Here's a delicious palak paneer recipe that's easy to make at home and healthier than take-out. Fresh paneer is pan-seared to golden perfection, then folded into a creamy spinach curry. Serve it with rice or naan for a flavorful meal that's ready in just 40 minutes!
Complete this flavorful dinner with a side of fluffy basmati rice and golden roasted turmeric cauliflower.
Restaurant-Style Palak Paneer
Palak paneer is one of our favorite Indian takeout dishes, so the first time we made it, we felt a bit intimidated to give it a go at home. We've now been making and perfecting this spinach curry recipe for years as it has become our go-to easy comfort food dinner. We love that it's delicious and easy to make with only fresh ingredients (and tons of spinach) so it's healthier, too!
Fresh spinach, tomatoes, aromatics, herbs, and spices make the base of this delicious Indian dish. We use whipping cream to add creaminess to the gravy and top it with pan-seared paneer.
If this is your first time cooking with paneer, you'll find it's surprisingly easy to work with. Browning it in the pan gives it great texture and makes it more flavorful.
Serve this easy stove-top dinner with naan and basmati rice for an irresistible authentic-tasting meal!
What is paneer?
Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese made by curdling milk using heat and a vegetable acid like lemon juice. It's a fresh cheese so it's meant to be eaten right away (no aging or culturing required). It's somewhat firm and tastes milky but on its own is somewhat bland.
Paneer is so much better after a quick sear in a hot pan! It transforms from being almost tofu-like to being flavorful and rich. Unlike most other cheese, paneer will soften in heat only slightly and instead develops a delicious cheesy ‘crust' when seared. If you've ever had fried halloumi, it tastes similar.
Palak paneer vs saag paneer
For a long time, we assumed ‘palak' and ‘saag' were terms that were used interchangeably for the delicious green curry we've come to love. After doing some research, we learned that ‘palak' actually means ‘spinach', whereas ‘saag' means ‘any greens' and is generally a combination of spinach and mustard greens (and sometimes kale). Since this recipe only uses spinach, we've called it palak paneer.
How to make palak paneer
It's easy to make palak paneer in a few simple steps:
- Start by warming some oil in a skillet or pot and adding the onion, followed by the ginger, and garlic. If it starts to look dry, add a bit more oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, mashing them as they cook. Your kitchen will smell amazing at this point! Now add the spices and stir, followed by the spinach. You may need to add the spinach in a couple of batches, allowing the first batch to wilt then adding a little more.
- Once the spinach has wilted, transfer everything to your blender, add the cream, and blend on high until mostly smooth.
- Now brown the paneer by heating a bit of oil in a non-stick pan and cooking the paneer cubes until browned on both sides.
- Pour the curry sauce back into the skillet, mix in the paneer, and gently reheat it.
Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.
Palak paneer ingredients
The list of ingredients might look a little long, but putting the curry together is super simple. Here's everything you'll need to make palak paneer:
- Cooking oil – choose a neutral cooking oil like avocado, olive, or refined coconut oil. Ghee also works great if you happen to have some.
- Onion, ginger, and garlic – these aromatics are an Indian curry staple and lend lots of flavor to the base of the gravy.
- Tomatoes – a palak paneer without tomatoes tends to taste overly grassy. They really help bring this dish together.
- Spices – garam masala, cumin, and turmeric add lots of wonderful curry taste.
- Sea salt – to taste, to enhance all the flavors.
- Spinach – a very generous amount of fresh spinach leaves goes into making palak paneer. It's always surprising how much it wilts down during the cooking process.
- Whipping cream – we use whipping cream for an extra creamy taste.
- Paneer – this fresh Indian cheese is the perfect compliment to this flavorful curry.
How to make dairy-free palak paneer
It's surprisingly easy to make a dairy-free riff on palak paneer. To make this recipe dairy-free (and vegan!)
Spinach Curry: FAQS
This recipe uses only real, whole-food ingredients. So in our books, yes, it's healthy!
Curry is one of those dishes that often tastes better the next day. Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
If you're preparing ahead of time, make the gravy the day before. Right before serving, pan-sear the paneer and warm up the gravy before mixing them together. This ensures everything tastes really fresh.
In a pinch! You'll want to use 10-12 ounces of frozen spinach. Make sure to thaw it first and squeeze most of the liquid from it before adding it to the curry.
