Since always, one of my favorite Indian dishes, the recipe of palak paneer is actually not too difficult to make. Palak paneer is a vegetarian dish extremely flavourful in which typical Indian cottage cheese, paneer, is cooked in a creamy stew of blended spinach and fragrant spices. Even though in India there really is no lack of vegetarian dishes, during my Delhi trip I have ordered palak paneer so many times because it’s spicy enough but not too much, it’s rich in flavour and makes you warm. In a nutshell, to me, it’s the perfect comfort food.
In Indian restaurants, they always pair it with refined rice, but when I make it at home I prefer combining it with wholegrain rice. So famous this dish has become, that now people all over the world make it at home, even with some variations that might make the Indian cuisine purists cringe, such as using tofu instead of paneer for a vegan version. I honestly have tried it with tofu and cooking it well in the curry, it’s actually very good and light.
Quite easy to make, palak paneer recipe doesn’t require difficult ingredients. The only ingredient that might be harder to find out of India is the paneer. In Italy, we have fresh cheese, often called primo sale, that is similar, even though sometimes more salty than its Indian version. If you have Indian or Asian food shops where you live, you will definitely find the original paneer cottage cheese. Here are the ingredients to make a perfect palak paneer and surprise all your friends!
- 4 cups of spinach, or 250 gr, or even more if you want it extra creamy and you are cooking for many people!
- 250 gr of paneer Indian cottage cheese
- 2-3 cm of fresh ginger
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 green chilli pepper. For me 1 is enough, but if you can bear more heat, you can add 2.
- 2 tbsp of oil. If you are in Italy, you will likely use olive oil (extravirgin, please), otherwise you can use also coconut oil. As an alternative, you can use butter or ghee.
- 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium-size onion
- 1 medium-size ripe tomato
- 1/4 or 1/3 of turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder or cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder
- 1 tbsp of cooking cream, or more if you like but not too much otherwise it will cover the original flavor.
For the vegan version, you can replace the paneer with tofu (firm, otherwise it’s going to smash in the pan and you really don’t want that), and the regular cream with coconut milk, the one for cooking, usually sold in a ca, not the drink, otherwise, it’s too liquid.
The recipe of the palak paneer is not difficult to make but it does require some steps you shouldn’t skip and it can take some time, so if you have guests over, I suggest you plan ahead. Here are detailed instructions and tips.
- Put the cleaned spinach to boil in salty water for 1 minute, drain them and stransfer them in cold water for another minute. Drain them one last time and squeeze them to remove the excess water.
- Put the spinach in your blender together with 2 cloves of garlic, the ginger roughly chopped and the green pepper and blend until smooth.
- Now prepare for the puree: in a medium to large pan, put the oil and the onion finely chopped. When the onion is soft and translucent, add 1 clove of finely chopped garlic and keep stirring until the garlic starts goldening. If you have it, add also the bay leaf.
- Add the finely-chopped ripe tomato or less than half of peeled-tomatoes can and keep stirring.
- Add the turmeric and the red chilli and mix.
- Add the spinach blend and the garam masala and keep stirring.
- Add a bit of water if you think it’s becoming too thick and let it simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Finally, add the cottage cheese cut in cubes, let it simmer for 1 to 2 minutes and switch off the heat.
- As a final step, add a bit of fresh cream on top and serve warm. If you want to make it vegan, you can add a spoon of coconut milk from the can, the upper part that has solidified a bit. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind dairy but cream is too fat, you can opt for some regular low-fat yogurt.
Tips for a Perfect Palak Paneer
- Pick young and fresh spinach, possibly avoiding the stalk that could make the palak paneer a bit bitter. Or you can pick baby spinach, which is usually sweeter.
- To keep the bright green color of the spinach, after boiled and drained, soak them in ice-cold water. Simply put some ice cubes in a bowl of water.
- If you make more than necessary, you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days. Cooked wholegrain rice will also stay in the fridge for 5 days.
How to Enjoy Palak Paneer
Palak paneer is to be eaten with rice or naan bread. If you can’t find naan bread, you can either make it at home (plenty of video tutorials online). If you can’t make it either, you can try with some other flatbread like the Italian piadina, which is definitely easy to make. And if you really can’t find any flatbread, I guess a normal piece of bread will be just fine. Or in the alternative, a rice bowl is always a good match.