It’s no secret I love all things spinach – but this Palak Paneer is probably my favorite way to use spinach, which is really saying something! If you don’t know what Palak Paneer is, in Hindi Palak means Spinach and Paneer is a soft, non-melting, vegetarian cheese. The paneer cubes are sautéed until just slightly crispy on the outside and then mixed into a nutrient-packed creamy sauce made with spinach, tomatoes, onions, and of course some obligatory spices.
This recipe only takes an incredible 30 minutes to make and follows a really basic method. There’s no blanching of the spinach, no long simmering of the curry, and all you’ll need to make it is a basic pan of your choice and a cheap immersion blender. It really is that simple.
The end result is Palak Paneer which is rich and creamy – without being ‘too much‘. You can easily eat a full portion and then some! The spinach, which if cooked incorrectly can become bitter, is robust and fresh. There is a gentle and addictive spice from the combined flavor notes of fresh green chillis and red chilli powder. Nutmeg brings a sweet nuttiness that perfectly compliments the paneer, and sautéed garlic runs all through the sauce which is peppered with notes of warming spice and an overall wash of creamy butteriness from the ghee. Delicious.
How can you make Palak Paneer Vegan?
Palak Paneer is surprisingly really easy to make Vegan. The most important aspect is of course replacing the Paneer. For this, extra-firm tofu is an excellent stand in. You can buy this at most grocery stores or online – or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can easily make your own from just 2 ingredients. Make sure you use extra-firm tofu, as this will give us the texture which is most similar to paneer. Follow the recipe and crisp it up slightly before cooking for ultimate deliciousness.
For the cream, there are several options. First, you can leave it out. I do this sometimes for a different taste – but you run the risk of the Palak Paneer being slightly bitter as there isn’t any creaminess to balance out the spinach. Your other option is to use a dairy-free cream like Elmlea Plant Based (or the most available alternative in your country). Another popular option is coconut cream. Additionally, you can also make your own cream by soaking cashews and then blending into a paste.
Can you use Frozen or Tinned Spinach for Palak Paneer?
I love using fresh spinach in my Palak Paneer. Wherever possible I try to use fresh vegetables – the flavor really is unbeatable and leafy greens are generally very budget-friendly. However, both tinned spinach and frozen spinach are good options here. Just be sure to defrost the frozen spinach and squeeze out excess water before use – and be aware that there may be some color differences.
What is the difference between Palak Paneer and Saag Paneer?
In the UK, Palak Paneer, Saag Paneer, and Paneer Saagwala are likely to all mean the same thing. Unfortunately in BIR (British Indian Restaurant) cooking, there isn’t usually a distinction between ‘Saag’ and ‘Palak’.
However, in India ‘Palak’ refers specifically to Spinach. Therefore any recipe you see with the word ‘Palak’ will be made with spinach greens only. ‘Saag’ on the other hand refers to a dish that uses a combination or mix of leafy greens – this can include things like spinach, mustard leaves, and fenugreek, along with many others. British Indian families even use things like kale or spring greens in Saag.
The recipe which I’m sharing with you today uses only spinach, and so is named Palak Paneer.
This Recipe Is…
- Vegetarian, Soy Free, Gluten Free, and Nut Free
- Authentic, just as you would eat it in India
- Thick and Creamy
- Packed full of nutrients and iron
- Easy for anyone to cook
- Healthy and delicious!
- 1 tbsp Neutral Oil of choice
- 225g Paneer, cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 1 tbsp Ghee
- 2 Green Chillis, de-stalked and cut into half
- 7 Garlic Cloves, crushed
- 60g Onion, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
- 50g Fresh Tomato, roughly chopped
- 1/4 Ground Nutmeg Powder
- 160g Fresh Baby Spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Coriander Powder
- 1/2 tsp Extra Hot Red Chilli Powder
- 1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
- 200ml Water
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp Sugar
- 1/4 tsp Garam Masala
- 2 tbsp Cream
- 1/2 tsp Kasuri Methi (Dried Fenugreek Leaves)
- Fresh Coriander/Cilantro, finely chopped to serve (optional)
- First, fry the paneer. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan or kadai of your choice over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the paneer. Gently stir fry for a few minutes, until evenly golden on all sides. You can lightly fry the paneer until sides are just sealed or fry more intensely to your own taste. Once fried, remove the paneer and set aside in a separate plate.
- Now to make the curry, add butter and ghee to the same pan that you fried the paneer in. With the heat still on medium, add the green chillis, garlic and onion. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the green chillis are slightly blistered, the garlic is aromatic, and the onions are translucent. At this stage add the ginger-garlic paste and mix well until incorporated with the onions and no longer smelling raw.
- Next add the tomatoes and nutmeg. Mix everything well and cook until the tomato softens – but no need to cook it until it completely melts down, just until soft. Now add the chopped spinach and dry spice powders: turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, and cumin powder. Keep mixing everything well so that the spices get cooked and the spinach wilts and shrinks in size. Once the spinach has completely wilted turn off the heat and allow the mix to cool.
- Once the mix is cool, puree it with a hand blender. I prefer to use an immersion blender/hand mixer as it leaves some slight texture in the curry. Once blended add back into the pan along with 200ml water. Also add salt to taste, sugar, garam masala and cream. Mix and cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Crush kasuri methi between your palms and add to the finished dish, then garnish with freshly chopped coriander and extra cream before serving.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 422Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 881mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 17g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
How to Serve Palak Paneer?
Palak Paneer tastes amazing served with Garlic and Coriander Naan. The naan is perfect for scooping up the thick and creamy curry and the extra hit of garlic flavor is just sensational. However, you could also serve this curry with parathas or even chapatis.
If you don’t want to have bread, consider making a simple Jeera Rice on the side. You could even serve it with simple steamed rice and the big, bold flavors of this Palak Paneer would sing.