If you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant, chances are you’ve seen Palak Paneer on the menu (and have hopefully tried it)! Palak means spinach in Hindi and also happens to be my sister/co-blogger/besties name. Palak Paneer is a North Indian dish that is made of blanched spinach and a ricotta like cheese called paneer. Palak Paneer sometimes gets confused with it’s close cousin, Saag paneer. Saag translates to “leafy greens” so is not traditionally just spinach and can include collard greens, mustard greens etc. You might be thinking, Palak Paneer is just boiled spinach with cubed cheese, cool. But as with all Indian cuisine, combining a few simple, quality ingredients can turn even spinach and cheese into a mouth watering dish!
A big part of food is texture and you’ll see/taste Palak with a variety of different textures. Our preference is not to completely blend the spinach into a smooth paste but leave it a little bit chunky (see picture below). Also up to you on how much effort you want to put into this dish, if you’re in the mood your can always make your own paneer but store bought is a great easy option. The third thing to mention is it’s really up to you if you want to saute your paneer chunks, we choose to for this recipe but in all honestly can go 50/50 on this.
The traditional way to serve Palak Paneer is with hot buttery naan (Trader Joe’s garlic naan is great) or paratha and basmati rice. You can also switch things up and make kati rolls, using the Palak Paneer as a filling. This dish pairs beautifully with our Chole Chana and together these dishes make for a wonderful dinner party menu!
Note: To make this vegan friendly, sub the paneer for tofu and omit the heavy cream or substitute for a non dairy cream.
Serving Size: Makes 4 servings
- 1 lb baby spinach
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp grated ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic diced
- 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 serrano pepper diced (optional, use 1/2 if you like it medium or omit if you like it mild)
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp red merchu (optional, omit it if you like it mild)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 12-16 oz paneer, cubed
- salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add in spinach and stir, let cook for 3 minutes.
- Once the spinach is done cooking immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water – the ice bath helps the spinach retain its rich green color, if you skip this step you risk having a brownish colored saag!
- Heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan and sauté onions until translucent, then add in diced garlic & serranos and sauté an additional 2 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant
- Add in ginger and spices and stir to combine for another 1-2 minutes. At this point your mix might be getting a bit dry, that’s ok you’re about to take off the heat.
- Drain spinach and add to a blender or food processor along with the onion mix. Blend until desired consistency – we prefer to leave the palak with a little texture and not have it completely smooth
- Transfer contents of your blender back to your pan and turn heat to low, add a 1/4 cup of water and let simmer for 15 minutes covered, stirring occasionally. Try your palak and adjust salt as needed.
- In a separate pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium-low heat and once hot add in your paneer cubes. Cook until lightly browned and flip to the other side to brown
- Now you can add in your paneer, homemade or store bought – either work. We prefer cutting the paneer into large chunks and not toasting them but you can also toast the paneer chunks in oil before adding in.
- Stir to combine, being careful not to break up the paneer cubes and serve hot.