Homemade Healthy Palak Paneer

Homemade Healthy Palak Paneer - Pinch of Yum

Today I’m telling you about my most craved all-time favorite Indian dish.

Palak: spinach. Paneer: cheese.

It’s coincidentally also the ugly duckling of all food that ever existed. Niiice.

Please, I beg you, I PLEAD with all my food-loving heart. Do not leave based on first impressions or on looks. I know it’s easy to judge that greeny-mushy part, but I’m telling you right now: this dish has the power to change your life, making you a creamy spinach lover and a paneer seeker and an all-around Indian food lover. Plus it will decrease your monthly Indian food takeout bills. Just me? Alright then.

The night that I made this, Bjork just happened to be hanging out in the kitchen with me, which is kind of a big deal. I don’t know what your men do while you cook (or maybe they cook? or maybe you are a man? hi.) but mine is rarely in that hot little kitchen with me. More like on the couch with an iPhone in one hand and a laptop in the other and a Mountain Dew dangerously close to both. Love you babe.

Palak Paneer - Pinch of Yum

So this was a special dual-cooking night, except instead of cooking, he photographed. We had a heck of a good time. I’m referring to the heck of a good time that starts with cutesy smiles and high hopes, continues with a few snappy remarks about someone being in the cook’s way and a large photography light falling into a pan of spinach, and ending with a big plate of our all-time favorite dish.

All’s well that ends well.

So while I don’t often do the step-by-step thing, I want to do it today to help you ease into the making and eating of the spicy green Indian food. And to give justice to this recipe that I’ve always, always wanted to make on my own. If I can do it, I pinky promise you can too.

Saute your aromatics.

That sounds fancy; it’s not. It’s onions, garlic, a spicy pepper, some canned tomatoes, and a palmful of spices getting all juicy and smell-goody.

Homemade Healthy Palak Paneer - Pinch of Yum

Wilt the spinach.

I have a weird aversion to frozen spinach, so for this I used half frozen and half fresh. But the first time I used it I bit the bullet and used all frozen. You can use any kind, in my opinion. Just toss it in and let it get soft, and if you have a little cilantro that can join the gang, all the better.

Homemade Healthy Palak Paneer - Pinch of YumPulse.

Notice I did not say blend and I definitely did not say puree until smooth like silk. Gross. It’s a personal preference thing, but the restaurant that has fostered my love of palak paneer serves a version that has a very textured spinach gravy, so that’s what I love and that’s how I make it. It doesn’t have to be chunky, but leave some yummy veggie flecks to keep things interesting.

Homemade Healthy Palak Paneer - Pinch of YumAdd the paneer (cheese) and simmer.

Chop, stir, and let it all get tasty together for a while. Go put your feet up and let your neighbors wonder what the heck you’re cooking for dinner because I promise you – it smells like spicy heaven.

One thing I want to tell you: paneer is delicious and you should try it, but if you don’t frequent a grocery store that sells paneer, use firm tofu instead. The texture is really really similar and that’s what I’m using here. I like to think of it as the suburbanite’s paneer.

Homemade Healthy Palak Paneer - Pinch of Yum

No more steps, cause now it’s time to eat.

Get your hungry self some naan, some basmati rice, and a big ol’ fork. You just made palak paneer that is not only homemade, but totally healthy. Well, I mean, there are big pieces of cheese that make up about half of the dish, but you know what I mean. That other kind of healthy.

Homemade Healthy Palak Paneer - Pinch of Yum

4.9 from 14 reviews
Homemade Healthy Palak Paneer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 chili pepper, minced (I used a serrano pepper and left the ribs and seeds in for medium spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger (I had a ginger paste)
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 14 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes with garlic, drained
  • 1 17 ounce bag frozen spinach
  • 1 small bunch cilantro (optional, to taste)
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces cubed paneer
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the onion and chili pepper until soft. Push the onion and chiil pepper to the side of the pan and add the cumin seeds. Stir the cumin seeds around in the middle for about a minute so they can crackle and pop and little bit on their own.
  2. Add the garam masala, ground coriander, bay leaves, fresh ginger, and minced garlic. Saute everything together for 2-3 minutes to bring out the flavors. Add the fire roasted tomatoes and saute until everything is well mixed and the flavors are blending together, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Thaw the spinach in a large bowl in the microwave. Press all the excess liquid out. Add the spinach and fresh cilantro to the skillet. Saute for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Remove the bay leaves. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until you get the desired consistency (smooth, but not pureed). Return the mixture to the skillet, and stir in the yogurt and water. Add the salt and paneer; cover and simmer for 10 minutes to help the flavors continue to develop.
  5. Serve with basmati rice and naan.
Traditionally (and deliciously) palak paneer is made with cream instead of yogurt. In this recipe, I swapped the cream for yogurt to try to keep things on the lighter side.

