By Deepak Pachauri

Last Updated: 14 July 2021

Vegetarian

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Palak Paneer is one of the most popular Indian dishes made with paneer cubes (Indian cottage cheese) in a smooth spinach sauce. This vibrant green spinach sauce features fresh spinach leaves (palak in Hindi), onions, tomatoes, herbs and spices. Make this super delicious palak paneer recipe with my easy step by step photo guide and video.

Table of Contents

  1. About Palak Paneer
  2. Palak Paneer and Saag Paneer Difference
  3. How to make Palak Paneer (Stepwise Photos)
  4. Palak Paneer Tips & Variations
  5. Recipe Card

About Palak Paneer

It is one of the most popular Indian curries around, and with good reason. This 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 recipe is a family recipe and I am so happy to get to share it with you here.

It is one of the most popular and well-liked paneer recipes. Packed with healthy nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamin C, this is a meal that I can feel good about eating.

Did you know that blanched spinach is healthier than raw? For this reason, I always recommend blanching spinach before using them.

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 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.

Usually, there are four variations of palak recipes in India, one is made with mung lentils (Dal Palak), another with split chickpeas (Chana Palak), the third with potatoes (Aloo Palak) and the fourth with paneer – popularly known as palak paneer.

Even though they are different dishes, both palak paneer and saag paneer are healthy and delicious vegetarian curries.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Palak Paneer

Blanch & Purée Spinach

1. Using a colander or strainer, rinse the palak (spinach) leaves (500 grams or 1.10 pounds), very well under running water.

2. Boil 6 cups of water in a pan, microwave or electric heater. Add half a teaspoon of 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 12 to 16 ice cubes to 6 cups of 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 colour 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 chilli 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 Onion Tomato purée

Take a medium-sized onion, a tomato, 2 green chillies and 2-3 cloves of garlic and grind them into a fine paste.

Make Palak Gravy

7. Heat 2 tablespoons oil, ghee or butter in a pan or kadhai (wok). 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 onion tomato purée.

11. Sauté until you see fat releasing from the sides of the mixture, then add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon red chilli 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.

12. Mix very well.

13. Add the palak (spinach) purée to the pan.

14. Mix well.

15. Add about 1 cup of water or as required. Mix and stir again.

16. 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.

17. Stir and add ½ teaspoon garam masala powder.

Assemble Palak Paneer

18. Stir again and then add the paneer cubes (250-350 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.

19. Mix gently and switch off the heat.

20. 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.

21. Stir gently so that the cream gets uniformly incorporated into the gravy.

22. 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!

Tips

Palak Paneer Tips & Variations

  1. 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. A squeeze of the water from the frozen-thawed spinach very well.
  2. 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 flavour 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 colour of the spinach leaves, making your palak paneer more beautiful.
  3. 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.
  4. Special Ingredients: Kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and asafoetida (hing) can be skipped if you do not have these. 
  5. 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.
  6. Restaurant-style flavours: I also make a restaurant-style palak paneer recipe by smoking the dish using charcoal. Smoking the dish is also known as the dhungar method.

FAQs

Why does my Palak Paneer taste bitter?

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.

Can I freeze palak paneer?

I would not recommend freezing palak paneer because the paneer will lose its soft texture when you reheat it again. Moreover, as per Ayurveda, freshly 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.

What can I use in place of cream?

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.

If I use frozen spinach, do I need to do anything differently?

Good question! Before 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.

Why is my palak paneer gravy stringy?

Spinach stems become rather fibrous as they get older and bigger. Be sure to remove any thick stems before 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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Recipe Card

Palak Paneer

By Deepak Pachauri

Rating: 0 out of 5.

Palak Paneer is delicious, smooth and creamy. This easy palak paneer recipe is made with fresh spinach leaves, paneer, onions, tomatoes, herbs and spices. This is one of the most popular North Indian dishes.

Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 40 mins

Cuisine: North Indian

Course: Main Course

Diet: Vegetarian

Difficulty Level: Easy

Servings: 4-5 person

Ingredients

For Palak Puree

  • 500 grams spinach or 10 to 12 cups roughly chopped spinach
  • 1 to 2 green chillies or 1 Serrano pepper or 1 to 2 Anaheim peppers – chopped
  • 3-4 small to medium garlic cloves – roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1-inch ginger – roughly chopped
  • 6 cups water for blanching spinach
  • 6 cups water for the ice bath

Other Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon oil or ghee (clarified butter) or butter
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small to medium tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
  • 1 small to medium-sized onion
  • 4 to 5 small to medium garlic cloves
  • 1 small to medium-sized tomato
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder or cayenne pepper or paprika
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) – optional
  • 1 cup water or add as required
  • ½ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder – add more if required
  • 250-350 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

For Garnish

  • 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

Instructions

Making onion-tomato puree

  • Take a medium-sized onion, a tomato, 2 green chillies and 2-3 cloves of garlic and grind them into a fine paste.

Making Palak Puree

  • Rinse the palak or spinach leaves very well in running water. Tender stems are fine. If the stems are stringy, then discard the stems.
  • Boil 6 cups of water in a pan or microwave or electric heater. Add half a teaspoon of salt to the hot water and stir. When the water comes to a rolling boil, switch off the flame. Add the spinach leaves to 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 colour of the spinach. Just add 8 to 10 ice cubes to 6 cups of 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 to a blender or grinder jar with chopped ginger, garlic and green chillies.
  • Make a smooth palak puree. No need to add water while making the puree. Keep the spinach puree aside.

Sautéing onion-tomato puree

  • Heat oil or ghee or butter in a pan or kadhai. If using butter, melt it on 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 onion tomato purée and saute until you see fat releasing from the sides of the mixture. Then add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder and asafoetida/hing.
  • Mix very well.

Making Palak Paneer

  • Then add the palak puree and mix well. 
  • Add about 1 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 to heat the paneer for more than 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 into the gravy uniformly.

Garnishing

  • Pour the palak paneer into 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

  • Stir and serve palak paneer hot with some roti. It also goes very well with Indian bread like tandoori roti, phulka, paratha or naan.
  • Being a versatile dish, it also accompanies rice dishes from Indian cuisine like cumin rice, vegetable pulao, ghee rice, saffron rice and even with simple steamed rice very well. 

Notes

  • Blanching: I always recommend blanching spinach when making the palak paneer recipe. Blanching removes the raw taste, bitterness and metallic flavour of spinach and makes it palatable without having any aftertaste. Apart from preserving the green colour 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.


If you are a South Indian food lover, also check our recipes for Instant Rava IdliMasala Dosa, Instant Rava appe recipe, Sambhar, coconut chutney.

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