Palak Paneer (Fried Indian Cheese in Garam Masala and Cream Spinach)

Palak Paneer (Fried Indian Cheese in Garam Masala and Cream Spinach) Recipe

There are few dishes as synonymous with Indian cuisine as palak paneer . After tandoori chicken and naan (Indian round fluffy bread made of white flour), it's probably the most common item on menus at Indian restaurants. Variations of the dish are prepared all across the country.

At the core, though, palak paneer is a very simple dish. Spinach (or palak in Urdu) is cooked with a spicy cream mixture and studded with fried Indian farmer's cheese, called paneer. The cream is spiced with the same masala that is used in many other dishes. If you're new to Indian cuisine, this is a great introduction. You'll never go back to regular old cream spinach again.

Ingredients

Yields: 6 servings

2 (1 lb) packages fresh baby spinach (pre-packaged)
4 tablespoons ghee
16 oz paneer, cubed
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
1 ripe tomato, finely chopped
2 whole green Thai bird chiles
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1 bay leaf, torn in halves
1-1/2 teaspoons garam masala spice mix
1/4 teapoon green peppercorns, freshly ground
3 tablespoons full fat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder


Directions

For the paneer: Heat the canola oil in a pan and fry all the cubes of paneer until they are golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel. Reserve the oil. Set the paneer aside.

For the masala sauce: In a medium-sized pan, heat the remaining oil. Add the shallot and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the onions until nicely golden over medium low heat, stirring frequently, (it may take 5-10 minutes). Add the chopped tomato, bay leaf, garam masala spice mix and turmeric powder. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then add the yogurt. Remove the bay leaf and transfer to mini-blender, blend until the sauce is smooth. Add the heavy cream. Set aside.

For the palak (spinach): Wash the spinach thoroughly in a large bowl of water. Drain, then remove all the excess water using a salad spinner. Roughly chop all the spinach leaves. In a large sauté pan or a large wok, add the minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of ghee. Cook the garlic for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Add the ginger garlic paste (see tips), red chili powder and 2 whole green bird chiles. Cook for another minute. Add 1/3 of the amount of spinach to the pan, constantly lift the spinach leaves using 2 slotted spooned on each side of the pan. The leaves will start to wilt after 30 seconds or so. Add the other 1/3 of the spinach and repeat the same procedure for 30 seconds. Season with a little salt (this will prevent the spinach from changing color and keep a bright green color). Repeat one more times with the rest of the spinach, then transfer all the container of the pan into a large bowl. Remove the green chiles, coarsely chop them and reserve them for garnish later (do not slice them if you don't want to make it too spicy). Set aside the excess water from the spinach if you have any. You can use the liquid to thin the masala sauce if the sauce starts to thicken too much (I usually don't). Using a handheld mixer, coarsely blend the spinach (about 2-3 pulses). Do NOT over-blend.

For the palak paneer: In the same pan, add the rest of the ghee. When the ghee is melted, add the masala sauce. Bring to a boil until it's thick and creamy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the fried paneer. Cook it down for about 1-2 minutes so the paneer soaks up all the sauce and is nicely coated. Season with salt and pepper. Add the  spinach and toss it for about a minute. Put the green chiles back in the palak paneer.

Serve with steamed basmati rice, naan or roti (flat Indian wheat bread). You can decorate with a few fennel seeds if you like.

Bon appétit!

Palak paneer

Indian Spinach and Cheese Recipe with Picture


Tips

Indian cuisine often calls for ginger garlic paste. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop the root. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.

You can either make your own garam masala spice mix or buy it at any Indian store.

garam masala

bay leaf

It's important to slightly sauté the spinach in order to keep a bright green appealing color. Do NOT overcook! My other tip: A bright green colored spinach depends on the power of your stove. The higher the range of your stove is, the better. We use a 20,000 BTU burner at home. The food cooks faster and you get to keep all the nutrients in your food, especially when sautéing vegetables.

If you want to reduce the amount of heavy cream for health reasons, you can add about 2 tablespoons of cashew mill for the same creamy texture (but due to my little sister-in-law's nut allergy, I don't add it). She absolutely loves this dish.

A brief reminder on how to make cashew mill: You can either buy ready-made cashew flour, or make it yourself. Grind the whole cashew nuts with a food processor or spice grinder. Make sure you stop before it turns into cashew butter. I use the VitaMix Dry Blade Container. The result should be a fine white mill.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on June 18, 2009.


Comments

Discussion:
I love palak paneer.... the creamed spinach used to kind of put me off a bit, but I got over it and now it's one of my favorite dishes.

Fearless Kitchen Website Link
[ Posted at 9:11 AM on 6/19/09 | Reply ]
That's my favorite Indian dish and I love the way you got the paneer to brown up. Beautiful photos as usual!

