Palak Paneer Recipe (Spinach Curry with Cheese) & Cooking in an Indian Kitchen

An easy palak paneer recipe that guarantees the best flavor – creamy, nutty and fragrant spinach gravy served with tender paneer. Palak paneer is one of the most popular saag paneer dishes –  you really have to give it a try! {Gluten-Free, Vegetarian}

Palak Paneer Recipe (Spinach Curry with Cheese) with tips on homemade paneer | Gluten-Free | Vegetarian | Low Carb | Indian Food | Indian Recipes

For my first trip to India, I visited Bangalore to meet my friend Richa, the super talented lady behind My Food Story – this is the magic of how blogging connects people together!

First, I messaged her that I was planning to travel to Delhi.

Then she suggested, why not travel to Bangalore and stay with us?

And I said yes! without hesitating.

Richa and I got to know each other over the internet through our blogs, but we never met in person or even chatted on the phone. Nonetheless, I feel like I’ve got to know a lot about her – she’s so hardworking and shares my deep passion for food; the type of artist I genuinely wanted to connect with.

So I made the trip to Bangalore and spent 4 days at Richa’s place. Turned out it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made… we had so much fun cooking together, hanging out in the bar, chatting and visiting a sari shop!

Photo of Maggie and Richa

Cooking in an Indian Kitchen

We decided to cook up a feast together. Richa taught me a few Indian dishes and I taught her how to make Chinese food.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: I had Palak Paneer in New Delhi and really enjoyed it.

Richa: Cool, it’s so easy to make. Let’s do it!

Me: The paneer was super creamy and tender, some of the best I’ve ever had…

Richa: Oh, it only takes five minute to make! Let’s make the paneer too.

Me (with shock written on my face): Wow, that’s awesome! Let’s get some butter naan to go with the dish.

Richa: We can make that too, the fresher the better. It takes no time if you use my quick naan recipe. As for Chinese food, I really want to learn how to fold dumplings… it looks so complicated!

Me: Oh that is the easiest thing ever, I’ll teach you.

Richa [looking suspicious]: …

Apparently we both thought the dishes from each other’s culture were a hundred times more difficult to make than they actually are!

So here is our final menu:

Palak Paneer Recipe (Spinach Curry with Cheese) with tips on homemade paneer | Gluten-Free | Vegetarian | Low Carb | Indian Food | Indian Recipes

I wasn’t sure if we could finish making all the dishes because it would involve quite a lot of cooking… but when Richa started working, all of my worries disappeared and I was sure the lunch would be finished on time and taste awesome.

Chopping juicy red tomatoes; sautéeing garlic and green onion with cumin, chili powder, and many pungent spices; blending spinach until it forms a beautiful green paste; whisking flour and water by hand to start the dough; straining the creamy cheese. Everything looked effortless, like a dancer who has all the movements imprinted in her muscle memory and performs them flowingly.

Famous food photographer and stylist Bea Lubas had previously described to me what walking down the street in India is like – “it opens all your sensations.”

This was such an accurate description of our kitchen: fresh produce with beautiful colors, aromatic scents rising from the pot, the sizzling of the pan with uplifting music in the background, and the surprisingly delightful taste when I finally tried the freshly-made, still-warm paneer.

I loved every minute of it.

Palak Paneer (Spinach Curry with Cheese) Cooking ProcessPalak Paneer Recipe (Spinach Curry with Cheese) with tips on homemade paneer | Gluten-Free | Vegetarian | Low Carb | Indian Food | Indian Recipes

How to Cook Palak Paneer

As I discovered, the process is easier than you thought. The steps are:

(1) Blending the raw spinach, chili pepper, and garlic. Unlike other recipes that call for cooking the spinach first, Richa told me that you can skip that step and the dish will still turn out amazing.

(2) Sautéeing aromatics in olive oil, and adding plenty of tomato. We used a bit more tomato in the recipe, because it adds a nice zing to the gravy.

