A Really Good Saag Paneer

A Really Good Saag Paneer

This is a saag paneer that uses a truckload of spinach, gets tang from buttermilk and a finishing squeeze of fresh lemon, magic from a host of spices, and a bit of heat from ginger and chile flakes. I bring on a bit of crunch and contrasting texture where ever I can - paneer, toasted sesame seeds, and add a touch of decadence with a splash of cream (you can use yogurt, buttermilk, or cashew cream if you like).
A Really Good Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer Inspiration

A bit of context. We make saag paneer at home all the time. I'm talking once a week or every ten days. Wayne started it, years ago, when he cooked Merrill's saag paneer one night, and from there it became a regular thing. The recipe has evolved and meandered quite a bit, so I thought I'd share the version I've settled into with you. I try to make it exactly the way I want to eat it, because, at some point, personal preference trumps everything else. Even when you're dealing with a classic preparation. I also featured another, different, streamlined version in Near & Far (also great!) a few years after this.

To that end, for this take on saag paneer, I cook the paneer cubes until they aren't just golden, they need to go well beyond that. I like them crispy cornered, and outright crusty. Beyond that, I chop the mountain of spinach you need here into flecks the size of big confetti. This assures no slurpy, sloppy, un-chewable greens. And I (almost) always use fresh spinach, but you can do a (more traditional) blend of mustard greens, chard, etc. if you like!
A Really Good Saag Paneer

It is the sort of thing that is even better the day after - spread on thin crackers, or inside this sort of quesadilla. You make your own spice blend here, but you can certainly experiment with your own or a good store-bought blend.

A Really Good Saag Paneer

4.08 from 40 votes

A bunch of head notes here, apologies. This recipe calls for an incredible amount of spinach. Just know, it cooks down dramatically. I call for baby spinach, because it saves me having to trim a lot of unruly stems from bundles of spinach. Feel free to use any fresh spinach, but make sure it isn't overly stem-y. On the cheese front, Halloumi is a solid substitute for paneer, and here's a link if you want to make paneer at home. And if you like a higher cheese to spinach ratio, cook up 12 ounces of paneer. If I have canned crushed or whole tomatoes that need to be used up, I throw some of those in too (chopped/drained) - good. And if you have kale you need to use, trade chopped kale for some of the spinach if you like.

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh (baby) spinach, well washed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter, or unsalted butter
  • 8 - 12 oz paneer cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon spice mixture* (see below)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • splash of cream or dollop of plain yogurt (optional)
  • fresh lemon to finish, and toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle
  1. Chop the spinach well, and set aside in a large bowl.
  2. While you're chopping spinach, cook the paneer in one tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure the paneer is in a single layer and use a spatula to flip it regularly so all sides get deeply brown. This typically takes 7 minutes or so. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Heat the other tablespoon of butter in your largest soup pot. Add the onions and salt, and saute until the onions soften up, five minutes or so. Add the garlic, ginger, spice mixture, and turmeric. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and nicely combined - a minute or two.
  4. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the spinach to the pan all at once, if possible. Cook, stirring all the while, until the spinach is collapsed and wilted, a couple of minutes. If you need to add the spinach in batches (adding more spinach as it collapses), that is fine too, just do it as quickly as possible.
  5. Stir in the buttermilk and cream and heat gently while stirring. If the mixture seems dry, add more buttermilk a splash at a time (this rarely happens to me). Taste and add more salt if necessary and more red pepper flakes if you like. Add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, stir in the paneer, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

*Spice Mixture: Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to grind the following spices as finely as possible: 2 tablespoons cumin seed, 1 tablespoons coriander seed, 2 teaspoons mustard seed, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom seeds, 3 whole cloves. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.

Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
30 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Apologies, comments are closed.


  • This meal looks outstanding! You've taken a dish that appears to be a difficult one to make, and made it simple to follow. I'll definitely try it...thanks!

    Sarah @ Fresh Living
  • Oh this would be so good! I have to see what cheese I can find.

    Michelle @ Find Your Balance
  • Always looking for a way to include spinach into my diet. thank you. Going to be hard to find that cheese in Miss - but I guess that means a trip to Fresh Foods! yay!

  • Looks simply divine!

    Denise | Chez Danisse
  • Making this is in my near future...might be my most adventurous dish yet. !

  • Heidi, Saag Paneer is actually made using a)mustard leaves alone or b)a combination of mustard+spinach(for those who can't take the bitterness of mustard) with Paneer.It's a punjabi dish that goes with hand-ground corn rotis. The recipes you see online only list Spinach as the main ingredient whereas it's mostly not.

  • saag paneer is one of my most beloved foods, and i make it often, but not often enough to have landed on a standing favorite. love the idea of buttermilk here, and amen to the caramelized paneer, which we do.

  • Wonderful! I followed Gluten free girl's recipe and even made my own paneer which was increadibly easy and inexpensive. I have mounds of kale I am so glad you reccomended using kale as a subsitute for spinach, I look forward to trying your variation.

  • This sounds fantastic! Can't believe it comes together so quickly.

  • This is one of my favourite Indian dishes.

    Samantha Angela
  • If I'm not up to making my own paneer, where do you get it? A good cheese shop? Any good alternatives that are easy to find? Thanks! The recipe looks amazing.

  • wow!! it looks so good!! I want to try this!

  • Saag paneer/palak paneer or spinach in Hindi is known as "Palak" ..looks delicious..ghee and cream do adds to the richness of the gravy.Although addition of buttermilk is new to me, but sure it will add up to the flavour..thanks for sharing..

  • So timely- last week I trawled the internet searching for a yummy saag paneer recipe and voila you deliver a week later. Can't wait to try it.

  • H.E.I.D.I. My world has been rocked to see this post. I'm SUCH a saag paneer lovah, and I love your take on it. I'm on it! Woo hoo! Sorry for the excitement.

    Bev Weidner
  • Tinks- thanks for the suggestion. For those interested who want to avoid the buttermilk, here's what I found: Put 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup. Add in soy milk to equal 1 cup. Stir and let stand for 10 minutes. Rice milk does not work as well because of the lower protein content. I can't wait to try this.

  • ah, I love paneer and have been wanting to learn how to make it! thank you!

    Simply Life
  • Beautiful recipe, I never quite new what went into saag paneer; or how much spinach it had! Looking forward to making a pot of it soon!

    Amy (CookingScraps)
  • Im just wondering if there is a spice mixture that would be suitable as a replacement? Garam Marsala perhaps??

  • I wonder if a dollop of coconut milk from the can would be a good substitute for the splash of cream/yogurt at the end.

  • Comments are closed.

    Apologies, comments are closed.

    More Recipes

    Popular Ingredients