The nutrition information below is for ⅙th of this recipe and does not include rice or naan.

nutrition palak paneer

More from Pinch of Yum


  1. Yum. And seemingly so easy too. Just how I like it after a busy day of chasing an almost one year old around. Do you make your naan?

  2. This is on my list to try as I have never had anything like this. It looks delicious!

  3. I always cast a dubious eye upon palek paneer – the textured spinach gravy thing kind of threw me off before!- but ok- you have me- it sounds pretty good, actually. Also way impressed with your dark kitchen, non-natural light photos that turned out so well!

  4. I have never had any Palak Paneer, but oh my gosh I have no idea why! I love you pretty and well lit step by step photos and the final dish looks amazing! Even in its green state! I am loving it and cannot wait to try it!

  5. OMG this my absolute FAVOURITE Indian dish. I was just searching for a recipe for it the other night and I wanted to use tofu instead of paneer so this is perfect!! I love the step by step directions! One question – where do you find garam masala? Couldn’t find it at my local bulk foods store.

  6. I love Indian food! I have never tried this dish though, it looks so delicious and honesty you make it look easy enough to make at home. We have some Indian markets by us that sell paneer in freezer section, will have to try this!

  7. this post just made me laugh since my husband is never to be found in the kitchen either. glad that you had a helper this time! :)

  8. You could try roasting the paneer. No oil needed as paneer has its own fat. Thaw the frozen paneer and saute it till it becomes brown outside. Roasted outside and soft inside.

  9. Looks great! I think that if you used fat free Greek yogurt, you will reduce the calories even more. I also put half paneer and half tofu (to mimic to paneer) and that cuts down the calories too, not to mention healthy!

  10. Patti Morfeld says:

    BEST DISH EVER!!! I could totally be ill on this and go back for more…over and over again! Can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks

  11. I really want to make this because it looks delicious and I love how you describe it but…. I must admit I struggle with paneer…. I could make the spinach base and then add an alternative I suppose. Great photographs too!

  12. This is my favorite Indian dish but I never knew what it was called because I opt for the buffet (since I don’t know what most dishes are called anyway). I will definitely try this. Thank you!

  13. I loooove the saag paneer at my local indian restaurant. I bet palak paneer would be great too, as I’m a pretty big fan of spinach (and really have no idea what other greens they’re throwing into the saag) – this sounds so good.

  14. I love the step by step photos! One of my goals for the fall & winter is to experiment with more Indian cooking at home. I love eating it, but for some reason never think about making it. Can’t wait to try this recipe!

  15. It doesn’t look that bad. Loved and pinned it!

  16. This looks amazing! Any recommendations for another cheese that would substitute well for the paneer? I’m afraid my grocery stores won’t have it, and I’m not a huge fan of tofu :)

    • you can make your own paneer, its very easy just bring milk to a boil turn off add lemon juice or vinegar, let satnd till seperates, drain in a cheese cloth and sit in fridge for a few hours and you have paneer :’)

  17. Palak paneer is my all-time fav! Thanks for the step-by-step photos, I can’t wait to try this at home!!

  18. This looks so yummy! I love love love paneer but have never had it with spinach for some reason! Guess that’s about to change!

  19. Mutter paneer is my person Indian favorite, but if it has paneer in it, honestly, how can you go wrong?

  20. You had me at paneer – I LOVE the stuff! And this recipe. I order it all the time!

  21. Just fabulous! Wish this was for dinner tonight!

  22. I am so excited about this recipe! I absolutely love palak paneer but don’t get to have it these days as my husband never wants to order Indian food (crazy, right?). All I needed was a good recipe — and then I can eat the whole thing myself!

    BTW, I loved your post about using Pinterest. You described your concerns about it so eloquently.

  23. One of my favorite Indian dishes is aloo gobi, and it isn’t the prettiest thing either! But anything with that much green from spinach is absolutely gorgeous in my book. (Because it has to be healthy!)

    My guy is the exact same way too. His idea of cooking is boiling a pot of water for spaghetti or throwing a frozen pizza into the oven. And no WAY would he even want to photograph any of his (or my) food!! So happy that you and Bjork can share that!

