Palak paneer is a classic Indian dish made with pureed spinach, tons of delicious spices and Indian cottage cheese. This vegetarian recipe is made with whole spices, garlic ginger paste and kashmiri chili powder, to give it an authentic flavor, just like your favorite Indian restaurant!

palak paneer in white serving bowl

When spending a lot of time at home in 2020, I set out to perfect my favorite Indian restaurant dish, palak paneer. After a lot of research, ordering herbs and spices on Amazon and testing the recipe several times, I’ve now PERFECTED this palak paneer recipe.

It’s got a hint of spice and so much flavor. It’s incredibly creamy and easier to make than you might think! While it does take quite a few ingredients to make an authentic palak paneer, you basically just add all of the ingredients to one pot on the stovetop, so clean up is a breeze.

I do recommend getting all of your ingredients out and ready to go before starting the recipe. This will make it easier to follow along each of the simple steps for making amazing homemade palak paneer every time!

Pair it with basmati rice and warm naan for an authentic Indian dining experience!

ingredients for palak paneer

Ingredients you’ll need

To make a truly authentic palak paneer at home, you will need some specialty ingredients that you might not have in your pantry. Some of which, you will probably only find at an Indian market or online. I’ve noted the hard to find ingredients below, and linked to the brands that I purchased on Amazon.

I promise, you’ll continue to use the ingredients to make this dish over and over again, so it’s worth the initial investment to stock your pantry!

  • Spinach – for this recipe, I used fresh spinach leaves. Check out the frequently asked questions section below for how to make it with frozen spinach.
  • Ghee olive oil or butter can also be used in place of the ghee.
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves 
  • Cardamom pods – these small herbs pack a strong aromatic flavor. While you might find ground cardamom at the grocery store, you’ll probably have to order whole cardamom pods online, find them at an Indian market, or specialty grocery store.
  • Cumin seeds
  • Garlic cloves
  • Jalapeño – or your favorite fresh, spicy pepper.
  • Yellow onion
  • Salt
  • Nutmeg powder
  • Ginger garlic paste – you might be able to find this paste at the grocery store, or you can order it online. You will probably find garlic paste and ginger paste sold separately at the grocery store, near the produce section. You can always buy one of each, then use 1/2 tablespoon garlic paste and 1/2 tablespoon ginger paste to make the recipe.
  • Turmeric powder
  • Tomatoes
  • Cumin powder
  • Coriander powder
  • Red chili powder – I recommend Kashmiri chili powder for the most authentic flavor.
  • Fenugreek leaves – this essential Indian herb has a distinct maple syrup flavor, with a slight bitterness. I have not been able to find it in traditional American grocery stores, so I order it on Amazon. You can also find it in Indian markets. It might be labeled kasuri methi. While you can find substitution ideas online, I haven’t found anything that’s quite like the real thing, so I do recommend ordering this herb online when making palak paneer at home.
  • Paneer – while I used to only be able to find this Indian cottage cheese at Indian markets, it’s now available at Costco, Sprouts and other major grocery store chains and big box retailers. It freezes well, so I usually buy it in bulk at Costco, or an Indian market, so that I always have it on hand when I want to make palak paneer at home. In 2020, I also tried my hand at making homemade paneer in the Instant Pot. I used this recipe and it turned out perfect!
  • Heavy cream – this is an optional ingredient that you can drizzle on top of the dish for extra creaminess.
collage of images showing how to make cooked, pureed spinach

How to make spinach puree

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Add two pounds of fresh spinach leaves and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Drain the spinach from the pot.
  3. Add the cooked spinach to a large blender or food processor.
  4. Blend for 30-60 seconds, or until smooth. If the spinach is getting stuck in the blender, add 1-2 tablespoons of water to help it puree in the blender.
collage of images showing how to make palak paneer

Step by step instructions

Once the spinach puree is prepared, follow these 8 simple steps to make the palak paneer.

  1. Heat ghee, olive oil or butter in a large pan, or dutch oven. Add cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom pods and cumin seeds.
  2. Once the whole spices begin to splatter, add minced garlic, jalapenos, onions, salt and nutmeg powder.
  3. Cook until the onions begin to turn soft and slightly brown. Add ginger garlic paste, turmeric and chopped tomatoes.
  4. Add salt, cumin powder, coriander powder and chili powder. Crush the fenugreek leaves in the palm of your hands, then add them to the pot.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods from the pot. Stir together the remaining ingredients.
  6. Pour the pureed spinach into the pot.
  7. When small droplets of oil begin to appear on top of the spinach, add the cubed paneer.
  8. Stir in the paneer and transfer the palak paneer to a bowl for serving. Top with a drizzle of heavy cream on top.

