This creamy spinach with cubes of paneer is a favorite of mine and it’s so nice to learn how to make it at home—thank you Janice! A mountain of fresh spinach cooks down to nothing, so be sure to make the whole batch of this palak paneer (palak = spinach, paneer = cheese).
Palak Paneer (Spinach with Cheese)
adapted from my friend Janice Haugen who adapted from recipes by Madhur Jaffrey and Saveur makes 4–8 servings
- 8 ounces paneer, cut into bite-sized rectangles (about 1-inch x ½-inch x ½-inch)
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch or rice flour
- 3 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 1½ pounds fresh spinach, washed and trimmed of thick stems and roughly chopped not baby and not frozen
- 3 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 hot chile pepper (serrano or other), just the flesh—no seeds or stems—minced
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup heavy cream or coconut cream from a can of full-fat coconut milk
Put paneer cubes on a plate and sprinkle with the cornstarch or rice flour. Toss to coat then transfer paneer to a strainer to shake out any excess flour. Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a large, wide pot (one that is big enough to eventually hold all of the spinach) set over medium-high heat. Add the paneer cubes and fry until golden brown on 2 sides. Transfer paneer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb extra oil.
Remove pot from heat and set aside (you will use it and the remaining oil for the spinach later). Remove the paper towel and sprinkle paneer with salt, garam masala, and chili flakes. Set aside (and don't eat them all while you are standing in the kitchen! I know, it's a challenge.)
Return the pot used to cook the paneer to the stovetop. Heat the oil that remains in the pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chile, and ginger and stir 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the spinach and water. Cook, stirring until spinach begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. Cover the pan, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the heavy cream or coconut cream. Add the paneer and all the spices remaining on the plate. Partially cover the pan and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice, naan, pita, or chapatis, and sides of cucumber raita and chutney.
Recipe Notes / Tips
- Fantastic on its own with pita, naan, or rice
- Make an India-inspired feast with other curries or dals—palak paneer goes with everything
- Yes, a pound and a half of spinach. It cooks down to nothing, and you're going to want the whole batch. Trust me.
- If you don't eat it all for dinner, it is fantastic heated up again for lunch
- You can use baby spinach, but mature leaves have more flavor
- Frozen spinach? No. Sorry.
- Raita: mix full fat plain yogurt with diced cucumber, a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of salt. Add cilantro leaves, or chives if you have them.