Palak Paneer is the heart and soul of the Punjabi Cuisine. This age-old recipe is never going to get old. However, with time and innovations in cooking, the spinach curry with paneer has improved. This recipe mainly originated from north India and settled in different Indian states.
Not only in Indian states, but palak paneer is widely and wildly famous across the globe. Even people and home chefs of not Indian origin are making it. Now you know why I am telling it the heart and soul. I have made a small attempt to recreate the Punjabi style authentic palak paneer recipe today. I hope you will like it.
Now that we are talking about spinach based paneer curry recipe, there’s one more dish I would like to mention. It is the green paneer masala aka hariyali paneer masala. Here’s the difference between the two of them.
Is Palak Paneer & Hariyali Paneer Same?
Both the recipes are visually similar. Yes, they are identical due to the green masala curry. However, although they look identical, the cooking process and the ingredients differ more or less.
For instance, the spinach paneer has fresh coriander, but only 2-3 tbsp for the namesake. On the other hand, the hariyali paneer masala contains both spinach and coriander leaves in equal proportions. The next big thing is the onion and tomato. The latter one includes both onion and tomatoes, whereas the other one has none of them.
Last but not least are cashews, curd and heavy cream, and gram flour. These items give the spinach paneer a smooth, silky, and delicious taste. On the contrary, hariyali paneer masala has a thick gravy without cream or cashews.
The bottom line is both the recipes are visually striking but different when it comes to ingredients. Now that we are getting started to know about palak paneer, let’s begin with the basics. Here you are.
What is Blanching & Why You Should Blanch the Spinach?
Before we understand the importance of blanching spinach, it’s necessary to know what is blanching. Therefore, here it is. Blanching is a process wherein vegetables are scalded in boiling water for a very short time. I mean blanching for 10 to 20 seconds only by the short time. Therefore, when you are blanching the spinach, the timing is critical.
If you keep the spinach in hot water for a couple of minutes, it will boil and become soft. However, we don’t want this to happen. So, on the other hand, blanching is typically followed by cooling blanched spinach in chilled water.
The reason why we blanch is scientific. Blanching stops enzyme actions when spinach leaves are dipped in hot water. On the contrary, if you boil them for a longer time, there will be a loss of flavour, colour and texture. Therefore, we will blanch spinach instead of boiling it.
Palak Paneer Variations
Okay, now, let’s talk about three delicious variations that you can make using this recipe. Here you go.
Lehsuni Palak Paneer
The first variation is the garlic flavoured spinach and Indian cottage cheese curry. The word lehsuni here means garlic taste. In other words, the base of the lehsuni palak paneer has a potent garlic flavour. Not only this, but also the tadka contains garlic. Usually, while making paneer dishes, we add ginger-garlic paste, but garlic is a little more here than ginger.
Hence, that was our first variant. Now let’s see the next one.
Palak Paneer Double Tadka
I love double tadka recipes. Period.😁 Let me tell you that it is not as complex as it sounds. There are two instances of tempering in the entire recipe. First, the usual tempering is to saute whole spice and masala powders. Then the second tadka is the additional one poured over the final dish once it is ready.
I have done this in several recipes, including Punjabi and Gujarati recipes.
Mushroom Palak Paneer
There are two thoughts regarding the mushroom palak paneer. You can add mushrooms and paneer to the palak curry, which is one way of cooking. Another method is to substitute paneer with mushroom and make mushroom palak curry. All in all, both of them work fine, provided you like mushrooms.😁
So these are the three variants. If you attempt to make any of them, let me know in the comment section.
Palak Paneer Extra Shots
We are attempting to make traditional Punjabi style palak paneer. Therefore, here are some helpful tips for you.
Use fresh and green spinach leaves. Moreover, only blanch and not super boil them. Additionally, cool down the blanched spinach in chilled water. Finally, do not skip mint leaves, ginger, green chilli and coriander leaves. They add their unique flavour and aroma to the puree.
Blend cashews with a bit of water to make a thick paste. You can swap peeled and soaked almonds with cashews. The only thing you need to take care of is that the paste must be thick but liquid. In other words, there must not be large chunks of cashews in the paste. It will help cook faster.
I have used beaten curd, and it is advisable to do so. If you don’t beat it, large chunks of curd will be visible in the gravy. Moreover, it will take longer for the large pieces to mix and match in the gravy. Hence, beat it.