What to serve with it

Palak paneer is delicious spooned over basmati rice. You can prepare the rice on the stove or in an Instant Pot.

  • To prepare it in an Instant Pot:
    • Add 1 cup basmati rice and 1 cup water to an Instant Pot.
    • Pressure cook on high for 6 minutes.
    • Allow the Instant Pot to pressure down for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure.
    • Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
  • To prepare it on the stove:
    • Add 1 cup basmati rice and 1 1/2 cups water to a medium size saucepan on the stove over medium high heat.
    • Bring to a simmer.
    • Place a lid on the saucepan, then turn the heat down to medium low.
    • Cook for 12 minutes.
    • Remove from the heat, keep the lid on the pan, and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
    • Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.

I also love to serve palak paneer with naan for dipping into the dish. Frozen naan can be purchased at the grocery store and heated up in an air fryer or in the oven.

You can also find fresh naan in the bakery section of most major grocery stores. I recommend heating it up in the microwave or oven before serving.

You can also get really ambitious and make this homemade Naan recipe from my friend Nagi at RecipeTinEats.

palak paneer in white bowl

How to make it vegan

To make vegan palak paneer, you’d actually be making palak tofu. Simply replace the Indian cheese, paneer, with cubes of firm tofu. You will also want to use olive oil, instead of butter or ghee, and omit the heavy cream drizzled on top.

Frequently asked questions

  • What’s the difference between palak paneer and saag paneer? Palak means spinach in Indian culture, whereas saag, simply means greens. If you’re making palak paneer, you’re only using spinach, whereas if you’re making saag paneer, you can use other greens like mustard greens or baby kale leaves.
  • Can you make it with frozen spinach? Yes, simply substitute 20 ounces of frozen spinach, for the 2 pounds of fresh spinach. You do not need to boil and drain the spinach. Simply add the frozen spinach to a blender with 1-2 tablespoons water and puree the spinach until it’s smooth.
  • Is this recipe gluten free? Yes, this recipe is naturally gluten free.
palak paneer in white serving bowl

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Palak Paneer

Palak paneer is a classic Indian dish made with pureed spinach, tons of delicious spices and Indian cottage cheese. This vegetarian recipe is made with whole spices, garlic ginger paste and kashmiri chili powder, to give it an authentic flavor, just like your favorite Indian restaurant!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh spinach, see notes for frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, butter or ghee
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 7 whole cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 3 cups diced onions
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 4 teaspoons kasmiri chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek leaves
  • 1 pound paneer, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove.
  • Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Drain the spinach from the pot, then add it to a blender.
  • Blend for 30-60 seconds, or until smooth. If the spinach is getting stuck in the blender, add 1-2 tablespoons of water to help it puree in the blender.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, or dutch oven, over medium-high heat.
  • Add the cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom pods and cumin seeds.
  • Once the whole spices begin to splatter, add the garlic, jalapeno, onions, ½ teaspoon salt and nutmeg powder.
  • Cook until the onions begin to turn soft and slightly brown.
  • Add the ginger garlic paste, turmeric and chopped tomatoes.
  • Add the remaining salt, cumin powder, coriander powder and chili powder. Crush the fenugreek leaves in the palm of your hands, then add them to the pot.
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods from the pot.
  • Pour the pureed spinach into the pot.
  • Cook until you see small droplets of oil form on the top.
  • Add the cubes of paneer and gently stir them into the spinach sauce.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes on the stove, then transfer to a bowl for serving.
  • Optionally drizzle heavy cream over the dish for extra creaminess.

Notes

  • To make this recipe with frozen spinach, substitute 20 ounces of frozen spinach, for the 2 pounds of fresh spinach. You do not need to boil and drain the spinach. Simply add the frozen spinach to a blender with 1-2 tablespoons water and puree the spinach until it’s smooth.
  • This recipe is naturally gluten free and vegetarian.
  • To make this recipe vegan, replace the paneer, with cubes of firm tofu. You will also want to use olive oil, instead of butter or ghee, and omit the heavy cream drizzled on top.
  • I do not recommend substituting any of the ingredients, as this is what makes the dish authentic. Kashmiri chili powder, fenugreek leaves, ginger garlic paste and whole cardamom pods can all be found on Amazon at the links provided. You can also find each of these ingredients at an Indian market. 

Nutrition Facts

Calories 561kcal (28%)Carbohydrates 33g (11%)Protein 26g (52%)Fat 39g (60%)Saturated Fat 19g (95%)Cholesterol 80mg (27%)Sodium 1422mg (59%)Potassium 1868mg (53%)Fiber 12g (48%)Sugar 10g (11%)Vitamin A 22925mg (459%)Vitamin C 94mg (114%)Calcium 873mg (87%)Iron 9mg (50%)
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