Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer Recipe


Palak paneer is power food. When translated literally it means spinach (palak) and cheese (paneer) - the two primary components. But there is a lot more to celebrate here. It's the kind of dish that when prepared with care and good ingredients, can shift perspectives. It's delicious, dynamic food to feed and power your body. The opposite of simply eating to fill up. With a spinach and tomato base, and range of spices, you're getting all sorts of nourishing goodness in each bite. This version of palak paneer is inspired and adapted from one of my favorite new cookbooks Studio Olafur Eliasson: The Kitchen. I made some tweaks based on the spices I had on hand, and it's a great recipe to tackle on a weekend afternoon. It's also a recipe to consider doubling. Leftovers are great throughout the week, and fresh, homemade paneer never goes unappreciated. I've made this a few times since picking up the book in New York, and typically serve the palak paneer with brown basmati rice, or the paratha from the India chapter in Near & Far. Enjoy! -h

Palak Paneer Recipe
Palak Paneer Recipe

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Palak Paneer

HS: One note - a couple of you have had trouble getting the milk to curdle when making fresh paneer. It's an issue I've never run into in the many times I've made paneer (or ricotta) over the years. I suspect it might have something to do with some dairy being ultra-pasteurized, so please avoid that if possible, and you should be fine.

1 quart whole full-fat milk
3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 pound spinach, rinsed

3+ tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
1 thumb peeled ginger, grated
scant 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoons garam masala

To serve: basmati rice or paratha bread, toasted cashews, and/or micro greens

Pour the milk into a large pot, and place over medium heat. Bring barely to a simmer and add the lemon juice, stir well, and continue to heat. The milk should begin to curdle, and if it doesn't, add more lemon juice a splash at a time. Drain using a fine strainer, or cheese cloth, press out as much moisture as possible, and allow to cool.

Place another pot of water over high heat, and bring to a boil. Salt well and add the spinach to the boiling water, and blanch for just a flash, 15-20 seconds. Drain, run under cool water - it should be bright green. Use a blender or food processor to puree, and set aside.

In the meantime, cut the paneer into small pieces, and, in a frying pan over medium heat, fry the cheese in a generous splash of ghee or clarified butter until golden brown. Set aside.

Heat the remaining ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot, and gently sauté the onions until golden. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they pop. Dial back the heat a bit, and add the garlic, ginger, chile flakes, cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric, and salt. Fry until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10-20 minutes. Add the garam masala and spinach and cook for another ten minutes. Serve topped with the paneer, some cashews, and micro greens with some rice or paratha on the side.

Serves 6.

Adapted from the the Palak Paneer recipe in Studio Olafur Eliasson: The Kitchen.

Prep time: 45 min - Cook time: 15 min

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Comments


This is just what I need. I sorely miss ethnic food in my beautiful little corner of rural France, where my restaurant choices are French, French or pizza. Making paneer from scratch is brilliant! Thank you!

May 19, 2016
 

had no idea that paneer was so easy to make! and i love that it sounds flavorful, but isn't intimidating with a laundry list of ingredients and unheard of spices.

May 19, 2016
 

My editor told me about that book and made me pretty curious ^_^ Anyway, I love palak paneer - even if I make it with tofu and I call it palak tofu :) But I think your micro greens and cashew topping! is just amazing!

May 19, 2016
 

Shaleen Mohan

This looks so good. Simple, beautiful and delicious :)

May 19, 2016
 

Hi Heidi, love the look of this recipe and will definitely try it very soon. What can I use instead of the black mustard seeds? Thanks.

HS: Hi Roberta - Just skip them if you like. Generally speaking, you can tweak the spices to your liking over time.

May 19, 2016
 

Kathy

This looks amazing. I have a tomato sensitivity though, so there probably isn't a good substitution available is there? Maybe roasted/blended carrots?

HS: Hmmm...it is a substantial part of the base...not sure I have a great suggestion for you :/

May 19, 2016
 

Amber

This looks so delicious! It's funny, just yesterday I was looking up how to make my own paneer and ordered a nut milk bag today on Amazon. I'm excited to try this recipe :)

HS: Hi Amber - this recipes makes roughly 2 cups of paneer? Something like that.

May 19, 2016
 

Did you know you could use the whey from your paneer to bind the dough for paratha? I always do that when I make paneer. Either parathas, roti or puri.

HS: Yes! It's a great idea. I also save it to add a bit to the soaking water for beans, and to add to dressings, and all sorts of other stuff.

May 19, 2016
 

Laura

Kathy - when I make palek paneer, I only put in 1-2 fist sized tomatoes. I think it would be fine to try adding maybe a carrot or two (not too much or it'll be too sweet) and just scaling back the spices for less volume.

May 19, 2016
 

johanna

this is amazing! it's great to know that i can make these mysteriously delicious indian/pakistani recipes on my own! question: i always thought Saag Paneer was the spinach and paneer dish. what is the difference between Palak and saag?
thanks

May 19, 2016
 

Richa

I've never seen dreamier palak paneer! The microgreens make a wonderful garnish and fried cashews add a nice rich note.

May 19, 2016
 

Hannah-Phoebe

Hi Heidi! This looks delicious - I can't remember what paneer taste/texture is like, could you imagine a tofu/tempeh/cashew cheese version of this? xx

HS: Hi! Yes! It would be a fantastic alternative :)

May 19, 2016
 

Did you know you could use the whey from your paneer to bind the dough for paratha? I always do that when I make paneer. Either parathas, roti or puri.