  24. Devan Sayles says:

    Oh my gosh, I totally recognized the two of you tonight after the Michael Buble concert but I was too afraid to say hi for fear of coming across as a maybe-a-little-bit-creepy-girl who recognizes food bloggers from the internet. But now I’m kicking myself because I should have just told you how much I love Pinch of Yum! Maybe you’re even used to it? Maybe you get recognized often?
    I’m not sure, but I do know that if I ever run into you guys in the twin cities again in the future, I’ll be sure to come up and say hi :)

  25. I do think this is one ugly dish but I kind of think most Indian dishes are like that with all of the sauce. Good thing they taste so good. Easy to forgive their ugliness. Man, that sounds mean. I will be bookmarking this for later, it is one of my favorites at Indian restaurants.

  26. Yeah! I just tried this when we got take out over Labor Day weekend and it’s delicious! I’m so excited that you posted this. It’s on the list for this weekend….

  27. I made this last night and it was great! I upped the spices a bit because we like things hot :) Also, I used plain canned diced tomatoes. I bet it’s even better with the fire roasted ones!

  28. This is ugly, but that does not mean it taste bad… and kudos to you, because you have managed to make it look pretty good.

  29. Hey!
    Just thought I’d let you know – paneer is one of the EASIEST cheeses to make! And no, cheese is not difficult to make in general – I make my own chevre all the time. You should totally look it up, then it won’t matter if your grocery store has it. :-)

  30. Love, love, love paneer! My husband is from South India and he introduced me to it. So easy to cook with too. I’ve attempted a homemade version a few times, and it’s quite simple.

    Here’s one of my favourite paneer recipes that you might also like to try. http://lifeandchai.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/paneer-in-a-coriander-mint-and-chilli-sauce/

  31. This looks great and I love the fact that you are making Palak Paneer out there! A quick tip: You can add a squeeze of lemon to you dish just before you take it off the heat. This brings the color back to the spinach and also cuts down some of its bitterness.

  32. I will be making this soon! Yum! My boyfriend and I like to make saag paneer every once in a while. We learned to make cheese, so we make the paneer as well! It will be fun to try a little different spin on the dish. :-)

  33. Only you can get Palak Paneer to look this good! :)

    Btw, why not make Paneer at home?! It’s super easy. It’s always good to use Paneer rather than Tofu… personal preference!

  34. Oh, heck no. I would never ever EVER substitute tofu for cheese. But that’s just me. Because I don’t like tofu and I do so love cheese. :)
    This actually looks really yummy. Girl, you have skillz. Making mush look good like that.

  35. Just fantastic..perfectly made palak paneer..looks absolutely tempting…love to eat with garlic naan….

  36. Akshita Singh says:

    WoW !! I remember my dad telling me how he used to spoil the milk by adding lemon juice secretly so that grandma makes paneer out of it.Palak paneer is like my favourite winter dish.This looks yumm !!

  37. Your description of your and Bjork’s dynamic in the kitchen sounds pretty familiar. Our kitchen is NOT big…so when the two of us are in there, and one of us is only looking through a camera lens and not necessarily at the pan he’s about to knock off the stove…well, it gets a little feisty :) Hilarious.

  38. so, i’d never-ever-ever make this….but i read your fabulously convincing post and now i’m going to try it. tomorrow. and i think i’m going to like it. :)

  39. I must admit I was skeptical about this one–never tried making any type of Indian food. I pulled the ingredients together and then said, “Nah”. Then I reread your post and you convinced me! (But I still cut the recipe in half…) The next day, I was making the other half…..lol.

  40. I cannot wait to try this! I seriously love all of your recipes.

  41. I am sooooo excited about this dish! I love, love, love Indian food and a good palak paneer is my absolute favorite. I’ve tried several different recipes for it, but it’s never been like the one I fell in love with when we lived in Kenya. Can’t wait to try it! You are my hero!

    Someone in the above comments mentioned having a hard time finding garam masala. I find mine at World Market or Fiesta (that might just be a Texas chain?). I also make my own paneer b/c I have a hard time finding it around here, at least for a decent price. Yummy, easy, and for pennies…what more can you ask for, right?

    • Wow, how interesting that you had this in Kenya! I would have never guessed.

      • Very large Indian population in Kenya. leftover from the trading days with England and the rest of Europe. :-) Btw, made it last night and it was a huge hit! My kids made comments about it looking like vomit, poop, and mud. ha! But after tasting it they immediately remembered it from their Kenya days. All plates were licked clean!

  42. This recipe is seriously legit. I just made it for my boyfriend and me, and had to stop myself from eating the entire thing. The spice mix is PERFECT. I didn’t have fire roasted canned tomatoes, so was a little worried I’d lose some flavor there – instead I used no-salt-added canned diced tomatoes, and it was still super flavorful.

