Palak Paneer is one of the most popular Indian dishes in the U.S. Spinach and cheese is such a classic combination, think of Spinach Florentine or even spinach artichoke dip which has a cheesy base. Personally, I don’t really like spinach even though I eat it pretty often. I have to dress it up with lots of garlic or, well, cheese. I love the combination of spinach and cheese. There is something about spinach that comes alive when cheese is added. It becomes infinitely more delicious than when it’s on it’s own.
I really do like Palak Paneer, but I’ve always had a problem with the way it is prepared in most restaurants. They tend to puree the spinach. It feels like eating baby food! My mom, on the other hand, uses all chopped spinach which has much more texture. I make mine with a combination of pureed and chopped spinach. I like my palak paneer to be silky but still have some texture.
Spinach and Cheese Curry (Palak Paneer)
- 1 1/2 lbs spinach (I like to use baby spinach because it’s so much easier to clean)
- 2 green chilies, with the seeds and veins removed if you don’t like it too spicy (I usually use either jalapeno or serrano)
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil, seperated
- 1/2 cup milk (almond milk works just fine, if you want to keep it vegan)
- 10 oz paneer, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (sometimes I substitute tofu to keep it vegan)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 to 1 tsp red chili powder
- 3/4 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp cream or butter (optional)
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- Heat 1 tbsp of ghee (or oil) in a 12 inch wide skillet. Fry the paneer cubes until browned on all sides. Let drain on paper towels until needed.
- Toss half the spinach, the green chilies and the cilantro leaves into a food processor and process until pureed (you can use a blender instead of a food processor, just add a little water or milk to get it to puree). Set aside.
- Chop the other half of the spinach leaves. Set aside.
- Heat the rest of the ghee in a wide pot that is big enough the hold the spinach (I use my 5 quart dutch oven).
- When the oil is hot and shimmering, toss in the cumin seeds. Cook for about 10 seconds.
- Add the chopped onions. Saute until soft and translucent.
- Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add in the pureed spinach. Cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add in the chopped spinach, milk, salt, garam masala, turmeric and red chili powder.
- Let cook for about about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add in the paneer and, optionally cream, and cook another 5 to 10 minutes.
- Turn off heat and add a generous squeeze of lemon juice to the palak paneer.
Best served with a flat bread such as naan, pita or even a tortilla.