fresh paneer or better to use homemade paneer.
- Kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and asafoetida (hing)can be skipped if you do not have these.