Palak paneer (Indian cheese simmered in curried spinach sauce) has always been one of those dishes that I want to love. I mean, I love cheese. I love curry. And spinach. But all the restaurant paneer I had ever had was bland and slightly rubbery. But a few weeks ago, I began experimenting with homemade paneer and it changed my life. Well, okay, mayyyybe I’m exaggerating, but it definitely changed how I feel about paneer. Easy to make, homemade paneer is rich and creamy, with a hint of lemony and salty flavor. Cooked into a bright green curried spinach sauce, it becomes tender and, although it seems impossible, even more creamy.
Once you’ve made the paneer, Palak Paneer is a breeze to whip up. The spinach is quickly blanched and then pureed with chile, garlic, and ginger. The puree is then added to sauteed onions and spices and cooked into a thick, spicy sauce enriched with coconut milk (cream is traditional, but I like the added coconut flavor.) The cheese is then simmered in the sauce until it is warmed through and tender.
Serve this saucy dish with lots of warm naan or over steamed basmati rice so you and your guests can enjoy every delicious drop.Print
Palak Paneer is a vegetarian Indian dish that combines fresh farmer’s-type cheese with a spicy spinach curry sauce. The sauce is usually enriched with cream, but here I’ve used coconut milk instead, which I think adds a nice extra layer of flavor, but you could certainly replace it with cream if you like. In a traditional recipe, the onions and garlic would likely be sauteed in butter or ghee, but I used coconut oil here instead. You could also use any type of vegetable oil like grapeseed or sunflower seed oil. If you want less of a kick, remove and discard the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno before adding it.
For the spinach puree
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach
- 1 jalapeno or Serrano chile, stemmed, seeds removed if desired
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
For the curry
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ cup canned diced tomatoes (or 1 large fresh tomato, diced)
- 1 recipe paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 to 4 tablespoons coconut milk
- Fill a medium mixing bowl with water and ice to make an ice bath for the spinach.
- Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the spinach leaves and remove from the heat. Let sit for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the leaves are wilted but are still bright green. Drain in a colander and transfer to the ice water bath. Let sit until the spinach is completely cooled. Drain.
- While the spinach is cooling, chop the chile, garlic, and ginger in a food processor. Once the spinach is cool, drain it and then squeeze it gently with your hands to remove any excess liquid. Add the spinach to the food processor and process to a smooth puree.
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add the cumin, garam masala, salt, and turmeric and stir for 15 to 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes along with the spinach puree and about ½ cup of water. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 5 minutes, until it has thickened. Stir in the paneer and cook for about 2 minutes, until the paneer is heated through and softened. Stir in the coconut milk. Serve hot, with rice or naan.