(3) Adding spices one by one, and slowly roasting them with the tomato. The combination of these spices are what we usually call “curry powder”. Richa pointed out, there is no such thing as curry powder per se in India – it is an array of spices (see the picture below) that you use in different ratios depending on the dish.

(4) Adding the blended spinach and letting it simmer until it’s cooked through; then folding in cream.

(5) (Optional) Browning some butter with garlic and pouring it on the finished gravy.

(6) Adding the freshly made paneer when you are ready to serve.

That’s it! The ingredient list might look a bit long, but that’s because the gravy needs to be cooked properly to guarantee the best flavor. The whole cooking process is very easy and straightforward.

Palak Paneer (Spinach Curry with Cheese) Cooking Process

Here is the final dish – a hearty and colorful gravy that is bursting with umami, topped with creamy cheese. We used Richa’s secret recipe trick of folding cream into the milk, so the finished paneer is extra silky and tender. Serve it with fresh-off-the stove hot butter naan, and you’ll be in awe of how great this vegetarian dish tastes!

Palak Paneer (Spinach Curry with Cheese) Cooking Process

Common questions

How do I keep the palak paneer green in color?

  • Add less tomato
  • Keep an close eye on the gravy while simmering after you add the blanched spinach. Taste the gravy once the color starts changing, and turn off the heat immediately when the spinach is cooked and no longer tastes bitter.

Just as a little background info: some restaurant palak paneers that are a super bright color might contain food coloring. The homemade version will be a bit darker in color, because you want to simmer the gravy longer to let the spices blend well and ensure the spinach is thoroughly cooked.

How to make paneer at home?

  • Boil the milk until hot
  • Add an acid – it can be lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar
  • Keep cooking until the milk splits/curdles. Immediately remove the pan from the stove
  • Strain the milk with cheese cloth
  • The paneer is ready to serve! Alternatively, you can place it into a container with weight on top to shape it.

For detailed instructions, see the recipe here.

Palak Paneer (Spinach Curry with Cheese) Cooking ProcessHow to cook paneer properly?

Always add the paneer at the end to prevent overcooking, so the cheese won’t become rubbery and chewy in texture.

Palak Paneer Recipe (Spinach Curry with Cheese) with tips on homemade paneer | Gluten-Free | Vegetarian | Low Carb | Indian Food | Indian Recipes

Related recipes:

Here are some other recipes that you might be interested in. You can make naan, roti, chapati, or steamed rice to serve with the palak paneer; I also included an easy recipe showing how to make it super creamy. I hope you enjoy!

5.0 from 4 reviews
Palak Paneer Recipe (Spinach Curry with Cheese) & Cooking in an Indian Kitchen
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This recipe is quoted from the Easy Palak Paneer by My Food Story with small modifications in wording.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 5 cups baby spinach
  • 1-2 Thai chillies or jalapenos
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 large piece ginger
  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 1-inch / 2.5-cm)
  • 1 piece bay leave
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garam masala powder
  • (Optional) 2 tablespoons kasuri methi
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (or coconut cream for a vegetarian option)
  • 200-grams (7 ounces) paneer, diced (about a cup)
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine spinach, chillies, ginger, garlic and cashew nuts in a blender. Add 1/2 cup water and blend until smooth. If the spinach doesn’t fit in your blender, add half or a third of the spinach first and blend until smooth; then add the rest spinach and blend.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a medium-size pot until warm. Add cinnamon, bay leaf and cardamom pods. Stir and cook for about a minute. Add minced garlic and onions. Cook and stir until the onions turn translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, coriander powder and salt. Stir to mix well, cover and cook until the tomatoes soften, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Pour in the blended spinach mixture and add kasuri methi (if using). Stir to mix well. Cook over until boiling. Turn to medium-low heat, cover, simmer for 8-10 minutes. The gravy should turn brownish-green and cooked through, without a bitter taste.
  4. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cream and add paneer to the gravy. Mix gently without breaking the paneer.
  5. Serve hot with chapatis, naan, or steamed rice.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 bowl Calories: 123cal Fat: 9.7g Carbohydrates: 6.3g Sugar: 1g Sodium: 130.3mg Protein: 4.2g Cholesterol: 8.9mg

 

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15 thoughts on “Palak Paneer Recipe (Spinach Curry with Cheese) & Cooking in an Indian Kitchen

  1. Richa

    Love love love how you’ve captured our cookoff in these pictures! They look lovely and I had soooo much fun doing this. Can’t wait for our US trip to happen now!

