Palak Paneer is a delicious and hearty restaurant style North Indian dish of spinach and paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese) cooked in onion, tomato, spices and cream. Pair this restaurant style delight with your favorite Indian bread, rice or jeera pulao.
Alhumdulillah! I have been married for 15 years now. The compliment I receive each time from my husband makes me jump up with joy.
Now, let me share an incident with you all. It was 16 years back then, when my husband first came home to see me, before our marriage.
We invited him over lunch, I made this dish that day, he said, “no palak paneer ever fascinated me, but this”. 🙂
There were so many requests from my lovely readers to post this saag paneer recipe. So, I decided to revive this, my very old recipe blog post and repost it today.
The reason why I wanted to update the post is, an old post had such a pathetic photo. And, that was shot by mobile back then in 2013, lol! Well, I didn’t had a camera that time to shoot my food pictures 🙂
Today, again we will talk about this very popular North Indian dish loved by one and all.
What is palak paneer?
Palak (Saag) = Spinach. Paneer = Indian Cottage Cheese
So, as the words says, palak paneer is a vibrant green Punjabi curry of spinach (saag) cooked along with Indian cottage cheese in spices and cream.
It is healthy, delicious, simple and gets ready in straight 30 minutes.
There are actually two ways of making this saag paneer dish. In one method, we blanch the spinach first and then puree it. This is the Indian restaurant style method.
In the second method, spinach is directly cooked along with spices without any blanching. This is the dhaba style method.
Here, I am sharing the restaurant style process with you all today. My recipe does not require any fancy ingredients.
Some people like to add cashew nuts to the dish. You can also add a little bit of cashew paste to make the dish more rich and creamy.
Further, the addition of cream gives smooth texture and rich taste to the dish.
Also, if you like the real dhaba or Indian restaurant flavor, then consider giving the coal smoke or dhungar to the palak paneer curry.
Palak – Fresh spinach leaves always works the best. But, you can use frozen ones as well.
Paneer – Fresh and good quality Indian cottage cheese. You can replace it with tofu for vegan version. If paneer is not available in your part of the world, then you can also use Halloumi cheese instead.
Spices powders – Coriander powder and garam masala powder.
Whole spices – Cumin seeds, dried red chilies.
The other fresh ingredients – Garlic, onion, tomato, green chili.
Fat – Oil or ghee, Cream. you can even use little butter to enhance the taste.
If only, you want to smoke the curry – Live charcoal or lump coal and 1teaspoon of oil or ghee.
Using frozen spinach
See, honestly, nothing is as good as the fresh vegetables. Same applies to the spinach here.
If you get the best quality fresh spinach, then go ahead with that.
Having said that, in case of crunch of time or non availability, frozen spinach will work fine.
How to make it vegan?
Are you looking for the best vegan palak paneer recipe? So, here is what you need to do.
Use tofu instead of paneer. And, swap fresh cream with cashew cream or coconut cream.
Ensure to use extra firm tofu. Follow the same method mentioned below. Thus, you have the best vegan palak tofu right at your table.
While blanching the spinach, add a pinch of soda bicarb to the boiling water. Further, once blanched, immediately transfer the spinach into the chilled water bath with ice cubes. This helps in keeping the blanched spinach greener and brighter.
Always use fresh and good quality store bought paneer to make the dish. If you want to use homemade paneer, then here is the link to make the best malai paneer at home.
Furthermore, You can shallow fry the paneer cubes in little oil or ghee. As I don’t like paneer to be chewy, so as much as possible I try and avoid to fry the paneer.
Always, soak the paneer in hot water for 20 minutes.This helps in keeping the paneer soft all the time. Actually, I always dip the paneer in water and microwave it for 2 minutes. This step always works best for me.
Skip using garlic and onion, if you want to make no onion no garlic palak paneer curry.
You can also add little curd (yogurt) or milk, if you wish to.
Avoid cooking pureed spinach gravy for too long time as overcooking also kills the bright green colour of the gravy making it dark and non appealing.
Always, add few drops of lemon juice to the curry. This will help in proper absorption of iron from the spinach. So, remember to add it to any palak gravy you are making at home.
Be it a dhaba style or restaurant style, the tadka or tempering always elevates the dish a notch higher. So, for the best taste, do not skip it.
Do you love this curry with smoky flavor? Then give the coal smoke or dhungar to the dish at the end.
Making ahead, storage and freezing
You can easily make this dish ahead and certainly store it in refrigerator for 3 days. If you plan to have a get together or party, then this works best.
At the time of serving, re-heat it and serve. You may add some more cream if you wish to.
Also, give the tadka or tempering on the top. Palak paneer will be as good as the fresh.
Or, you can also freeze the cooked spinach sauce without adding paneer, cream into it. Before serving, thaw the gravy at room temperature for sometime, add paneer, cream and mix. Then, temper (give tadka) and smoke the dish, and serve.
Another small tip here that may help you. You can blanch the spinach in bulk and freeze it in portions.
Whenever you plan to make it, simply thaw the frozen pureed spinach on the counter. Quickly whip up the dish in 15 minutes.
What to serve with it?
It tastes delicious with pulao, rice or jeera rice as well. Serve some onion rings or salad on the side.
How to blanch spinach perfectly?
