Palak Paneer (Spinach with Cheese)

By DK on Jan 07, 2013
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
There are two class of foods - ones made at restaurants and the ones made at home.  Its unfortunate that the homey version tend to get a lot of flak for tasting inferior than when eaten at a favorite restaurant.  I think the main reason for that , apart from not knowing to cook something correctly, is training our mind/palate to assume that "richer" equals "more flavor".  Another common misnomer is the blind assumption that home cooked is "healthier" than restaurant versions. I feel extremely frustrated at times, when I don't find reasoning for things we do on a regular basis. "That's how our elders did it" - was never enough for me. I want to know why. Because not knowing would open us to communication gaps, misconceptions and errors. Questions like - "Why are certain foods put together?", "how does one ingredient affect the other", "why this and that should be used in combination" - pop in my mind often enough. Only the science behind will tell you how nutritious the food that you are cooking at home is. I think our great ancestors had that down pat, the knowledge of which is lost to us along the way.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
So, honestly how many of you can answer it immediately, without referring, why adding black pepper and lemon juice is important in this recipe (apart from flavor i.e)? This is my quest, as a cook every day. I wish someone could just hand over a book that explains all this to me! Without such nuances, home cooked food is not at its optimal best, the way its supposed to be.I get answers at times and most times I don't.  My search continues and while I am at it, lemme share this recipe that's the crux of all this thought process. This "homey" version of most popular Indian dish at restaurant  - Palak Paneer - is how I like it. Its also known as Saag Paneer though I beg to differ since I think there is difference between Palak paneer and Saag Paneer 
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
Emerald green puree, lightly spiced and dotted with spongy Indian cheese is good as it is. Adding all that butter and cream in the restaurant version (as if the fat from the cheese is not enough) does give it a mind blowing taste, but I taste the richness not the spinach. So, when I want to actually keep the integrity of the spinach in Palak Paneer, I make this.  You can add more spices to it and change it around to suit your needs. Just keep in mind not to overcook the spinach - it loses all that beautiful color, not to speak for the nutrition loss. Irrespective of the motto of our current world, "real" and "natural" can, at times, be a good thing too :)
References

my kitchen notes

Basic Information
Prep Time: Under 15 min
Cook Time: Under 15 min
Serves: 4 people
Yield: Makes around 4 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 lb (453 grams) Spinach, see Tips
  • 1 large (8oz/230 grams) Onion,chopped
  • 1 medium (100 grams) Tomato, chopped
  • 150 grams (abt 5 oz) Paneer
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Fennel, see Tips
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed, to taste
Tips
1.Spinach: I have used Organic Baby spinach for this recipe but regular spinach can also be used. Chop off the roots and wash well to remove any dirt. You can do a rough chop before cooking it.
2.Fennel: I use it for additional flavor, but its optional. You can replace it with cumin instead.

For a richer version: This is a homey version but adding richness is easy. Instead of oil, temper the spices in 1 tbsp Ghee or butter. Towards the end of cooking, add some heavy cream (abt 1/4 - 1/2 cup) to the pureed spinach. Keep in mind that it will lighten the dark green color of the final dish.
Method
1
Wash the spinach well. I usually do that by filling by sink with water and cleaning the leaves. After removing the leaves you will find the dirt all settled at the bottom. Whatever method you choose, just make sure to clean it well since it hoards dirt very well!
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
2
In a large saucepan, add 1 tsp oil and to that add the cumin and fennel seeds.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
3
Once aromatic, add the onion and in couple of minutes, add the tomato along with 1/4 tsp of salt.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
4
Once soft, add the turmeric and saute for a minute.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
5
Next add the washed spinach to the pan. I know it looks like a lot, but it will diminish into little in just a minute:)
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
6
In under a minute you will find the spinach wilting. You don't have to wait for it to wilt completely. Overcooking makes it lose its color.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
7
Use a hand blender to puree the spinach mixture.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
8
Making it into a coarse puree or making a smooth puree (you can also transfer to a processor and blend it) is totally up to you. I don't do a smooth puree and prefer it coarser. You can add some water/milk (or cream) to adjust the consistency if you find it very thick. I like to keep it this way since its more pleasurable later to scoop with warm rotis :)
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
9
Cube the paneer into desired shape and size. You can pan fry them but I prefer  otherwise for this dish. If you are using a store bought paneer, take the required qty and bring it to room temperature. Or you can soak it for couple of minutes in hot boiling water. It tends to soften the paneer.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
10
Add it to the spinach puree.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
11
Make sure to keep the flame low and not to cook for a long time (will make it look murky green). Season with more salt, if needed. Keep in mind that spinach by itself is quite salty and doesn't require much salt. You know there is enough salt when the spinach doesn't taste earthy. Add the pepper and lemon juice to taste. I use pepper wherever I use turmeric (here's why) and the lemon juice here is to aid the absorption of iron from the spinach.
Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
Serve hot with roti(s) and/or steamed rice. Nutritious meal all ready under 30 minutes. Spinach and Cheese Recipe |  Paneer Recipes | Spinach (Palak) Recipes
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35 Responses to “Palak Paneer (Spinach with Cheese)”
  1. Sasha

