Palak Paneer

This is a simple homemade version of the delicious “creamed spinach with cheese” dish popular in Indian restaurants.  We’ve tweaked the recipe enough that it’s become our own, and meanwhile the recipe we started from is no longer online.

Paneer is a firm, white cheese you can buy at an Indian grocery store–it’s the best for this recipe, but it’s kind of expensive.  I have tried substituting Monterey Jack cheese, and it sort of works, but it melts more.  Tofu is more similar to paneer in texture, and after preparation in this recipe it’s really pretty similar in flavor.  The recipe also works without paneer chunks, especially if you melt a glob of cream cheese (about 2 Tbsp.) into the sauce.

Restaurants usually purée the vegetables in this dish.  You can do that if you like the smooth, pudding-like texture.  I think it still tastes wonderful when it has a chunky texture, and skipping the puréeing saves time and means one less tool to clean–suit yourself!

Palak Paneer can be a main dish served over rice and/or with bread.  Its indulgent creaminess is nicely balanced by vitamins and fiber.  We like it best when it’s one of at least two Indian foods served together in a meal–try pairing it with a lentil or bean dish.

To make 4 generous servings, you will need:

  • 6-8 ounces paneer (or other cheese or tofu)
  • cooking oil
  • 1 pound fresh or thawed-from-frozen spinach
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger, or 1 1/2 tsp. dry powdered ginger
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 cups diced fresh tomato, or 14-15 ounces canned diced tomato with juice
  • 2 tsp. garam masala (Indian spice blend)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • plain yogurt or sour cream to taste (about 1/4 to 3/4 cup)
  • large skillet–try cast iron!

Cut paneer into cubes of about 3/4 inch.  Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat, and cook paneer until lightly browned.  Place on a draining rack or paper towel, and set aside.

If using fresh spinach: Wash and shred.  Place in a pot with a small amount of water.  Steam just until wilted, 1-2 minutes.  Set aside.  (Frozen and thawed spinach is already wilted, so you can skip this step–but if you forgot to thaw it and it’s still partly frozen, warm it up at this time.)

Cook onion in oil in skillet over medium heat.  Meanwhile, purée spinach and tomato, if desired.

When onion begins to brown at the edges, reduce heat to low, and stir in ginger and garlic.  After about 1 minute, stir in the other spices, spinach, tomato, and butter.  Cook, stirring frequently, about 3-5 minutes or until heated through.

Mix in yogurt to desired creaminess.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Turn off heat.  Mix in paneer.

Kid-Friendly Meatless Meals from Around the WorldSee a chunky Palak Paneer with easy-to-make Garam Masala Lentils and a cheap American substitute for authentic naan bread, in my latest article at Kitchen Stewardship!

3 thoughts on “Palak Paneer

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