    Reply
  2. Milena | Craft Beering

    What a feast you two had! Love Palak Paneer, even though I have never made it, only order it at Indian restaurants. Sure know what beer to recommend to pair it with:)
    PS. That sari you picked looks great!

    Reply
    1. Maggie

      Thank you Milena! You should totally try to make this one at home. We used to order it too, until I made them once I realized how easy it was!

      Reply
    1. Maggie

      You should! It is surprisingly easy to make, once you try it. If you have extra time, definitely make the paneer too. It takes like 15 minutes, but the result is so rewarding 🙂

      Reply
  3. Kelly

    This looks incredible! I’m obsessed with palak paneer and love that you made the paneer fresh at home. I’ve never used cashews in my own recipe but will definitely have to try. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  4. Wei @ Red House Spice

    What a lovely story! Blogging isn’t just about cooking but other inspirations in life. I always love Indian cuisine but never had this dish before. Your post really makes it appealing. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  5. ChannonD

    I am so thrilled to find this recipe. Palak Paneer is my absolute favorite food in the world. I used to have a recipe, dictated to me by a friend who was a Professionally Trained Chef and was kind enough to share his techniques with me. Unfortunately, that recipe was lost in one of my moves and I have yet to be able to recreate it.
    His version used a measure of fenugreek leaves, but I cannot recall the amount. Do you or you guess chef have any idea how much I should use?
    Also, I make cashew cream for my creamy curries. it’s easy to make. Just boil some cashews for a good while, then puree up, adding water to your desired consistency