Gram Flour aka Besan
I have used gram flour for a specific reason. The spinach puree, curd and cashew paste will leave the water once they start cooking. As a result, the curry will be watery instead of smooth and silky. The gram flour acts as a soaking agent. It will soak excess water and make a besan paste in the curry. This way, you will get a thick curry base.
Cook Until Ghee Separates
One must thoroughly cook the masala, whole spices, spinach puree and other ingredients. The parameter is until the ghee separates. The separation of ghee tells that every single item is cooked correctly. Hence, do not hurry up while cooking the spinach gravy.
Palak Paneer FAQs
Can I replace cooking oil with coconut oil?
You can, but I suggest not doing it unless you are familiar with the taste of coconut oil recipes. If you are using coconut oil in daily cooking, then go ahead. But if you are not, keep in mind that your final dish will have a strong taste and aroma of coconut oil. Besides, others might not even like it because coconut oil is not a common ingredient in this recipe.
Can I use mustard oil to make a palak paneer?
The suggestion to replace mustard oil is similar to using coconut oil. The mustard oil has a strong taste and aroma. Additionally, it is an odd ingredient in the palak paneer recipe. Hence, if you are using it, be careful with the quantity.
Is palak paneer suitable for children?
Palak paneer is very good for children, just like other paneer dishes. It contains spinach & paneer packed with vital nutrients. But if you are dieting or counting daily calorie intake, you need to rethink it. On the other hand, it contains too many spices. Now, this could quickly destroy your diet goals. All in all, if you like palak paneer, then go for it.
How to make restaurant-style palak paneer?
The recipe above is precisely the restaurant-style palak paneer recipe. Let me summarise it for you. Blanch spinach and cook the masala spinach mixture until ghee separates. Add water and cream to adjust the consistency. Your restaurant-style palak paneer is ready. Read this post or watch the recipe video to get desired taste and texture.
What is the difference between palak paneer & saag paneer?
The core difference between palak paneer & saag paneer is the main ingredient. For instance, palak paneer is made using spinach, a leafy vegetable. On the contrary, saag paneer is made using a variety of leafy veggies. They are mustard greens, collard greens, or even kale and spinach.
How to remove bitterness from palak paneer?
To remove the bitterness, cook the spinach puree until the water in it evaporates. Doing this will make the puree dry. Further, when you add heavy cream, the bitterness will go away.
How long can I store palak paneer?
Your spinach curry can stay up to 2 days in the refrigerator. For this, you will need a food-grade airtight container. By doing this, you can reuse the spinach gravy to make other varieties. Besides, storing it is not something I would suggest. I believe in making fresh and serving hot.
How to maintain the green spinach colour?
It’s tough to maintain the green spinach colour under intense heat. I heard a celebrity chef saying not to worry about retaining the green colour of the spinach. You won’t get the exact green colour because it will become dark when cooked. Blanching spinach will help maintain the natural colour to a significant extent.
How long does palak take to cook?
Alone, spinach leaves take only 2-3 minutes to cook. But if there are other ingredients, it will take a little longer to cook. Keep the heat medium-low so that spinach doesn’t burn or become dark in colour.
Why did my spinach turn dark when cooked?
To explain why spinach turns dark includes basic science. For instance, the chlorophyll in spinach breaks down in the heat. As a result, the natural bright green colour shifts to a darker olive tone. It is an inevitable process hence do not bother about it if your spinach turns olive in colour.
What do you call it in English?
Palak means Spinach, and Paneer is the Indian cottage cheese. So when you simmer Indian cottage cheese in a smooth, spicy and delicious spinach sauce, you get palak paneer.
Is this Jain palak paneer?
No, it is not. We have ginger and garlic as flavouring ingredients. Surprisingly, we still haven’t used onions in this recipe; we have ginger & garlic. Hence this recipe is not the Jain version.
How to make jain palak paneer?
To make Jain palak paneer, you will have to eliminate both ginger & garlic from the above recipe. But, let me tell you something. Even without ginger and garlic, this dish will taste and look as good.
What is the vegan substitute for paneer?
Tofu is an excellent vegan substitute for paneer, aka Indian cottage cheese. However, it must be firm to be used as an alternative. You get homemade tofu when you curdle boiled soya milk using lemon juice or white vinegar. It is similar to making homemade paneer from dairy milk. For more alternatives to dairy items, follow the link.
Can I make this dish in advance & serve it later?
Yes, you make this dish beforehand and serve it later. However, there’s a minor tweak here. Make the spinach curry in advance, and then add fried paneer to it before serving. This way, your paneer pieces will remain firm.