Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Palak Paneer (Indian Spinach and Cheese)

Palak Paneer. Funny sounding but yummy tasting. Palak paneer (or spinach and cheese) is a quintessential vegetarian dish of North India. It is the vegetarian dish that even meat-lovers crave. My mother makes some of the best palak paneer I have ever had. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to get the recipe from her since, well, she doesn't have one. Her technique is to add some of 'this' and 'that' until the taste and texture is perfect. Measurements are a mystery. See, my mother doesn't use measuring spoons for adding spices. I don't even think she uses spoons. She uses her hands and her fingers and her tastebuds. As I stand in my kitchen, measuring out ingredients, desperately trying to replicate her "recipes", I imagine what she'd think if she saw me there. She'd be proud for sure, but she'd probably be laughing too.

My (many) previous attempts to replicate her palak paneer have left me with a dish that was either too bitter, too sour, or lacking of a robust spinach flavor. Until now. This palak paneer has a great creamy spinach flavor, without the bitterness that many spinach dishes tend to have. The addition of spices also gives it a nice kick, so you know you're not just eating creamed spinach. The paneer is firm enough that it won't lose its form but soft enough that it almost melts in your mouth. I think Mama would approve.

Palak Paneer
*10 cups of chopped fresh spinach or 10 oz of frozen spinach
*2 tablespoons tomato paste
*2 teaspoons grated ginger
*3 cloves garlic
*1 tablespoon oil
*1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
*1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
*1 teaspoon coriander powder
*1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
*1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
*1 teaspoon sugar
*1/3 cup heavy cream or (not skim) milk
*2 tablespoons flour
*salt and pepper, to taste
*1 1/2 cups of paneer, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1. Place the spinach, tomato paste, ginger, and garlic in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
2. In a large pan, heat the oil until hot, then add the cumin and caraway seeds. Fry the seeds for about 30 seconds. Add the coriander, turmeric, and chili powder, and cook for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the spinach, sugar and milk. Stir to combine. Stir in the flour and season with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and (with a rubber spatula) gently fold in the the paneer.


  1. When she cooks (which is rare) my mother never uses spices either. A pinch of this or that and voila! I am totally a measurer though. Until the end when I adjust for taste. But mostly a measurer.

    This palak paneer looks fantastic! It is one of my favorite Indian dishes. Definitely going to have to try this.

  2. My father never used to measure his ingredients either, It would have amused him to see me desperately rummaging through a drawer in search of a quarter teaspoon. :)

    This looks so delicious and healthy!

  3. Maybe it's just a sign of great cooks, because that is EXACTLY how my mom cooks--no measuring, just a little of this and a little of that! I can so relate to that experience. This recipe looks delicious! :)

  4. I am so going to make this!!! It looks absolutely lovely!!! Great job on this dish, chica! I have everything but the spinach!

  5. i get so frustrated when i try to get a recipe out of my grandma and she says 'a pinch of this' and 'a dash of that.' i need amounts! :)

  6. Oh, Ms. Meanie! This is wonderful. I love this dish in restaurants. I'm sure I can't even imagine how good it must be at home with homemade cheese and other good ingredients-yummerz.
    I'm glad you posted this, b/c it reminded me about the cheese. I want to make it this weekend for Mom-she's coming to visit and I know she'll love that...

  7. Wow. A ton of seasonings and spices in this dish. I'm so used to creamed spinach...this takes it to a whole new level!

  8. Mama's dishes always are the best, aren't they?
    This one has definitely too much spinach for me, but the naan on the plate looks very good. Did you make that, too? If so, will the recipe be up here soon? PLEASE :)

    And btw, I love it so much that you keep posting regularly even though you're so busy at school right now.

  9. You're using red chili???!!!

  10. Mmmmm, that looks soooo delicious! ... and healthy. Yum! :) Petra

  11. I enjoy this dish as much as saag. Love dipping naan in them :)

  12. This looks interesting. I may have to try it.

  13. I have always wanted to make paneer, and running across these posts on your site made me do it! The Palak Paneer was delicious - I made it with some rice, stuffed naan, and raita. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I really enjoyed it :)