What to serve with palak paneer
Palak paneer is a delicious complete meal on its own when served with rice, cauliflower rice, naan, paratha, or roti.
When serving a crowd, make a couple of curries and serve them family-style, as you'd order at an Indian restaurant. This palak paneer recipe pairs well with other vegetarian curries like cauliflower curry with chickpeas and peas, chickpea, tofu, and eggplant curry, or creamy coconut lentil curry.
We also like to serve it with Indian-inspired vegetable sides like golden roasted turmeric cauliflower, easy roasted Indian cauliflower, or curry grilled carrots with yogurt sauce.
Delicious paneer recipes
Easy Palak Paneer
If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped
- ¼ cup minced ginger
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of your knife
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
- 10 ounces spinach
- ½ cup whipping cream, see notes
- 1 lb paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it starts to brown, about 6-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium heat and add the ginger and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. If the pan starts to look dry, add a little more oil. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, mashing them a little as they cook.1 large onion, ¼ cup minced ginger, 6 cloves garlic, 2 medium tomatoes
- Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and salt to the pan and stir for about 1 minute. Add the spinach, working in 2 batches, if needed. Let the first batch wilt a little and then add more.1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 10 ounces spinach
- Once the spinach has wilted, transfer the spinach mixture to your blender, add the cream, and blend on high until mostly smooth.½ cup whipping cream
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the cubes of paneer and cook until they're brown on both sides, about 5 minutes.1 lb paneer
- Pour the spinach puree from the blender back into the skillet, mix in the paneer, and gently reheat it.
Delish! I love how you also list the amount of each ingredient in each step again. So helpful!
I am allergic to nuts of any kind, legumes and lentils. Do you have any recommendations for substitutions? I love Palak Paneer and would like to try your recipe.
You’ll be able to make this recipe as written. Just make sure to use the regular dairy cream option rather than the cashew cream. 🙂
I truly appreciate the simplicity of this dish. It came together quickly and was very good. 2 teaspoons of salt was WAY too much, as others have said. I love salt and have a tendency to be heavy handed. I used 1 1/2- 1 3/4 and it was definitely too salty. I would start with 1 teaspoon and will make it this way myself in the future. Thanks!!
I’ll make a note of that in the recipe. Some salt is saltier than others. I usually use Himalayan pink salt. 🙂
So What’s the note for making the cashew cream. You said cashews and water but how much of each or do I just adjust things till I get a creamy texture?
Sorry I missed that note! It’s in there now. 🙂
Is there any substituforvpaneer? I dont have it in my store
I’ve used medium tofu many times. It’s not an exact match, but it is really good. Another option would be halloumi. It wouldn’t be as soft but it would have a more similar flavor. I hope that helps!
I have found Paneer in my local Hispanic grocery store (Rancho Market)
This was tasty, but a little too thick, and too salty. I’m wondering if I used the right amount/kind of cream? And I used coarse sea salt. I’ll definitely try again, but planning to add more cream and less salt next time. Thanks for sharing!
Salt can vary in flavor and strength quite dramatically. If you have some extra salty salt it’s best to reduce the amount next time. 🙂
Is that really ¼ cup of ginger? Just checking!
I often let the paneer cooked enough, not until brown so I’m really wondering about the difference between our ways.
– Natalie Ellis
I really like the flavor of browned paneer. It makes it taste a lot like fried halloumi!
This was so good! I’ve made your lentil curry before and wanted to try something new. It did not dissapoint. Thank you!
I’m happy you’re enjoying the recipes here! Hooray!!
My daughter and I love this recipe. It tastes great and is so easy to make. It is now a staple when I am cooking Indian food. Love it!
I’m so happy you like the recipe! It’s one of my daughter’s fav Indian recipes, too. Our girls have good taste!
Thank you. Great recipe! It*s as good as any I’ve bought and quick and easy to make. I used a packet of frozen spinach the first time and am about to try with fresh now
I’m so happy you liked it! Hooray!!
What is paneer and where do you buy it?
Paneer is a firm, Indian cheese. It’s similar in texture (but not taste) to extra firm tofu. It also comes in tofu-like packages. Where I shop, it’s usually sold with the rest of the cheeses. If you have trouble finding it, halloumi cheese or tofu would both make good substitutes.
Thank you SO much! I cannot wait to try this recipe.
You’re so welcome!! 🙂