    This is one recipe I love making, its simple and really tasty. I do believe that having very few ingredients is the way to make it tasty, since we can taste each ingredient. Too many makes the taste too harsh on the tongue.
    I also love your combinations, reminds me of how my mother and grandmother cook, there is always a reason. Nothing against experimentation, but I have been cooking for 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that sometimes you go back to basics. Thank you!

    Thank you :) –DK

  2. ramya

    :cry: i tried it and followed each and every step but my palak paneer became sour taste .I dont no why it happend

    I can only guess two things – Tomato and Lemon Juice. They probably were too sour. The quantity of tomato is too less, so the level of sourness could be countered by using little jaggery/ or sugar. As for the lemon, next time taste the level of sourness and then add accordingly. –DK

  3. Sindu

    hey it came out well thanks for the recipe:)

  4. Theresa Rauch

    Hello to you good man! I ate Indian food for the first time a week or so ago and now I’m obsessed!!! I am Italian so cooking has always been a big part of our lives so I have no problem cooking new! One of my questions is some Indian recipes call for Mace do I have to use it also a Authentic Indian cook book like our grandmothers can’t find. I’m new to your site and happy to be here god bless and will post when I make some of yours. ;) thank you recipes look amazing
    Theresa 43 toms river nj

  5. fennel soes the wonder :) easy and yummy! Thanks!

  6. Shaun

    Enjoyed This very much DK, the subtle spice mixture enhanced the spinach flavour without overpowering it. It was creamy without the addition of dairy produce, tasted fresh and looked stunning. Thanks

  7. Ranjinee

    I love the look of the dish……..but too many ingredients & @ 6:30 AM (for the usual Dabba) I dnt want to go through all the fuss of chopping a Tomato, the onion bit is worse as it is (I tear quite easily …….during the peeling process itself).
    How cn u leave out Garlic, it blends so well with Spinach……I’ll try out yr recipe on the weekend but as for now Sanjeev Kapoor reigns. Thnks though….. Loved browsing through your site

    Personal taste differs :) The basic ingredient list has only 5 items and that, to me, is not long, given the kind of recipes I tend to suffer through :) ! Sanjeev Kapoor is an institution. My humble recipe is sure fighting a big chance ;) . All said and done, hope you find the recipe you love. Here’s to good food :) –DK

  8. Aparna

    I tried your recipe and found it very fast and easy. But I observed that the spinach has a slight bitter astringent taste. Is this normal? Have you encountered this bitter taste? How can I overcome this?

  9. dulce

    thank you for this recipe. i tried it last night with very little oil and without adding any salt or cream as i am cooking it for my mom who has cancer. it turned out ok but needing more flavor, can you suggest how to make it more flavorful without cream or salt? i have no cooking skills whatsoever so i have no idea what spices goes with what :( hoping you can help, my mom likes this dish in restaurants and i tried to recreate it for her but my version sucked, hehee…thank you in advance!

    I think a little sea salt would go a long way in adding flavor to this dish. If your mom loves this at restaurant, then she is already consuming loads of salt, so I don’t understand why you left it out. So sea salt (natural) should be enough to make this taste better. You certainly don’t need the cream. Adding any other spice will not be enhanced without salt unfortunately –DK

  10. Rehana

    Simply the best! First time making it. I’m actually eating it with paratha as I type lol thanks so much :wink:

  11. pooja

    Will try today.usually whenever i have tried without putting the spinach in boiling ater for sometime it retains the metallic flavour.I hope this turns out well.

  12. Patil S S

    tip for true green palak paneer, boil palak with a pinch of soda bicarb before seasoning, do not overcook, wil kill nutrients.

  13. swetha

    i made this recipe 2day and it cm ot very wel.

  14. Gratty Pinto

    :) ohh its quick and easy to make im going to try it today anyways thanks..

  15. pm

    true palak paneer doesn’t have green color ….its little blackish green when cooked fully !

