Palak paneer is a popular vegetarian dish from North Indian cuisine, made with fresh spinach (palak) and Indian cottage cheese (paneer). Simple as that! While many recipes call for tomatoes, I prefer without them for the best taste and ease. Make this easy recipe and serve it with a bowl of rice or make it a feast with butter naan!
I guess by now most of the world knows what is Palak (spinach) and Paneer (cottage cheese) but not everyone is a fan. I wasn't a fan until I learnt to make it this way. So, let me help you with this simple, easy and delicious palak paneer recipe without tomatoes that you cannot go wrong.
Once you learn to make Palak paneer, this will be your go-to quick spinach paneer recipe. Trust me, Matar Paneer and Paneer butter masala and all others can wait.
This is the most simplest Palak paneer recipe because you don't need a long list of ingredients or special spice mixes. Heck, you don't even need cashews to make it creamy! The star of the dish is Palak so get your hands on the freshest bunch of spinach!
You most certainly can use frozen spinach or frozen paneer and put together this dish quickly. Here is the list of main ingredients you will need to make my palak paneer:
- cooking oil and butter: use both
- cumin seeds
- ginger garlic paste
- green chillies
- red onion
- ground spices: red chilli, cumin
See the recipe card for quantities.
You can make this spinach paneer recipe in three steps - Blanch, puree and cook. Let me show me step-by-step how to make the simple and easy palak paneer. Also, you may scroll down to the Recipe Card.
Blanch and Puree
Make sure to wash the spinach thoroughly in cold water, and remove any tough stems or yellowed leaves. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the cleaned and rinsed spinach, and let it cook for 1-2 minutes max. Meanwhile, keep a bowl of ice-cold water ready.
Immediately remove the leaves using a tong and dunk them in a bowl of ice-cold water. This will stop the cooking process and help retain the colour. (In this image, you will see some coriander leaves. I placed them in the cold water to refresh them.) Now, squeeze out the water and make a puree using a blender or mixer grinder. Keep this covered until needed.
Heat the oil and butter or ghee in a pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and let them splutter. Next, add the ginger garlic paste and green chilli and sauté on low to medium flame until they turn light golden. Now, add the finely diced onions and saute until translucent.
Once the onions are starting to turn golden, add the red chilli and cumin powder and saute for a minute.
Now, add the paneer cubes and fry until lightly golden on the sides. You may skip this step and instead add them at the end.
Pour the prepared spinach puree with some salt and cook stirring gently for 2 to 3 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Switch off and stir in the cream. Serve this Palak Paneer with steaming rice or Indian bread like naan or chapathi.
Hint: To all those who have these questions... How can I keep the palak colour? etc. the answer is Blanch the leaves. This helps to soften the leaves and stop the enzymatic process that can cause the spinach to lose its colour and flavour. It can also help to remove any dirt or bacteria on the leaves.
Why blanch palak?
I know a lot of you avoid making palak paneer because you don't want to do the added task of blanching. The extra dishes to do, the hot water to deal with, etc. But blanching spinach is a simple and effective way to prepare Palak for this dish or any use in salads, smoothies, sautés, and other dishes. Blanching spinach has several benefits:
- Retains nutrients
- Removes dirt and bacteria
- Softens texture
- Reduces oxalic acid
- and many more...
How to use frozen spinach to make palak paneer?
You can make Palak paneer with frozen spinach. Replace 500g of fresh palak with 150-200 gms of frozen spinach. Make sure to thaw the frozen spinach by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight or placing it in a colander and running it under cold water until it is completely thawed. Don't forget to squeeze out as much water as possible from the spinach. Then, puree the spinach in a blender until it is smooth. Use this puree as the base for your palak paneer recipe.
You will be amazed how easily you can make this dish using what you like. I know not everyone is a fan of Palak or paneer or maybe you have diet restrictions. Here are a few ideas of substitutions:
- Paneer- instead of this Indian cottage cheese, you can use ricotta or tofu. I am okay to use frozen paneer but must admit fresh paneer is the best. If you have some time, do try to make a batch of homemade paneer!
- Palak- instead of spinach, use any other green leaf-like mint and coriander, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, etc. which can btw lead to becoming saag paneer. 🙂 You can also use frozen spinach leaves.
- Cream: you can use any cream you have in hand. Heavy cream, whipping cream, fresh cream, etc. You may also use hung curd, greek yoghurt or labneh after whisking it well.
Though I haven't tried, I would love to make a Palak gosht (meat) version for the carnivore in us. You can check out my friend Shanaz's Palak gosht video recipe.
See this Molokhia recipe on my website for a chicken in greens recipe for inspiration.
You can make Palak paneer in any shallow pan but avoid cast-iron skillets as they tend to react with the spinach leaves and can cause discolouration.
Palak paneer can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. Place the container in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking. Reheat thoroughly before using it again.
Be sure to squeeze out as much water as possible from the thawed or blanched spinach to avoid a watery dish.
Palak paneer may turn brown due to overcooking or oxidation of the spinach. It is recommended to blanch the spinach before cooking to prevent discolouration. Adding a pinch of salt to the spinach can also help retain its green colour. Your palak paneer may turn brown if you cooked in a cast-iron pan or you kept the dish uncovered for a long time which causes oxidation.
To remove bitterness from palak paneer, you can try adding a pinch of sugar or a small amount of cream or yoghurt to balance out the flavour. And if you have not, do try blanching the spinach before cooking to reduce bitterness.
Overcooking palak is one of the common mistakes that can cause palak paneer to taste bitter. Try not to use stale and old spinach leaves that have been sitting in your fridge for a long time. Make sure to wash and blanch the spinach leaves before pureeing. And lastly, keep it simple and avoid adding too many spices.
Palak paneer and Saag paneer are both popular dishes in Indian cuisine that feature paneer cheese and greens. The main difference between the two is the type of greens used. Palak paneer is made with spinach, which is known as "palak" in Hindi. Saag paneer, on the other hand, is made with a mixture of different greens, including spinach, mustard greens, and sometimes even fenugreek leaves (methi). The word "saag" actually refers to any dish made with leafy greens.
Looking for other meatless recipes like this? Try these:
These are some of my favourite dishes to serve along with Palak Paneer:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoon cooking oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- 2 green chillies chopped finely
- 1 small red onion diced finely
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 100 grams paneer cubes
- 300-500 grams spinach leaves 1 bunch (100g-150g frozen)
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon cream
- Rinse and drain the fresh spinach leaves at least 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear. Let it sit in the colander.300-500 grams spinach leaves
- Heat water in a sauce pot to blanch the leaves. Meanwhile, keep a bowl of ice-cold water ready.
- Add the palak leaves to hot water for a minute or two. Use a tong to remove the leaves and dunk them immediately into the cold-water bowl.
- Remove and squeeze out all the excess water and use a blender to make a smooth puree. Keep covered until needed.
- Heat the oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and let them splutter.1 tablespoon butter, 2 teaspoon cooking oil, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- Add the ginger garlic paste and green chilli and sauté on low to medium flame until they turn light golden.½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste, 2 green chillies
- Now, add the finely diced onions and sauté until translucent.1 small red onion
- Reduce the heat to low and add the ground spices - red chilli and cumin powder and sauté for a minute.½ teaspoon red chilli powder, ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- Add the paneer cubes and fry them on medium heat until lightly golden on the sides.100 grams paneer cubes
- Pour the prepared spinach puree with some salt and cook stirring gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.salt to taste
- Switch off and stir in the cream. Serve hot with rice or Indian bread. Enjoy your delicious and healthy Palak Paneer without tomatoes!2 tablespoon cream