    P.S., this is like, my millionth recipe of yours I’ve added to my ‘favorites’ folder. This recipe moved me to comment for the first time, because it was just that freakin’ delicious. Love, love, love all of your recipes I’ve tried!


  43. Thanks a lot for such a cool recipe : )

    worked great .. !!!

  44. I have to tell you–we’ve tried a few different palak paneer recipes, and yours *by far* is the best. I didn’t have any canned tomatoes, so I used a couple fresh ones, and it all worked out just fine. As my husband put it (several times), this recipe is a keeper!

  45. Duuude.

    SO happy you have this recipe shared.

    Being vegetarian is a WHOLE lot more fun when there’s dozens of awesome recipes to try like yours.

  46. I was wandering around the grocery store searching for inspiration for tonight’s dinner and found myself looking at a block of paneer. I’ve had plenty of palak paneer (and I love it). I wondered how easy it might be to make? I pulled out the old smart phone and Googled “easy palak paneer” and here I am! Nailed it. Considered taking some of the leftovers to my coworkers to try but I don’t think I can share! Thanks ever so much. SO easy and yummy, yummy, yummy! Came together in no time, too. Ace.

  47. Hi Lindsay!

    I have carried this recipe around with me since you posted it and finally made it this weekend! It was delicious! I came back to read your post to see if your process was anything like mine. My ‘gravy’ was very thick and dry on my batch, so I added back in the juice I squeezed out of the spinach, and it came to look much more like yours. Maybe I strained my tomatoes too much? I don’t know, but it did come together eventually. I warned my husband and son that it was not much to look at, and they agreed, but they both loved it! I used bread cheese instead of paneer or tofu, and it was delicious. That was Monday.

    Today we had Italian Sausage Gnocchi Soup from my Cauliflower e-cookbook … also delish.

    I try your recipes all of the time, and thoroughly enjoy your posts. Keep up the fabulous work! You have lots of followers like me who don’t write much because we are busy trying your recipes! You Rock!

  48. This looks amazing. I’m so excited because I found fresh paneer made from grass-fed raw milk at a local dairy yesterday. The fact that I actually have all of the ingredients already makes this perfect! Thank you :)

  49. The reason you don’t like frozen spinach is because the US companies use old, strongly falvoured spinach. Buy baby spinach and use that instead.

    You should try making paneer, it’s way easier than making naan. And, Trader Joe’s naan is extremely good. It comes frozen, so I always have some in my freezer.

  50. So I just made this and the red lentil daal recipe tonight and I can’t believe how amazing they were! I feel so stupid now knowing I was ordering the palak paneer when eating out not ever realizing how EASY and simple it is to make at home. Even my hubby who’s not a great fan of Indian cuisine loved it! I’ve said it before and I will say it again…LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! Mabuhay!!!

  51. Marie Lavelle says:

    Hi Lindsay,
    Saag paneer is my absolute favourite thing from our local Indian takeaway. I have attempted a couple of recipes in the past but both were disappointing. I just made your palak paneer tonight after work and it was totally yummy!! My carnivorous husband loved it too! Thank you for sharing, from your newest fan :)

  52. I made this tonight and it was amazing!! I’m totally floored because I’ve never cooked Indian food before despite being Indian myself (actually I’ve only just started learning how to cook a few weeks ago) but this recipe was easy enough for even me to do and this looked and tasted like something from a restaurant! Better than my mom’s palak paneer too. (sorry, mom) I also liked that it tasted so good with yogurt instead of cream since I’m trying to eat healthy.

    Thanks for this recipe! I love this blog – great food, great photography, and great writing. Will definitely be following this one.

  53. I made this tonight and it was delicious. I could of add some extra spice to it, but I am happy I didn’t because our almost 9 year old daughter loved this !!! It was easy to make too! Thank you for sharing. Will do again for sure. Only thing was that my creek yogurt had expired in Feb (oooops!!!) so I obviously left it out. It was tasty without it (no, I didn’t add cream or anything else to it) so doesn’t need even the yogurt! Next time I will make sure I have fresh yogurt. Time just flies by with three kids in the house !!!

  54. Christie says:

    Thanks for the great recipe! I thought I had garam masala but turned out it didn’t so I added some cinnamon and nutmeg on the fly which worked. I used queso fresco instead of paneer and threw in some extra chilies. I did over purée despite your warning so will blend less next time. It’s delicious and I’ll make it again.

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