Restaurant style Saag / Palak Paneer (spinach and cottage cheese)

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This simple and easy Palak Paneer recipe is a healthier take on the popular restaurant-style spinach and cottage cheese curry. Learn how to make it quickly using an Instant Pot or stovetop. 

Restaurant style Palak Paneer served in a blue bowl with naan and lemon on the side
Palak / Saag Paneer made in Instant Pot

If you have never had palak paneer before think of it is as a mildly-spicy, creamy curry made from spinach and cottage cheese. The silky texture makes it a popular dish to dunk your naans in. 

Most Indian restaurants in the US feature this vegetarian dish in their buffets but not everyone gets it right. Some will smother this curry with so much cream that you can barely taste any spinach/palak at all. 

That’s why you’ll love my recipe. This simple recipe earns extra credit for being creamy just like the ones you find in the restaurants but without any added cream. 

Are Palak paneer and Saag paneer the same dish?

Saag can mean any leafy green including spinach (palak), mustard greens, fenugreek, collard greens whereas palak is a Hindi word for spinach. 

Notes (tips/variations)

The recipe I have below is a simple one meant for home cooks making weekday dinner. If you have some time in your hands, try these different variations that will help you tailor the recipe to your desired taste and texture.

  1.  To make it bright green – Blanching helps retain the green color in the spinach. To blanch, add spinach along with a pinch of salt to boiling water. Cook for a couple of minutes or till the stem softens. Immediately transfer it to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Blanching causes nutrient loss that is why I prefer to cook the spinach and use the water to puree.
  2. Shallow fry Paneer – you could shallow fry the paneer/cottage cheese to make the paneer crispy from outside and soft from the inside. It also gives it a nice golden color. You can also use paneer as-is to give you that soft melt-in-the-mouth texture.
  3. Creamy vs Coarse texture – you could puree the spinach till it is smooth and silky or just coarsely grind it so that you get some texture. Personally, I like the one with some texture but the pureed version is definitely the popular one.
  4. Creamy palak paneer – Add cream when the palak paneer is cooked to make it extra creamy. 
  5. Saag paneer – Use spinach and mustard greens in a 1:1 ratio.
  6. Vegan palak paneer – replace the paneer with tofu. 

Serving suggestions

This Punjabi dish goes really well with homemade rotis and/or basmati rice. To make it an indulgent treat, serve it with garlic naan (check out my easy homemade naan recipe here). 

Can you use frozen spinach?

Though fresh spinach is preferred, you can use frozen spinach as well. No need to thaw just use it as is. 

Can you freeze saag paneer?

Yes, this dish freezes well in the refrigerator for a couple of months – just make sure it is completely cool before freezing. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.

An overhead shot of palak paneer served in a blue bowl
Instant Pot Palak Paneer

Looking for more Indian vegetarian recipes that you can make in your Instant Pot? Check out these popular ones from the blog – 

  1. Instant Pot Rajma masala – Use your pressure cooker or Instant Pot to make this quick & delicious Dhaba style Punjabi rajma masala. While you can serve it with rotis, the combination of rajma and chawal (rice) is what makes this dish truly special.
  2. Tadka dal – One pot recipes are the best! That’s why you’ll love this Tadka dal (tempered dal) recipe – make it in an Instant Pot or a pressure cooker – and you’ll have your meal ready in no time.
  3. Dal fry – This recipe for Dal Fry is very close to my heart because it comes from my mom’s kitchen. This is my humble attempt to recreate the hearty and lip-smacking dal my mom makes at home. 
  4. Chana masala – This vegan one-pot curry can be made in an Instant Pot as well as a stovetop Pressure cooker. Get all the deets on how to make this delicious curry at home!
  5. Paneer makhani – Learn how to make your favorite take-out curry –  Restaurant-style Paneer Butter Masala or Paneer Makhani at home in less than 40 minutes!



Got a new Instant Pot? Check out the links below to make the most of your pressure cooker -  
Palak paneer served in a blue bowl

Instant Pot Palak Paneer / Saag Paneer Recipe

5 from 2 votes
This simple and easy Palak Paneer (saag paneer) recipe is a healthier take on the popular restaurant-style spinach and cottage cheese curry. Learn how to make it quickly using an Instant Pot or stovetop. 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6
Diet : Vegetarian
Course : Entree
Method: Instant Pot, Stovetop
Cuisine : Indian

Ingredients
 
 

  • 10 oz chopped spinach/palak, ~5-6 cups
  • ½ cup water, Only for stovetop version
  • 350 grams or 12 oz paneer cut into cubes, [If frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight]
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 7-8 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 Indian bay leaves
  • 1.5 cups chopped onion
  • ¼ cup unsalted cashews
  • 1 Indian or Thai green chilies (Bird's eye), finely chopped, optional
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon, grated ginger
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, jeera powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander, dhania powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, optional

