Palak Paneer is an Indian vegetarian dish. There are two stars in this recipe, spinach, and cheese (Paneer). Palak paneer is creamy in texture and usually served with paratha or chapati on the side.
What is Palak Paneer
Palak paneer is a traditional North Indian curry made with fresh spinach, tomatoes, onions, spices, paneer, and herbs. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most well-known Indian curries out there – it’s deliciously creamy and has a beautiful vibrant green color, and tastes absolutely scrumptious.
'Palak' is Hindi for 'spinach,' while 'Paneer' is Indian cottage cheese. So palak paneer is paneer cooked in a smooth, spicy, and delectable spinach gravy or sauce.
This is one of the milder Indian curries, both in terms of heat and spice. The subtle spicing from fenugreek, cumin, coriander, and cardamom complements the delicate spinach flavor without overpowering it. And the paneer acts as a beautiful balancer that soaks up all the flavors but adds a delicious creaminess to the curry. The best part is that it’s really healthy and is vegetarian!
Saag Paneer vs Palak Paneer
The difference between the two is simple: palak paneer is an actual Indian dish that originated in North India, while saag paneer is a dish originated outside of India by foreign chefs who have adapted the flavors of similar Indian curries but with a twist.
Because palak signifies spinach, palak paneer is made using spinach. However, because saag means ‘ leafy greens’ in Hindi, it usually refers to a variety of greens such as dill leaves, mustard greens, radish greens, fenugreek leaves, and a few more. As a result, saag is typically cooked with one or more of these ingredients. For this reason, if you try it at a restaurant, you might come across a completely different saag paneer every time!
Another significant distinction between the two is the spices that are used to make the two dishes. Saag has a lot of garam masala, and Palak Paneer is flavored with coriander. Palak Paneer might also have some yogurt instead of cream, but Saag almost always uses cream. This tends to have a different texture and flavor as well.
What you need for Palak Paneer
To make the perfect Palak Paneer, there are two major parts to it: the Paneer (fresh Indian cottage cheese) and the Palak (spinach). Let’s look into both of them some more! Don’t worry; it’s super simple, and I have you covered!
- Paneer: Fresh Indian Cottage Cheese
While you can definitely buy this in your local Indian store, homemade paneer is so much better! It has a softer, crumblier texture than store-bought paneer. The store-bought variety is substantially denser and firmer in comparison.
Not only is homemade paneer more nutritious and fresher, but it is also less expensive to produce than to buy. I’ve made a whole different post for you to know exactly how to make Paneer (and all the other things you can do with it apart from making this delicious Palak Paneer recipe!)
- Palak (Spinach) Gravy:
You’ll see a lot of recipes online that recommend fresh spinach, but that comes with a host of problems that can lead to a bitter curry and inconsistent flavor. I’ve tried both fresh and frozen and always gotten the best results with frozen spinach. It’s easy, always consistent, and absolutely delicious!
But in case you want to use fresh spinach, read the tips on this page to know how to substitute it! See, I mean it when I say I’ve got you covered!
To make the perfect spinach (palak) gravy, you’ll need a few simple ingredients: frozen spinach, chopped onions, and tomatoes, some aromatics like garlic and ginger, and some herbs and spices such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, red chili powder, and black pepper. To give it that delicious consistency, we’ll be using some heavy cream and ghee.
Ghee is clarified butter and adds a beautiful richness to the curry. You can definitely buy it in-store or try my recipe for making ghee here.
How to Make Palak Paneer
- Paneer (homemade fresh Indian cheese): Start off by making Paneer first. One batch of the recipe I have here is perfect. It can be made and freeze up to 6 months! And my post also has other tips so go check it out. Once the paneer is made and cubed, add ghee to a pot and fry the paneer on both sides till it’s crisp and has a golden exterior.
- Onion and aromatics: To start making the curry, use the remaining ghee in the same pot and add onions to it. Cook them till they turn translucent. Then add garlic, ginger, and green chilis and cook these for a minute on medium heat.
- Tomatoes and spices: Now’s the turn to add chopped tomatoes to the pot. Add them and cook them for three minutes. This deglazes the pot and starts to make everything come together. Now add all the spices and mix for a few seconds. By adding spices at this point, it makes sure they don’t burn. A lot of recipes call for adding the spices early on, but that can cause more harm than good!
- Add the spinach: Next, it’s the star ingredient’s turn – spinach. Make sure to squeeze out all the liquid from the spinach and then add it to the tomato and onion mixture. Cook on medium heat for three to four minutes.