    Reply
  6. Mrs. Marilyn Tomsky

    Dear Mrs. Zhu,
    I was surprised to hear from you! I have marveled at all the recipes you have online. I am not only copying them out but making copies of them into a loose-leaf notebook for my granddaughter (8 years old) for her life when I am gone.
    I gave my daughter the information and she is going to your site too. She loves Chinese food! I love the Indian recipe for spinach! I just love spinach!
    You asked for my favorite Chinese dishes and made without pork or seafood, because we are Jewish. I have to tell you about the best here first. There was a well-known restaurant called Ming’s, Palo Alto, California. We always went there to celebrate, but they closed it down, to rebuilt it into a hotel, with a smaller Chinese restaurant for all meals. Not open yet!
    My favorite was their delicate Steamed Lemon Chicken. I loved it! For a time they sold the lemon sauce in glass medium sized jars and I would buy it. But I would like to learn how to create the whole chicken dish and lemon sauce. It was not acidic nether was it too sweet. I don’t like the sweet lemon sauce.
    We loved their boneless Peking Duck and it was so tender and I loved their accompanying fresh crisp salad with a sweet/sour dressing. No one makes both that good! But their pancakes for the duck were no good.
    On the other hand a Chinese Restaurant named Hong Fu in Cupertino makes excellent pancakes but their Duck is no good!
    My first Chinese cuisine teacher Mrs, Lily Chinn (gone now) taught us how to make Tomato Curry Beef on whole Pan Fried Noodle Pancakes. It was not sweet and so delicious. I always made it. She also taught us how to make Sweet and Sour Meat with vinegar, soy sauce sugar, salt, bean curd, pineapple cubes and vegetables. I used chicken and beab Curd. She introduced us to sesame oil which I always use. I make those vegetables fresh, in season like snow peas or broccoli or with spinach, or with different kinds of mushrooms or bean curd. I got to know them this way.
    She introduced us to Chinese dried mushrooms and dried Black fungus, bamboo shoots, shining noodles and bean sprouts. She did not give us tools or forks but insisted we learn from the first day to use chopped sticks in cooking and to eat with them. She even published her own paper backed cookbook. I bought it.
    We love Vegetable Hot and Sour Soup. We introduced each of our three young children to it. Now adults and two have families and they introduced them to this soup. The oldest died. We ate it for years. We watered it at first for them but then decreased the water gradually. It was a family favorite. I made it for years too. I used dried mushrooms, the Black Fungus, Lily buds etc.
    I discovered Chicken Corn Soup in a small Chinese restaurant, while on vacation visiting the city of Huntington after the Huntington Museums and Garden. Before this soup came here. I went home and made it. We live in Palo Alto, California.
    We loved the Red Bean pastries for dessert at Hong Fu’s. For the Chinese New Year, one year they had little curly tailed piggies for the year of the Pig. That shape is gone now. At Chef Chinn’s restaurant it is not really good or made into cunning animal shapes for the Chinese New Year’s.
    My husband is crazy about Hong Fu’s Chinese Chicken Salad. I am not because they use too tiny pieces of chicken. I make it thicker small pieces. I use toasted sesame seeds, iceberg lettuce and a lot of fresh cilantro leaves. But their dressing is rather good! I brought it to our synagogue for a potluck supper in a huge bowl and it was gone in a wink.
    The best Tangerine Beef was from a Chinese restaurant in Monterey in an outdoor Shopping Center at the now gone Golden Buddha. For years we ate there, if we visited Carmel and Monterey.
    We loved Fried Apple or Fried Banana for dessert. But not at Chef Chinn’s, which is served with whipped cream and is soggy.
    In Las Vegas at one Chinese restaurant now gone, years ago, we discovered Green Tea ice cream in a cubed wooden holder. It was so different! Not too sweet. We have ordered it whenever we found it.
    At another place – an outdoor shopping center in Las Vegas, I found something called Fried Milk on the menu and very curious I ordered it for dessert. It was not as thick as an egg roll or Jewish blintzes but like a slender cigar and it was delicious! Ice cream that had been frozen and was inside a fried Wong Ton.
    We loved the Vietnamese egg rolls, more than the Chinese egg rolls (Spring Rolls) made by students at a booth, at Stanford University and sold at their annual Mother’s Day’s festival years ago. It is gone years past.
    My husband is a Ph.D. Stanford graduate mathematician/statistician/bio-statistician who worked at Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. at 3 desks in 3 cities for 31 years. Now 78 he is semi-retired and works with Master’s Degree level nursing students at San Jose State University, when they hire him in Statistics or their professors recommend him to them. He had previously worked at NYU’s Research Center and I.B.M.
    While on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, at the New Zealand hotel’s Chinese restaurant, I didn’t feel like eating a whole meal at supper, so I ordered three appetizers. They came with three pieces each and three different sauces. We use supermarket sauces at home. Dynasty’s Sweet & Sour, Plum Sauce, Hoisin Sauce and Duck Sauce because they are easily available in our supermarket. But those sauces in the restaurant were so special! They made the meal along with the appetizers. I offered one piece each to my husband and the sauces. We went wild over them and my husband was crazy about them more than his choice a hot pot dish.