Instructions
 

Instant Pot Method

  • Add oil to the steel insert and press the Saute function. Press the Adjust button to move the selection to “low” and wait till the display reads “Hot.” 
  • [Optional Step] Shallow fry the paneer cubes till they turn golden brown. Fry them in batches if needed. Using a slotted spoon transfer the paneer aside on a plate.
  • Add bay leaf, black pepper, and cloves in the oil (remnants from frying paneer) and let it fry for around 30 seconds.
  • Add onions, along with ginger, garlic, green chilies, and cashews and fry them till they turn soft. 
  • Add salt, coriander, cumin, and chili powder along with tomatoes. Mix them well.
  • Add spinach and mix it well. Add a cup of water and pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Quickly release pressure when the cooking cycle is complete.
  • Remove and discard the bay leaves.
  • Use an immersion blender to puree the spinach mixture to a fine paste. If using a blender wait for the contents to cool down for at least 10 minutes.
  • Set the saute function in the Instant Pot to low.
  • Add garam masala and sugar and stir it in. 
  • Gently place the paneer in the gravy and spoon over the gravy on it. 
  • Let the palak paneer simmer in the Instant Pot for 5 minutes. 
  • Take it off the heat and serve hot with rotis or rice.

Video

Notes

Stovetop Method

  1. In a saucepan kept over medium heat, add a cup of water and once the water comes to a boil, add spinach and let it cook in it for 2 minutes or till the stems soften. Turn off the heat and set it aside. [I cook the spinach and don't blanch it. To blanch, read the notes section]. 
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok or a kadhai kept over medium heat. Shallow fry the paneer cubes till they turn golden brown. Fry them in batches if needed. Using a slotted spoon transfer the paneer to a plate. 
  3. In the same wok, add cloves, pepper, and bay leaves and fry them in the oil (remnants from frying paneer).
  4. Add onions, along with ginger, garlic, green chilies, and cashews and fry them till they turn soft. 
  5. Add tomatoes and fry them till they are soft. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down for 5-10 minutes. 
  6. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
  7. Transfer the onion-tomato mixture along with the spinach (and the water it was soaked in) into a blender. Blend it into a smooth puree.  
  8. Add the pureed mixture to the wok and set it over medium heat.  Add cumin, coriander, and chili powder and mix well. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add garam masala and sugar and stir it in. 
  9. Gently place the paneer in the gravy and spoon over the gravy on it. Simmer the gravy for 5-10 minutes. Take it off the heat and serve hot with rotis or rice.

Notes (tips/variations)
The recipe I have below is a simple one meant for home cooks making weekday dinner. If you have some time in your hands, try these different variations that will help you tailor the recipe to your desired taste and texture.
  1.  To make it bright green - Blanching helps retain the green color in the spinach. To blanch, add spinach along with a pinch of salt to boiling water. Cook for a couple of minutes or till the stem softens. Immediately transfer it to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Blanching causes nutrient loss that is why I prefer to cook the spinach and use the water to puree.
  2. Shallow fry Paneer - you could shallow fry the paneer/cottage cheese to make the paneer crispy from outside and soft from the inside. It also gives it a nice golden color. You can also use paneer as-is to give you that soft melt-in-the-mouth texture.
  3. Creamy vs Coarse texture - you could puree the spinach till it is smooth and silky or just coarsely grind it so that you get some texture. Personally, I like the one with some texture but the pureed version is definitely the popular one.
  4. Creamy palak paneer - Add cream when the palak paneer is cooked to make it extra creamy. 
  5. Saag paneer - Use spinach and mustard greens in a 1:1 ratio.
  6. Vegan palak paneer - replace the paneer with tofu. 

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Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Serving: 1bowlCalories: 212kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 10gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 344mgPotassium: 514mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 4658IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 126mgIron: 3mg

Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

Did you make this recipe?Take a photo and tag @simmertoslimmer on Instagram for a shoutout!
Keyword : easy, restaurant style, Saag, Simple

This post was first published on November 13, 2017, and has been updated with video and text on June 22, 2020. 

 

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious. So much better than the last saag paneer recipe I tried. I didn’t have any Indian bay leaves, so I omitted those. I subbed Serrano chilies because I couldn’t find the kind in the recipe. Lastly, I subbed a 3:1 ratio of smoked paprika:cayenne pepper for the Kashmiri chili powder which I also didn’t have.
    I doubled the recipe & used my instant pot. It’s a keeper. Thank you

  2. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness~! This was amazing…but so many steps. I appreciate this divine green gravy even more now! Will order out and only make for folks who truly appreciate Indian food.

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