Many of my dear readers have asked me about how to blanch spinach perfectly. It’s not only about the palak paneer, but many other spinach recipes calls for the process of blanching.
So, here is how to do it perfectly.
First, trim and wash the fresh spinach well. Add enough water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Then, add a pinch of soda into it.
Add spinach leaves in boiling water and let it cook for 2 minutes ONLY. (photo 1)
Immediately, take out the blanched spinach and put it into the bowl with ice cubes and cold water. This step will help to cease the cooking of spinach, and seals its colour and nutrition both. Therefore, do not skip this step at all. (photo 2)
Let it rest for 1-2 minutes. Now, add strained and blanched spinach into the blender. Blend it to a puree. Bright green palak puree is ready to go into the curries. (photo 3 and 4)
How to keep paneer soft?
Always dip the paneer cubes in hot water for 3 to 4 minutes or microwave it for 2 mins. While microwaving it, ensure cubes are completely immersed un der water.
You can also keep it dipped in warm water for 20 minutes. Soaking it in water helps retain the moisture keeping it soft and spongy.
Further, always avoid over cooking or over frying the paneer to avoid getting it rubbery or hard.
Step by step instructions
In a heavy bottom pan or kadhai, heat oil. Once the oil heats up, add cumin seeds, allow it to crackle. (photo 1)
Then, add crushed garlic and fry till its golden brown. Now, add broken whole red chilies and green chillies. Fry for another 15 seconds. (photo 2)
Add chopped onions, and saute till it turns translucent. (photo 3)
Now, add chopped tomatoes and saute on high heat for 2 minutes. (photo 4)
Then, add coriander powder, garam masala powder, salt. Mix well. Cover and cook the tomatoes on medium heat until soft. (photo 5)
Turn the heat to high, add pureed spinach and sauté it for 1 minute. (photo 6)
Now, add the paneer, cream, mix and sauté for another 1-2 minute. (photo 7)
Add lemon juice, mix and immediately take it off the stove.
For tadka, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Then, add cumin seeds and let it crackle. (photo 8)
Pour the tadka or tempering over the curry. (photo 9)
For the smoky flavour, go ahead with charcoal dhungar. Place the small bowl or a piece of foil over the curry. Put the live charcoal into it. Pour a teaspoon of ghee or oil over the live coal. (photo 10)
Cover the pot and let it rest for 5-7 minutes. Discard the coal. Delicious smoky palak paneer is ready to serve.
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This post has been updated from the archives, was first published in 2013.
Palak Paneer Recipe
Blanching The Spinach
- 250 grams Spinach
- Water to Blanch Spinach
- 1/4 tsp Soda Bicarb
- Ice cold Water with Some Ice Cubes
For Palak Paneer Curry
- 200 grams Paneer cut in cubes
- 5 tbsp Oil or Ghee or Butter
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 6 cloves Garlic crushed or chopped
- 3-4 Dried Red Chillies
- 2-3 Green Chilies finely chopped
- 1 Onion medium size, finely chopped
- 1 Tomato medium size, finely chopped
- 1 tsp Coriander Powder
- 1 tsp Garam Masala Powder
- Salt as per taste
- 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
- 2 tbsp Cream plus for garnishing
For the tadka (tempering)
- 1 tbsp Ghee or Oil or Butter
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
For dhungar or smoke (optional)
- Live charcoal or lump coal
- Small bowl or a piece of foil.
- 1 tsp Ghee or oil
- Trim the stem , clean and wash the spinach well.
- Boil enough of water in a large pot, add soda and spinach.
- Let the spinach blanch for 2 minutes.
- Take the blanched spinach out and immediately put it into ice cold water. Let it sit in the water for 2-3 minutes.
- Put the blanched spinach in a blender and blend it to a puree.
- Dip the paneer cubes in hot water for 3 to 4 minutes or microwave it for 2 mins. Set it aside.
Making The Palak Paneer
- In a heavy bottom pan or kadhai, heat oil or ghee.
- Add cumin seeds, allow it to crackle. Add crushed garlic and fry till its golden brown.
- Add broken whole red chilies and green chillies. Fry for 15 seconds.
- Add chopped onions, and saute till it turns translucent.
- Now, add chopped tomatoes and cook for 1 minute on high heat.
- Add coriander powder, garam masala powder, salt. Mix well.
- Cover and cook the tomatoes on medium heat until soft.
- Increase the heat to high, add pureed spinach and saute it for a minute.
- Add Paneer, cream, mix and saute for another minute.
- Add lemon juice, mix and immediately take it off the stove.
To Give Tadka or Tempering (optional)
- Heat 1 tablepsoon of oil in a small pan. Add cumin seeds and allow it to crackle.
- Pour the tadka over the Palak Paneer
- Dish out and garnish with cream. Serve.
To Give Charcoal Smoke or Dhungar (optional)
- Burn a small piece of charcoal or lump coal on stove top until red hot. (be careful and use tongs while burning it)
- Then, with the help of tongs, carefully place the live charcoal over the foil or in the bowl. Top it with 1/2 teaspoon of ghee and immediately close the lid.
- Now, place a small bowl or small pieces aluminium foil on the palak paneer curry.
- With lid closed, leave the spinach paneer gravy undisturbed for 5-7 minutes to infuse the dhungar well.