    We love lamb but it came in a hot pot style still boiling and took too long to cool to eat it, so we gave up ordering it at Ming’s.
    I want to make Ming’s Steak. It was so tender and flavorful!
    I am educated at two colleges in New York and California. I graduated at 16 from high school and went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, it was a branch of the New York State University. I was educated as a fashion/apparel designer.
    Married and with children, I went back to college in California and studied for double degrees in art/sculpturing and art history. I studied Hebrew as my foreign language at college, which was taught at my synagogue and 9 years of extra studying at my synagogue including my adult bat mitzvah. Bat = (female) bar = (male).
    Mrs. Chinn taught us how use pay dough squares and round and to use commercial. To make won tons and fried won tons. Even a dessert from canned fruit cocktail fried in pay dough/won tons sprinkled, when taken out and laid on paper towels with powdered sugar. Delicious!!!
    We didn’t really like anything in Canada or in Puerto Rico. We visited many states like Alaska, in the North, in the East, South and West. We were both born in New York in the Bronx.
    In the 1940s there was one Chinese restaurant two blocks from my father’s apartment. Across from it in an alley was a tiny Kosher Jewish poultry shop that sold chickens. They were fresh killed for each customer.
    But the rare times my father was there at the restaurant, he would order Chicken Chow Mein or Pepper Steak. I loved the difference! It wasn’t just seeing and smelling the exotic foods that the waiter carried past us but experiencing something. Something different from the same old Chicken Consommé Soup, Vegetable Chow Mein and Pineapple Chunks my mother always ordered.
    I was a small child and my mother would buy the chicken and then go into an open booth, next door to the butcher shop, the butcher had and burned off its feathers from a central hanging thing for that purpose. Then she made chicken soup at home, with the chicken cut up parts and stuffed kreplach. That was rectangular in shape and like a filled won tong cooked in the chicken soup with dill. The best part was sometimes the chicken had baby eggs and they were so tend and good!
    But she was so selfish and preservative of her own glory, that she never taught me how to cook or a whole recipe. My brother and I did the basic work as children. She kept putting it off with promises like “before you marry, I will take one week off and teach you!” But she never did and a week wasn’t enough time. Now she is gone a couple of years. She died at 95 with dementia.
    I had never been allowed to cook much or bake at all. I could only warm up cans of spinach in which I melted butter and heated sour cream. Make scrabbled eggs and toast for breakfast. If I was home lunch was something cold. Supper was half a can of skinless and boneless Portuguese sardines. The other half was for my dog.
    I went on without her, borrowing books from the library and taking cooking classes. Experimenting. We watched Julia Child on TV, then I watched Martha Stewart and all the other cooks that came along. I marveled at what is available on our computer.
    I would like to learn how to make Mongolian Beef and Beef Lo Mein.
    If you have any questions just ask by email. I am profoundly deaf but never attended Deaf schools. I went to normal schools with only lipreading and speech, for two hours at the League of Hard of Hearing on Saturdays. I speak and wearing the last most powerful hearing aid.
    I was a Brownie and then flew up into the Girl Scouts. I earned my Second Class and then my First Class badges. I took the training and became a Den Mother for my son and his Cub Scout Troop for two years. I took the training and became a Brownie Leader to my daughter’s large troop. The parents came to me and asked me after a year of assisting the present leader. I was a volunteer in my daughter’s Blue Birds’ group (Camp Fire Girls). I volunteered at my synagogue.
    I have recovered from a stroke, that tests at Stanford proved was my third. In August I shall be recovered from four operations, a year of chemo and 25 radiation sessions for third level breast cancer.
    I used to grow roses and took them into shows for ribbons and trophies. I belonged to 3 rose Societies. I have two twin grandchildren. I shall be 75 this Summer. I am sorry I took so long to answer!
    Sincerely,
    Mrs. Marilyn Tomsky

    Reply
  7. Jayne Storey

    We LOVED this recipe! Didn’t think we could pull off our favorite restaurant dish at home, but this changed everything. Tasted fantastic with great depth of flavors but very easy (and fast) to make. We even made the paneer and wowed ourselves. Homemade naan is next! Thanks SO much for this game-changing recipe.

    Reply
    1. Maggie

      Hi Jayne, I’m so glad to hear you like the recipe!
      When I cooked the dish the first time, me too, I was surprised how easy it is to make it at home. It’s great that you made the paneer at home. It tastes the best when it’s fresh 🙂
      Thanks for taking time to leave a comment. Hope you have a great day!

      Reply