HS: Yes! I do that on occasion, use the whey in lemonade, as part of the soaking liquid w/ dried beans, etc. It's the good stuff!

May 19, 2016
 

Liz

Do you think you could sub out the cow milk for coconut or almond milk?

HS: Hi Liz - I think the best non-dairy option is doing to be crumbled tofu.

May 19, 2016
 

Yes to everything you say about this dish! This is going on my list to make soon.

Heidi, do you ever add salt to your paneer? I usually find my homemade version lacking a bit in flavor (as in it tastes flat) compared store-bought.

HS: Hi Katie - I sometimes season just after I've strained, but when the curds a quite loose...it depends on what I plan on doing with it. I tend to season differently depending on whether it will be a sweet or savoy use.

May 20, 2016
 

Anna

Hi Kathy,

Regarding the tomatoes you can just use water. When I make Indian food, the base is the onions. The longer you sweat these, the sweeter they are as they begin to carmelise. You then add dried spices and salt and cook for a minute or 2 (like a roux) and then add your veg/meat/fish/paneer/beans etc. and cook for a few mins and then the liquid - tomatoes, water, coconut milk, tamarind water etc. Obviously the taste won't be the same but I just exchange out ingredients as needed and change around the spices.

The best explanation I saw of this was chef Rick Stein when he visited India. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/programmes/b033rhzh His cookbook is also quite good.

May 20, 2016
 

This looks exactly like the kind of food I crave after a long day at work. Probably goes really well with naan.

Looks like making paneer is very similar to making ricotta. Is there a major difference there?

May 20, 2016
 

resa

I tried making the Paneer last night. The milk did not curdle to make the cheese at all. very very disappointing. I used fresh lemon juice and had to keep adding and adding and then thought why not some vinegar and added that and then i thought maybe i should boil the milk, and did that and then i let it sit and it did nothing. i was sad to throw out a whole quart of good milk and so i did not make the rest of the recipe. can you please explain why this paneer did not make it!!! your instructions are vague about the heating and the acid and the length of time and etc etc. thanks.

HS: Hi Resa! I'm so sorry to hear that - I'm re-reading the instructions, and it's the general process I've used many times. The one thing I'm noticing is the original recipe didn't note to use full fat milk. Or, at least that's what I always use. Updating the notes now....It should work! Hoping that I'm not missing something else, I've done it three times in the past week-ish, same process....Hope you give it another try.

May 20, 2016
 

I absolutely love palak paneer! T'was one of my favourite dishes when I was working in a Bombay Street Kitchen in town :) That was even before I became a vegetarian :) Your recipe here looks lovely, nice twist! x

May 20, 2016
 

Being from India, I have always enjoyed Palak Paneer. However, I much prefer 'Saag Paneer' which is usually made by substituting Mustard Greens for a third to half the Spinach, which gives it a much more robust and interesting flavor. However, Mustard Greens alone are overwhelming.

May 20, 2016
 

Helen

Kathy, I really think you could just make it without the tomatoes and see what happens. You might want to add some lemon or lime for some acidity, and possibly something for a slight sweetness. It will taste different, but bet it'll still be good. I've had palak paneer before where the tomato component has been minimal.

May 20, 2016
 

Mike G.

We love your blog and your recipes have fed our friends and family many times. Looking forward to trying this. I've never tried to make paneer. How do I know when the milk has curdled enough to strain?

HS: Hi Mike - You'll definitely see the clotting of the cheese and defined areas of whey - like, it will look like it is one or the other. Hope that makes sense.

May 21, 2016
 

LeslieB.

There are videos showing paneer making. Here's one that differs very slightly from Heidi's, but is helpful nonetheless.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X_PhvlA2ZOQ

May 22, 2016
 

Eadie

Resa, I wonder whether it may have been preservative in the brand of milk you used that prevented it going sour and curdling? Or some form of long-life treating as in the sort of milk that lives on the shelf. The process should be almost instant if the milk is warm enough (more than blood temp but less than simmering). Fresh untreated milk 'as it comes from a cow' is definitely more sensitive to going sour and curdling than modern store-bought, but that said I've never had a problem - and please don't throw sour milk out, it's great in baking, and will happily sub into many dishes. Think of all the recipes with sour cream, or asking for the tartness of yoghurt, and just adjust accordingly.

May 26, 2016
 

tessa

could i use just mustard seeds (not black mustard seeds)? thanks!

HS: Yes, absolutely!

May 27, 2016
 

Anne

Yesterday i made this, fantastic flavors and the paneer turned out great. I used UHT milk, and it curdled just fine!

May 28, 2016
 

Alex

This looks delicious and really healthy! I'll use fresh tomatoes when I make it. Thanks for posting!

May 30, 2016
 

Ashley

I made this for dinner last night. It was delicious even with my omission of black mustard seeds. Any tips for frying the paneer? Mine stuck to the pan, so I never got a nice golden crust. Thanks!

Hi Ashley - maybe a little extra fat in the pan, also when you put the paneer down in the pan, don't touch or move it until you sense a crust has developed. I find that helps :)

June 6, 2016
 

Amanda

Oh, Heidi, I just loved this! I made a whole batch just for myself, topped it with sprouts, and made a tofu "paneer." I also bought Studio Olifur Eliasson's book and can't wait to cook through it. Such a lovely recipe, and I'm so happy to be introduced to it through you.

HS: Thanks Amanda - enjoy the beautiful book! :)

June 8, 2016
 

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