When it comes to recipes using paneer or cottage cheese, palak paneer is usually the first recipe on everyone’s mind. It’s available at pretty much every Indian restaurant around the world, and even at the Pakistani restaurants. It is also quick to make, being ready in less than 30 minutes making it an excellent weeknight option.
Jump directly to the recipe Jump to Recipehere, or you can read on ahead for tips on how to make palak paneer including tips on how to blanch spinach to preserve its vibrant green color.
What is palak paneer?
Palak paneer is a popular vegetarian Indian dish made using spinach (aka palak) and Indian cottage cottage cheese (aka paneer). Spinach is blanched and blended into a puree after which it is cooked with spices and cottage cheese to create a rich, creamy and flavorful curry, that tastes delicious with naan and rice.
This is a vegetarian recipe but can easily be made vegan by replacing the paneer with tofu, using vegetable or coconut oil instead of ghee and using coconut cream instead of cream. The cream can also be skipped – I only add the cream when it’s a special family dinner or when there are guests over. It is also gluten free.
How to make palak paneer, and how does one blanch spinach?
Blanch the spinach: The first step in making palak paneer is to blanch the spinach. Blanching is a way to cook green vegetables such as spinach to preserve their color, flavor, and nutrients. Start by readying a large bowl of ice cold water with ice cubes in it (known as an ice bath). Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat, and add the spinach. Cook for about 2 minutes, and then quickly remove the spinach and place it in the ice-cold water. This will stop the cooking process ensuring that color and nutrients are both preserved. In case a water bath isn’t available, running the spinach under cold water from the tap can also work.
Make spinach puree: Once the spinach is blanched, drain using a slotted spoon and squeeze out excess water. Place the spinach in a blender and pulse till smooth. The spinach puree can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Prepare the paneer: Paneer or Indian cottage cheese is easily available at Indian or Pakistani grocery stores, and it’s always best to get it fresh versus frozen. In case not available, it can also be made at home easily using just milk and a citric agent such as lemon juice, yogurt or vinegar. To prepare the paneer, just cut it up into cubes and set aside. For a different flavor, the paneer cubes can be fried off in oil, and in case additional crunch is preferred the paneer cubes can be tossed in corn flour and then fried till golden. I personally skip the frying step, as my family prefers paneer when it’s not fried.
Prepare the palak paneer gravy: Start off with heating cumin seeds, then frying off sliced ginger and garlic, green chilies and chopped onions. Once the onions are soft and light golden, add the prepared spinach puree, and then the spices. Cook till the palak paneer comes to a boil, and then add about ¾th of the paneer cubes, followed by lemon juice and cream. Stir, and garnish with the remaining paneer cubes and serve with naan or roti. If a smoother palak paneer is preferred, the onions can be blended to a paste once they are golden brown, and then added back to the same pan. Proceed with the recipe as normal.
Here are some other vegetarian options for you to try for your next weeknight dinner.
1. Red and yellow lentils daal (Moong masoor dal)
2. Black eyed peas curry (Lobia ka salan)
3. Spiced potato curry with cumin seeds (Zeera aloo ki sabzi)
4. Stir fried okra, Pakistani style (Bhindi ki sabzi)
You can also check out my compilation of 25 Pakistani vegetarian recipes that you have to make
Palak Paneer - Spinach with Indian Cottage Cheese
- 400 gram spinach 2 bunches of spinach
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil ghee or butter can be used for a richer flavor
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 6 garlic cloves finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon ginger finely sliced
- 2 green chilies chopped in 3 pieces
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 200 grams Indian cottage cheese (paneer) This can be made at home or it can be store-bought
- 4 tablespoon cream optional
Blanch the spinach:
Wash the spinach thoroughly in running water. Drain, and then cut off the spinach stems. Roughly chop the spinach and set aside.
Put a large pot of salted water to boil. Once the water comes to a boil, add the spinach and cook for two minutes. Remove the spinach from the boiling water and add it to a bowl of ice-cold water with ice cubes in it immediately. In case ice cubes aren’t available, place the spinach in a colander and run it under cold running water from a tap for a few minutes. This step will stop the cooking process and ensure that the green color of the spinach is retained.
Drain and lightly squeeze out the excess water from the spinach. Place the spinach in a blender and grind it into a smooth paste. Add a few tablespoons of water if necessary, to blend it properly. This step can be done ahead and the spinach paste can be kept in the refrigerator for about 2 days.
Prepare the palak paneer gravy:
Cut the cottage cheese into cubes, about one inch by half inch pieces. For added crunch, the cottage cheese (paneecan be fried in oil. Just heat oil in a small frying pan, and add the cottage cheese. Fry for a minute or so on both sides till golden brown. Drain cottage cheese (paneeon a kitchen towel and keep aside. My family prefers cottage cheese as is, so I skip this step. Set aside the cottage aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Add cumin seeds, and fry for a minute or so till the cumin seeds start to splutter. Add sliced garlic and ginger and saute till the garlic turns light golden. Add the green chillies, and then add the chopped onion, and saute for about 3 – 4 minutes till onions are light golden.
Add red chili flakes, turmeric and salt.
Fry the spices for a minute, and then add the spinach puree. Cook for a couple of minutes till the spinach comes to a boil. Keep the heat to low – medium, as the spinach puree has a habit of spluttering and that can get quite messy.
When the gravy comes to a boil, stir in lemon juice, cream (if usinand about ¾th of the prepared cottage cheese (paneer). Stir through.
Take the palak paneer out in a serving bowl, and garnish with the remaining paneer and serve with naan or rice.
- To make a more smooth palak paneer, the onion mixture can be blitzed in a food processor till smooth. Pulse the onions till smooth, add to the pan and proceed with the recipe as it is.
- It is possible to make the ground spinach paste ahead of time. Blanch, and blend the spinach till smooth and then keep the mixture in an airtight box in the fridge for upto 3 days. When ready to make the palak paneer, just proceed with the rest of the recipe.