Make Ahead

Palak Paneer

February  5, 2016
3 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Author Notes

A North Indian entrée, palak paneer is made out spinach, paneer, and other delightful assortments like onion, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and, of course, Indian spices. —Annada Rathi

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach, washed
  • 6 ounces to 8 ounces paneer (Indian grocery stores generally sell paneer in 12- to 14-ounce slabs)
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 cardamom
  • 2 cloves
  • 3/4 cup diced red onions, about 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Thai chile diced (optional)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, about 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 4 teaspoons tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 cup cream or 1/2 cup milk (optional)
In This Recipe
  1. Pour 1 tablespoon oil in a thick-bottomed pan and turn the heat to medium. Pour the spinach into the pan. Within a few minutes, the spinach will wilt down. Sauté to avoid spinach sticking to the pan and turn the heat off after 10 minutes. Once the spinach cools down, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend to a purée.
  2. Boil 2 cups of water and once the water comes to a rolling boil, add paneer slabs. Turn the heat off after paneer has been in the boiling water for 5 minutes and cover the pot with a lid. Let paneer cool in the water, then cut it into 1- by 1/2-inch pieces and set aside.
  3. Roughly crush peppercorns, cardamom and cloves in a mortar and pestle and throw out the cardamom skin. If using a spice grinder, remove the cardamom skin and use only the seeds (save the cardamom skin for chai).
  4. Wipe the pan you used for spinach and heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onions and stir till they get a brownish tinge, then add ginger, garlic, and, if using, Thai chile pepper. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour chopped tomatoes followed by pinch of sugar. Once the tomatoes break down, add tomato sauce and spice mix of peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves. Stir till the liquid evaporates and the onion/tomato mixture starts turning dark, about 9 to 10 minutes.
  5. Pour in blended spinach purée. Add salt and 1/2 cup water to adjust consistency. You can add a little bit more if you find the sauce is getting pasty.
  6. Once the spinach mixture boils, gently drop in paneer pieces. Let the paneer soak in the flavors and spices of the spinach purée for about 10 minutes.
  7. Add garam masala. After 4 to 5 minutes, pour milk or cream. They're completely optional—their sole purpose is to enrich the dish.
  8. Eat with naan or take it for lunch next day layered over rice (feel free to thin it out with little bit of water the next day). Palak paneer can be made 2 days in advance for a party, too.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Chris Van Houten
    Chris Van Houten
  • Tim Yoder
    Tim Yoder
  • Amy
  • enbe
  • Kelley Bodwell
    Kelley Bodwell
To some people's frustration, I like to talk about food before cooking, while cooking, while eating and of course after eating.

18 Reviews

Chris V. July 9, 2020
Thank you so much for this! I just made it and it turned out beautifully. I wanted a little more acidity so I used buttermilk instead of plain milk/cream and I was very pleased with the result.
Author Comment
Annada R. July 10, 2020
Hello Chris, very happy that you tried this recipe and liked it. Buttermilk is a great idea, I had not thought of that. For additional acidity, you can also add some lime juice when you saute onions and tomatoes.
Tim Y. August 16, 2017
I made this and we loved it! Quite the forgiving recipe. Very warm and pleasant spices with just the right amount of heat from 1 Thai chile.

I did fry the paneer so it would be firmer in the sauce. That was the only way I modified the recipe to our taste.
Author Comment
Annada R. August 16, 2017
Thank you Tim. I'm very happy that you liked the recipe & the dish. Frying the paneer tastes great too, imparts a certain richness to the dish.
Kelli July 6, 2017
This recipe did not work for me, but I am glad others enjoyed it. The ginger overpowered all the other flavors, despite using more peppers than called for (I like things spicy!). I also found that I prefer this dish without the tomato. I like the vegetal taste of spinach and once cooked down and concentrated the tomatoes really competed with the spinach flavor. Between the ginger and the tomato all other flavors were lost for me. However, I made my own paneer for this recipe, and I am glad I did because now I know how to do it! I let mine sit overnight in the fridge before making this to firm up and instead of boiling it first I just added it to the pot and let simmer with the purée for about 15 minutes. It did not break up even with stirring.
Author Comment
Annada R. July 6, 2017
I understand that you were more interested in pure spinach flavor. And I'm glad that your homemade paneer turned out great. The reason to boil the paneer (irrespective of homemade or store-bought) is to make it soft and spongy in the spinach. Thank you for your helpful tips, Kelli.
Amy February 2, 2017
How much is "one cardamom"? I'm not familiar with anything other than dried. Can't wait to try the recipe!

Author Comment
Annada R. February 3, 2017
Hi Amy,
Cardamom here means green cardamom, not brown, dry one. My apologies, I should have specified in the recipe. Have fun cooking!

enbe November 29, 2016
This was definitely a bit slow going for a weeknight but it's delicious! Will make again.
Lisa September 3, 2016
Arrggh! My paneer fell apart. I wish I would have added the garam masala before I cooked the paneer because when I stirred the spice in at the end (very gently) the paneer broke apart. Still tasted good, though.
Author Comment
Annada R. September 7, 2016
Sorry that your paneer fell apart, Lisa. By any chance, did you make the paneer at home? I have observed in my attempts over the years that generally paneer falls apart when it is too dry. That is, when it looses excess moisture in the process of tying it up in muslin cloth. Glad you liked the taste at the end though.
Robert K. December 22, 2016
Deep fry the paneer. I have been doing it that way for 35 years when making both palak and mattar paneer.
food52 June 19, 2016
Made this recipe twice tonight! First time without modification, second time learning from the first. Recipe calls for only 8oz spinach which is about enough for two people. I thought the clove spice was too strong so cut it to a single clove the second time I made it. If using fresh tomatoes, dice them fine - it will help them break down faster. I used three fresh thai chilis for the right amount of heat. Serranos will be much milder - but probably not as tasty. First time boiled the paneer as instructed. Second time boiled then flour and browned in butter. Browned looks nice but doesn't seem to add much for me. Some restaurant versions also have a cinnamon stick and bay leaf - might try that next time.
Kelley B. June 16, 2016
I have made this three times now with spinach, radish tops, kale, etc, and it is always so delicious! this recipe launched me full on into a quest for the best indian recipes. grateful for that.
Author Comment
Annada R. June 16, 2016
Thank you Kelley. I'm super impressed that you tried this recipe with other greens and thrilled that it works.
Alexandra S. June 1, 2016
This looks so good! Can't wait to try it.
Rey C. April 16, 2016
Whoa... Just finished gobbling this down, unquestionably a success. Super delicious and super easy.
Author Comment
Annada R. June 16, 2016
Thank you Rey! Very happy that you liked it.