Pearlescent white cubes floating in an emerald sea, the appearance of palak paneer is like nothing else. Sometimes the green might be a more muted, or even downright swampy hue, but somehow it still shines all the same. Instantly recognizable in any shade, it’s a dish to win over the fickle hearts of vegetable-haters, packing in a mega dose of dark leafy greens almost by accident. It manages to taste amazing in spite of AND because of the massive quantity of spinach involved.
Hailing from one of the most fertile regions on Earth, it’s not a stretch to imagine farmers throwing pounds of spinach into a pot, trying to wilt down the harvest into a more manageable output. Consider it the Punjabi version of creamed spinach, rich with sauteed onions and coconut milk. Vibrantly spiced without becoming overly spicy in terms of scoville units, you can smell it simmering on the stove from a mile away.
Naturally vegetarian, the protein at the heart of this dish is sometimes described as Indian cottage cheese, but that’s only a fitting description of paneer’s flavor. Mild, soft yet spongy and sliceable, the similarities it shares with tofu are unmistakable. While I’ve successfully swapped the two in the past with minimal adaptation, there’s always room for improvement.
That’s where Sugimoto shiitake powder comes in, building incremental umami flavor to enhance the cheesy notes of the nutritional yeast, creating a more impactful savory taste that could rival that of curdled dairy. The magic is in that marinade, disarmingly simple and undeniably savory.
How much spinach does it take to make palak paneer?
If you’ve ever cooked fresh spinach, you already know it takes a truckload to yield a single forkful once it touches the heat. That’s why I typically like to start with frozen spinach in this recipe, which only needs to be drained of excess liquid before it’s ready to use. Otherwise, here are some basic guidelines for spinach usage:
- 1 Pound Fresh Spinach = 10 Ounces Frozen Spinach
- 1 Pound Fresh Spinach = About 10 Cups
- 1 Pound Fresh, Steamed Spinach / 10 Ounces Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Drained = 1 1/2 Cups
That means for this recipe, you’ll want to start with a little over 19 ounces (let’s round it to 20 to be safe,) or about 20 cups in volume. That said, there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to spinach here. Feel free to add more if you have it.
What’s the difference between palak paneer and saag paneer?
All palak is saag, but not all saag is palak. “Palak” means spinach in Hindi, whereas “saag” can refer to any sort of leafy greens. Saag might include one or many of the following:
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Bok choy
- Beet greens
- Turnip greens
- And yes, spinach!
To brown or not to brown?
Once marinated, the tofu paneer can be enjoyed as is, without further cooking. In fact, I like keeping mine in the fridge until just before serving for a cooling contrast to the hot spinach curry. It’s just as enjoyable with a gentle sear on the outsides, crisping and caramelizing the edges for more textural contrast instead. You can pan fry or air fry the cubes very briefly using high heat without adding more oil.
How can you serve palak paneer?
Enjoy palak paneer, hot with basmati rice, roti, naan, or chapati. On particularly sweltering summer days, though, I happen to think this is a great dish to enjoy cold, straight out of the fridge. Like all curries, the complex blend of spices continues to develop, blend, and bloom over time. Leftovers are unlikely for this recipe though, so you may want to preemptively double it. There’s no such thing as too much spinach when you have such a crave-worthy formula for palak paneer in your recipe arsenal.
Vibrantly spiced spinach curry makes it easy to eat your greens. High protein tofu takes the place of dairy-based paneer in this completely vegan version.
- 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
- 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon White Miso Paste
- 1 Teaspoon Shiitake Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 (16-Ounce) Package Super-Firm (AKA High Protein) Tofu
- 1/2 - 1 Cup Vegetable Stock
- 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
- 1 Yellow Onion, Diced
- 1 Inch Fresh Ginger, Minced
- 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 Serrano Pepper, Seeded and Minced
- 2 Teaspoons Whole Cumin Seeds
- 2 Teaspoons Garam Masala
- 2 Teaspoons Ground Coriander
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Fenugreek
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
- 3/4 - 1 Cup Full-Fat Coconut Milk
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
- 1 Pound Frozen Spinach, Thawed
- 1 - 2 Scallions, Thinly Sliced (Optional)
- To make the tofu paneer, mix the nutritional yeast, vinegar, oil, miso, shiitake powder, onion powder, and salt in a large bowl or food storage container until it forms a smooth paste. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes before adding them into the mixture. Top off the container with enough vegetable broth to cover all the tofu. Stir gently to combine. Let marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 24 hours in the fridge.
- Meanwhile, for the spinach curry, melt the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and Serrano pepper, sauteing for 5 - 8 minutes until softened and aromatic. Add the cumin seeds and cook for another minute. Add the garam masala, coriander, fenugreek, and turmeric, stirring constantly for 30 seconds, until incorporated and aromatic.
- Deglaze the pan with 3/4 cup of coconut milk and season with salt. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender and add the lemon juice and spinach. Blend or pulse for 30 - 60 seconds; you want the sauce to retain a slightly coarse consistency, not completely pureed. Add another 1/4 cup of coconut milk if you'd like a thinner sauce or are having trouble getting everything incorporated in the blender.
- Return the spinach sauce to the stove and cook for another 3 - 5 minutes, until hot all the way through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the tofu from the marinade and add it directly into the sauce. Discard or reserve the excess marinade for another recipe (such as using it to cook rice in later.)
- Alternately, if you'd like paneer with crispy edges, air fry the tofu at 400 degrees for 5 - 10 minutes, or bake in a conventional oven at 425 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes.
- Top with scallions, if desired, and serve hot!
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 331Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 768mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 7gSugar: 3gProtein: 10g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.
4 thoughts on “Perfect Palak Paneer”
Isn’t it amazing how much spinach cooks down! Love this nutritious and balanced meal for the change of seasons.
Oh my, I am drooling and can’t wait to try this. Love the amount of spinach, thanks!
I love paneers but never cooked it this way, my usual go to is butter masala
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