- Blend half the mixture: Keep around 3 tablespoons of the mixture in the pot and scoop the rest into a blender. Add half a cup of water to the blender and blend until the mixture is smooth.
- Return blended mixture to pot: Return the blended spinach mixture to the pan and cook for three minutes. Add another quarter cup of boiling water to the spinach and cook for three minutes, then add the salt and mix well.
- Add fenugreek: Fenugreek adds this amazing aroma to the dish, so add the dry fenugreek leaves and cook the mixture for three minutes.
- Pour cream into the mixture, and mix until it’s combined. The cream adds a beautiful texture and richness to the curry.
- Time for some paneer: Now add the golden pan-fried paneer from step one into the curry and cook for another two minutes.
- Final touches: The mixture should look creamy, but add a little hot water and cook for a minute if it is too thick, but not too much, as this might dilute the flavor. Remember to always taste and adjust salt levels if required.
- Gently stir and serve: Gently stir the curry, and you’re done! You’ll have a beautiful, rich yet creamy spinach curry with homemade Indian cottage cheese ready to go! Serve it with some naan, Indian bread, paratha, or basmati rice.
Tips to Make the Best Palak Paneer
- When using fresh spinach, cut the stems of the spinach and discard them, wash the leaves thoroughly. The stems are usually dense and stringy, so it’s best to remove them.
- Another tip if you’re opting to use fresh spinach leaves is to blanch them. Blanching removes the raw, bitter, and metallic flavor that spinach tends to have.
- Blanche the spinach by placing it in boiling water for two to three minutes. Remove the spinach from the boiling water and immediately place it in chilled water to stop it from cooking and maintain the beautiful green color. Chop the spinach and then use it as per the recipe.
- This recipe doesn’t call for blanching because we are using frozen spinach, which is already blanched, so it saves time!
- I’ll always recommend using homemade fresh paneer instead of the store-bought version. Like I said earlier in this post: It has a softer, crumblier texture than store-bought paneer. The store-bought variety is substantially denser and firmer in comparison.
- By adding some special herbs such as dry fenugreek leaves (also known as Kasuri methi in Hindi), you’re definitely going to get that restaurant-style palak paneer flavor, trust me!
- Want a vegan option? You can substitute paneer for tofu and use cashew or coconut cream instead of regular cream.
What to Serve it with:
Palak paneer goes so well with:
- Naan: This is a very common and delicious Indian bread that’s usually made in a tandoor. But don’t worry, I have a super easy Butter Naan recipe for you that’s a no egg and no yeast version!
- Indian Paratha: This is usually a wholewheat bread that is super easy to make and a lot like a tortilla (but an Indian version of it). It goes really well with Palak Paneer, so it’s another great option.
- Rice: Go for some basmati rice, or if you want some delicious, parboiled rice. Both work really well with this recipe. This parboiled recipe of mine is super easy to make and tastes scrumptious!
Other Curries You'll Love:
Can’t get enough of curries? Don’t worry, here are some other options you can try as well:
The Easiest Most Delicious Palak Paneer Recipe
- 400 gm spinach I have used frozen, for fresh spinach, please read the notes.
- 2 cups cubed paneer
- ¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 ½ tablespoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder optional
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves Kasuri methi
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 to mato chopped and deseeded
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 green chili deseeded and cut in half
- 2 tablespoon heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons Ghee
- In a pan, add ghee and fry the paneer until golden from both sides. Remove from heat and keep aside.
- In the remaining ghee, add the onion and cook until translucent.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and green chili, cook for a minute on medium heat.
- To the previous mixture, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for three minutes. Add all the spices and mix for a few seconds.
- Make sure to squeeze out all the liquid from the spinach and then add it to the tomato and onion mixture. Cook on medium heat for three to four minutes.
- Keep around 3 tablespoons of the mixture in the pan and scoop the rest into a blender. Add half a cup of water to the blender and blend until smooth.
- Return the blended spinach mixture to the pan and cook for three minutes. Add another quarter cup of boiling water to the spinach and cook for three minutes, then add the salt and mix well.
- Add the dry fenugreek leaves and cook for three minutes.
- Pour in the cream and mix until combined, then add the paneer and cook for two minutes.
- The mixture should look creamy, but add a little hot water and cook for a minute if it is too thick.
- Serve with Indian bread Paratha.