Joan Nova Website Link
[ Posted at 9:42 AM on 6/19/09 | Reply ]
Thanks for sharing the recipe. Palak Paneer is probably my all-time favorite Indian dish. I've been settling for the Trader Joe's vacuum sealed variety, but one of these days I should make it from scratch.

Gastronomer Website Link
[ Posted at 11:30 AM on 6/19/09 | Reply ]
Fried cheese! I had something last time I was at an Indian restaurant, and everyone at the table tried to tell me it was tofu, but I'm sure fried cheese is what it was.

I'm assuming paneer is the cheese. Where do you get it?

Matt Website Link
[ Posted at 11:31 AM on 6/19/09 | Reply ]
[-] Paneer - Jackie
You're right! It's not tofu, but fried cheese. I always get pander cheese at the Indian store.
[ Posted at 12:12 PM on 6/19/09 | Reply ]
[-] Paneer not pander - Jackie
Sorry - iphone auto-correct...
[ Posted at 12:15 PM on 6/19/09 | Reply ]
i have a local indian market that carries paneer once in a while, but most of the time not. that's too bad because this looks really yummy, and i've never tried making it at home

justcooknyc Website Link
[ Posted at 3:08 PM on 6/19/09 | Reply ]
Looks great, Jackie! I love your pics of the spices.

Ninette Enrique Website Link
[ Posted at 7:55 AM on 6/20/09 | Reply ]
I love making my own masala. Toasting and then grinding the spices is calming to me and I love the smells. Great recipe!!! I've never had paneer before, but I may have to now because this dish looks like spicy creamy comfort!

Marta Website Link
[ Posted at 12:14 PM on 6/20/09 | Reply ]
[-] fussfree - Guest-noraffr
yumm!! i love indian ingredients.. but its difficult to get it from near by stores. have to go get it from asian shops far far from my place. neway this dish sound delish. a must try soon.
thanx for sharing and have a nice weekend
cheers!!

nora@ffr Website Link
[ Posted at 4:09 PM on 6/20/09 | Reply ]
This is my absolute favorite Indian dish! So far anyway :) Do you have suggestions on where to find paneer? I guess I need to look for an Indian market.

Kerstin Website Link
[ Posted at 8:08 PM on 6/20/09 | Reply ]
[-] cheffresco - Guest-cheffresco
Oh wow! Yum! This looks so rich and delicious!

cheffresco Website Link
[ Posted at 8:29 PM on 6/20/09 | Reply ]
Paneer is a very simple cheese to make yourself very cheaply.

* Pour a gallon of milk in a pot on the stove and heat but do not boil.
* Add a spoon of yogurt and a little bit of lime juice to make it curdle.
* Continually stir and once the milk around the edges of the pot starts to become transluecent and a bit grey color, remove the pot from heat.
* Strain the curds with a cheese cloth or a large dish towel.
* Wrap the curds in the cloth and press the liquid out of it, or leave something heavy on top of it in the sink for a couple of hours.

This should leave you with a large brick of panner for the price of a gallon of milk (and fresher too).
[ Posted at 7:44 AM on 6/22/09 | Reply ]
I love indian food and this is one of my favorite dishes. It looks fantastic!

gaga Website Link
[ Posted at 11:22 PM on 6/22/09 | Reply ]
all those spices! so delicious...

beyond Website Link
[ Posted at 12:15 AM on 6/24/09 | Reply ]
Oooooh! I love Palak Paneer! Great website and your logo/name is FANTASTIC!!!

rose Website Link
[ Posted at 11:15 AM on 6/25/09 | Reply ]
Oh my...also a favorite of mine. Do you have a recipe for Saag? Did I spell it right? Thanks for coming by my place (blog). I too have a little multicultural family of three with I being German and my husband is East African with roots in India. My one and only...my son....loves all things Japanese and hope to live there someday...so there you go! Grin. I shall bookmark your site...beautiful pictures and wonderful recipes.

Trish Website Link
[ Posted at 1:07 AM on 6/27/09 | Reply ]
[-] hello - Guest-sangeetakhanna
hi jaqueline
came here first through trini cooking then later through your link in my post....it's wonderful to see Indian food here...we in north of India use unfried paneer in this,,,,my fav dish...
it's nice to know that your husband's family is from India...you can see my traditional Indian recipes on my blog ...http://banaraskakhana.blogspot.com/

sangeeta khanna Website Link
[ Posted at 5:04 AM on 6/27/09 | Reply ]
[-] Palak Paneer - Guest-PalakPaneer
Nice to read about your nice tips. Many of us are not that aware of some tips to make it more tasty. I have only tried to cook palak few times and many of it was bad.

Palak Paneer Website Link
[ Posted at 8:40 AM on 12/14/11 | Reply ]

Order my latest book:
Banh Mi

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