Palak Paneer| Cottage Cheese In Spiced Spinach Gravy

Palak Paneer, when done right, is a thing of joy. It is one of the North Indian dishes the husband and I love most, and end up ordering frequently when dining out. Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for my version of home-made Palak Paneer.

Palak Paneer, my way!

What is Palak Paneer?

Palak Paneer is a gravy-based dish that is believed to have originated in Punjab, but is quite popular across India. Cottage cheese (paneer) is cooked in a mildly-spiced, creamy spinach (palak) gravy, and the combination is mind-blowingly delicious. It pairs well with naan, rotis, parathas and jeera rice.

Restaurant versions of Palak Paneer typically use a lot of cream and/or oil, but it is definitely possible to make a healthier (and equally delish!) gravy at home. In fact, when made the right way, using the right ingredients, I think Palak Paneer can be super nutritious, filled with the goodness of spinach and cottage cheese. It is a great way to consume spinach!

A bit about my Palak Paneer recipe

There are so many variations of Palak Paneer out there, with different people preparing it in different ways. This recipe is the way I make it, what works for my family and me.

This is not your typical Palak Paneer recipe, where the spinach is blanched, the cottage cheese is fried, some cream is added, and the tomatoes and onion are sauteed. This is, in fact, quite different from the way Palak Paneer is usually made. I don’t claim this is an authentic recipe, but I will say that it does yield a very lovely Palak Paneer. Also, I have tried to keep it as healthy as possible.

There are a couple of – ahem! – secret ingredients that go in too, which add a superb flavour to the Palak Paneer. Read on to find out what they are!

Is this a vegan and gluten-free preparation?

My Palak Paneer recipe is completely gluten-free. However, if you are using store-bought spice powders, do make sure you check out the ingredients used therein and ensure that they are gluten-free too.

This is a completely vegetarian preparation. It does include nuts, though. People with a nut allergy might want to use fresh cream in place of the almonds and cashewnuts used here – if they’re not vegan, of course! Coconut milk could be used, too.

Because I have used cottage cheese or paneer here, this is not a vegan preparation. Vegans can substitute the cottage cheese for tofu, though that isn’t something I have ever tried.

How I make Palak Paneer

The detailed recipe follows.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):

To grind for spinach puree:

  1. A medium-sized bunch of spinach (palak), 2 cups when roughly chopped
  2. 2 green chillies
  3. A handful of fresh mint leaves (the first secret ingredient!)
  4. A handful of fresh coriander (the second secret ingredient!)

To grind for tomato puree:

  1. 3 medium-sized tomatoes
  2. 1 small onion
  3. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. 6 cashewnuts
  6. 6 almonds

Other ingredients:

  1. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  2. 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  3. 200 grams cottage cheese (paneer)
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  7. 1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder
  8. 1/2 tablespoon chana masala
  9. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)

Method:

1. Wash the spinach, coriander and mint leaves well under running water, to remove all traces of dirt from them. Place in a colander and let all the water drain out.

2. Meanwhile, we will prepare the tomato puree. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Peel the ginger, garlic and onion, and chop roughly. Smoothly puree the chopped tomatoes, ginger, garlic and onion together smoothly, along with 6 cashewnuts and 6 almonds. There is no need to add in any water while grinding. Keep aside.

3. Once the water from the spinach, coriander and mint has drained out, we will prepare the spinach puree. Chop up the greens roughly. Chop up 2 green chillies roughly too. Grind the spinach, coriander, mint and green chillies together, using a little water. Keep aside.

4. Cut the paneer into cubes, as small or big as you prefer. Keep aside.

5. Now, we are ready to prepare the Palak Paneer. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the cumin seeds, and allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.

6. Reduce flame to medium. Add the tomato puree to the pan. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell of the puree goes away completely and it starts thickening.

7. Add salt to taste, turmeric powder and jaggery powder. Mix well.

8. Now, add in the spinach puree to the pan, along with about 1/2 cup water. Add garam masala and chana masala. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Add red chilli powder if required. Let everything cook together for 2 minutes on medium flame.

9. Add in the paneer cubes to the pan. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 2 more minutes. By this time, the gravy would have thickened. Switch off gas when it is still quite runny – it thickens further upon cooling. Your Palak Paneer is ready. Serve hot with rotis, parathas or jeera rice.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used Akshayakalpa paneer here. You can use any other brand of store-bought paneer, or a home-made version too.

2. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Palak Paneer that you require.

3. Switch off gas when the Palak Paneer is still quite runny. It thickens on cooling.

4. I have used regular refined oil here. You may use any other oil of your preference.

5. Use more green chillies if you want the gravy to be spicier. In that case, you can skip the red chilli powder altogether.

6. The above measurements yield Palak Paneer which has quite a bit of gravy, and a moderate amount of paneer. In other words, it’s not all palak or all paneer, and that’s the way we like it. You may increase the amount of palak or paneer that you use, as per personal taste preferences.

7. The combination of garam masala and chana masala yields a beautiful flavour to the Palak Paneer. You can use any one of these, if you so prefer.

8. I have used a mix of cashewnuts and almonds to thicken the Palak Paneer. You can use either of the two.

9. You may add in some fresh cream too, if you so prefer.

Do check out these other North Indian recipes on my blog too: Paneer Butter Masala| Matar Paneer| Dal Makhani| Dal Moradabadi| Tandoori Mushroom & Paneer Tikka| Boondi Raita| Masala Khichdi| Pani Poori| Methi Raita| Methi Matar Malai| Punjabi Aloo Matar Ki Sabzi

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

11 thoughts on “Palak Paneer| Cottage Cheese In Spiced Spinach Gravy

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