How to make palak paneer: Recipe

Out of the many curries and dishes out there, few come close to being as simple and easy, yet packed full of flavor, as palak paneer. Discover how to make this often-overlooked dish with our recipe.

Palak paneer is incredibly flavorful, easy, and healthy.
Palak paneer is incredibly flavorful, easy, and healthy.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

Few Indian dishes are as often misjudged as palak paneer, a meal often overlooked because of its lack of meat and its spinach-based sauce.

Yet, it's one of the healthiest and tastiest curries out there and is pretty easy to throw together as well – so what more could you want?

With this recipe, you'll sell the whole family on this Indian classic.

How to make palak paneer

When it comes to cooking this gorgeous curry, you don't need many skills at all. Ultimately, the hardest thing to get right is the order in which you do things, the finding of the ingredients, and the quality with which you blend the sauce. To do these things, though, you hardly need much by the way of experience or equipment.

This is the equipment you'll need to make a great palak paneer:

  • A high-quality blender
  • A heavy-bottomed pot
  • A rice cooker (or pot to cook the rice in, if you prefer)
  • Spatula
  • Measuring equipment
  • Wooden spoon
  • Ladle
  • Chopping board
  • Sharp knife
  • Mortar and pestle

There's nothing needed in palak paneer that's particularly hard to find or expensive. Most households will have what you need already available in the kitchen.

Palak paneer is much easier to make, and much healthier, than you may think.
Palak paneer is much easier to make, and much healthier, than you may think.  © Unsplash/Kanwardeep Kaur

Palak paneer recipe | Ingredients

Palak paneer is one of those dishes that many would look at and feel intimidated by. There are a decent number of spices and one particular ingredient that seems rather exotic: Paneer. Yet, any Asian or Indian supermarket worth its salt would have the stuff, and it's relatively cheap as well. If you can't find it, though, substitute it as we detail below.

Here are the ingredients you will need for palak paneer:

  • Paneer (Indian-style cottage cheese), 2 cups
  • Spinach, 6 cups
  • 2 medium-big red onions
  • 1 green chili
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • Cashews, 1/2 cup
  • Garam masala, 1/2 tablespoon
  • Chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Kasuri methi, 1 teaspoon
  • Cumin, 1 teaspoon
  • Turmeric, 1 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Cream, 1/2 cup
  • Ghee or butter
  • Water
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Neutral oil
  • Salt

On the proportions: We have prepared this recipe to be suitable for serving four people, assuming that you are providing freshly cooked rice or some kind of bread as a side. If you need to make more or less, adjust the quantities proportionally.

Palak paneer recipe | Instructions

There are few dishes more vibrant in color and flavor than palak paneer.
There are few dishes more vibrant in color and flavor than palak paneer.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

As you're about to discover, while there are quite a few ingredients needed for palak paneer, and paneer is generally something that's available in your standard supermarket, this is not a dish that requires lots of fancy cooking skills. Ultimately, it's about getting the balance and blend right – if you can do that, this should be a quick and easy recipe.

Here's how to make palak paneer

Step 1: It's important to start by prepping everything. Measure out all your ingredients, mix together your spices, cube your paneer, and roughly dice your onions.

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Step 2: Crush your garlic and your ginger and add them to a mortar and pestle. Continue to squish and grind until you have a generous garlic and ginger paste.

Step 2: At the bottom of your pot, add a generous amount of oil and, as it is coming up to heat, your spice mix and cinnamon. Once starting to smell fragrant, add your ginger and garlic paste, as well as the diced chili.

Step 3: Sauté for a while and then add your onions, taking care to caramelize them well and get them nice and translucent on medium heat. Once they are, add your diced tomatoes and continue to reduce the water from them right down.

Step 4: Now mix in your beautiful spinach and, keeping the pot on a relatively high heat, allow it to wilt down to a smaller size and then burn off any moisture that comes out of it.

Step 5: Season with salt and mix in half of your cashews. Add about a half cup of water, blend on high until creamy, and then put it back on the heat until bubbling.

Step 6: Taste your curry and adjust it as necessary. Add your butter or, preferably, ghee and melt it down, letting it get a bit more creamy. If you want to use cream, add it at this stage. Continue to simmer until it is all a lovely consistency.

Step 7: Carefully stir in your paneer, making sure that it is coated in the sauce and bringing it up to a good temperature before serving. Once it is piping hot and covered in sauce, it's time to serve.

Once you have made your beautiful palak paneer and have tasted it to make sure the flavor is just right, feel free to serve it with freshly cooked rice, and some beautiful homemade naan bread.

You can use chicken in a palak curry and still end up with something joyful.
You can use chicken in a palak curry and still end up with something joyful.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

What is palak paneer,where is it from, and what is its history?

Palak paneer is a spinach and paneer curry that originates from Punjab, in the north of India. It is a relatively spicy but also creamy curry that draws its name from the Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati word "palak," which simply means spinach. It can alternatively use chhena, which are small balls of acid-set cheese usually made from cow or buffalo milk, instead of paneer.

As we mentioned, palak paneer is a very typical north Indian style curry, consisting of heavy spices in a thick sauce. There are variations, such as the version with chhena, and a ton of lighter versions made in more Western-style Indian restaurants.

It typically uses a spice mix that includes ginger, garlic, garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, and, of course, tomatoes. In many cases, it is thickened and lightened by cream or butter, but not always.

Variations on palak curry and what to use instead of paneer

Ultimately, the key variation worth taking into account is whether or not to use paneer. In many cases, people can't find paneer and decide the dish is simply not worth throwing together at all. Have no fear, though, because there are plenty of alternatives to paneer that create fantastic dishes in their own right and are well worth giving a go.

Here's what to use instead of paneer for a variation on palak paneer:

  • Well-seasoned tofu: Fried off or roasted until crispy before adding. Use the same spice mix as the curry.
  • Chicken: Marinated in yogurt and the spices from the curry for a few hours and then grilled on very high heat before mixing in.
  • Fish: Lightly seasoned with some salt and sautéd or baked until beautiful, soft, and moist.

In the end, though, we think that the creamy and delicious paneer cheese is the perfect way to experience this wonderful dish. You don't need chicken and meat with everything – sometimes, vegetarian is best!

Cover photo: IMAGO/Pond5 Images

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