    If you don’t add anything to properly cooked spinach, then its blackish green. If you add other vegetables, cream/milk etc, it loses the dark green color. That’s all there is to a “true” palak paneer :) –DK

  16. Patil S S

    Tip for getting absolutely clean leafy veggies…. add a bit of potash alum to the bowl of water … the dirt settles down pretty quick

  17. Padma Neelakantan

    For the first time, by following your method I could make Palak Paneer, retaining its green colour. I always use to wonder why mine turns darker, while in hotel the green colour is retained. For once I myself felt happy,

  18. hi DK,
    Happy New yEar to you and your family. I loved this post more so because of the information that you have provided and the important steps that you have highlighted. I never knew about turmeric and pepper. Shall start doing the same. Now I understand why my grandmom always gave us hot milk with turmeric and black pepper during the times we were sick!! I see that all the things our grandmothers have done have always had a SOLID scientific reasoning behind it!! We rock!
    Shobha

    We sure do, dont we ;) :) –DK

  19. Surekha

    I made this yesterday. Turned out yummy. Earlier I used to boil palak in little water and then use. By this method I was able to retain the nutrients within the dish and also the green color. I did add ginger-garlic paste and my favorite garam masala. Lemon gave tang to it. It was a great hit with Makkai ki roti at my place. Thank you for the step by step illustrations and the recipe.

    I am so glad to hear that. Thanks for such a fast feedback :) –DK

  20. My palak paneer is never this green. what can be the reason?

    I have mentioned the reason in the post Charul. Pls see if your version falls in that category –DK

  21. Anuradha

    Hey I add Ginger Garlic paste too while frying onions. That gives a better taste! :idea:

  22. Simply love the colour of the palak paneer, vibrant and irresistible.

  23. Looks so yummy for Tummy !!! Gonna try this version using pepper n lemon , Thnks a lot ..a fav. dish ,any no. Of time ,anywhere …for me ..

  24. Archana Brian

    I follow the same recipe except for a few more additions…Adding half a glass of milk towards the end gives it a nice rich texture and also a teaspoon of roasted and powdered kasuri methi after the tomatoes enhances the taste…

  25. Roopa

    But I heard that u don’t have to mix tomato with spinach,is that true?if s what’s the reason :?:

    Pls refer my reply to Anita, it might answer yours :) –DK

  26. Anita

    The pics. are very enticing. I make palak paneer the same way except that I don’t add tomatoes. Tomatoes and palak (tomatoes and cabbage too) are not to be used together as that is one of the causes of kidney stones production, according to doctors.

    I think its misinformation in my opinion. The foundation for that is both Tomatoes and spinach have high Oxalates in them and only those people whose metabolism predisposes to make them into Kidney stones should reduce the intake. People, otherwise, do not suffer from it. Its like saying foods generally avoided by diabetics/or prone to diabetes due to genetics should be avoided by other people people too if they want to avoid the same. So, that rumor is cos of misinformation. Drinking lots of water on a daily basis will help in avoiding kidney stones in general. –DK

  27. Paneer Palak is looking superb. And such a easy recipe.

  28. Nance

    Thank you for this simple, wonderful recipe! I, too, enjoy knowing the “Why?” Since I can’t buy paneer cheese locally, what kind would you suggest as a substitute?

    My first choice would be to use Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese, then Queso Blanco (a mexican cheese) and then last would be Tofu (the taste doesnt compare although the nutritional value does :) .–DK

  29. Muskan

    Lemon is squeezed to have the Vitamin C absorb the Mineral Fe aka Iron in our body …I agree with you I too have lots of questions about ingredients usage why this why not that ,while cooking , then i satisfy my quest by googling but yeah sometimes the search doesn’t yield the required result ;) but whats harm in trying :)
    never tried adding pepper , definitely will try it next time
    Cheers!

    Exactly. no harm in trying is there :) . You are right about the vitamin c and I mention that in step 11 :) –DK

  30. Smitha

    oh thank you thank you. I have been waiting for this recipe from your site for ages. Even though honestly there are lot of recipes out there, i felt you will have a different take to it and i am right. actually i also want to know about food combinations and i remember some from my aji who always insisted on it. will mail you with those details. Cant wait to try this and thank you for the turmeric and pepper part. I never added lemon juice before but will from now on.

    OH wow! That I think is the fastest comment I have gotten as long as I can remember. I just posted it. :) Thank you for what you said and I am eagerly waiting for your aji’s tips. Cant thank you enough for offering it to share it with me –DK

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