Palak Paneer, or Saag Paneer, is a popular north-Indian curry made by simmering soft paneer cubes (Indian cottage cheese), in a flavorful spinach gravy. Try this simple one-pot recipe and enjoy this vegetarian restaurant favorite in under 30 minutes.
Traditionally, Palak Paneer is made with large spinach leaves, that come in bunches. They are dark green in color and have an earthy taste. In this recipe, I take a shortcut and use pre-washed baby spinach.
The taste is phenomenal, and I save myself the time it takes to triple wash the large spinach bunch. This recipe can also work with frozen spinach, but in my opinion, fresh spinach makes a tastier curry. If using frozen spinach, increase the pressure cooking time to 1 minute.
This is my mom’s family-famous recipe! She always makes it on the stove, but I have adapted it to my pressure cooker, Instant Pot, to make this more hands-off, with minimum baby-sitting.
What is the Difference Between Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer
These two recipe names confuse a lot of people. Even though restaurants use these names interchangeably, there is a small difference between the two.
Saag, refers to a variety of green leafy vegetables, including Spinach (called Palak in Hindi), Mustard Greens, Fenugreek, Collard Greens, and other similar varieties. The availability of the kind of greens largely depends on the region and weather. Typically in northern India, Saag refers to a combination of spinach and mustard greens, whereas Palak is the Hindi name for spinach.
The main difference between the two is that Saag Paneer can be made with any leafy greens or a combination of greens, but, Palak Paneer refers to a curry made with spinach leaves only.
Here is a Recipe for Saag made with Mustard Greens and Spinach
How to Make Palak Paneer, Saag Paneer in Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
I have to admit, this recipe took me some time to get right. The taste was great each time, I just wasn’t happy with the color and consistency. After a few trials, I finalized this recipe, and it’s a keeper for sure. Here’s how I make it:
Step 1: Pressure Cook. I start by sautéing the onions, fresh ginger, garlic, chilies for a couple of minutes. Then I add a little water, spices and all the baby spinach. Turn off Saute. Close the lid and pressure cook for ‘0’ minutes. This time was key in retaining the gorgeous color of spinach.
What does ‘0’ Minutes Pressure Cook Time Mean
What this zero minutes cook time does is essentially steam the vegetables (or anything), in the time it takes to build pressure. This works great for steaming vegetables, or cooking thin filets of fish, without over-cooking them.
Step 2: Release Pressure (QR). After pressure cooking is done, and the cooker switches to the ‘keep warm’ mode, I manually release the pressure (QR), by turning the knob to ‘Venting’ position in DUO model, and pushing down the pressure valve in an ULTRA.
Step 3: Blend.Using an immersion blender, I blend the spinach till I reach my desired consistency. Add water if needed. Traditionally, this curry has a silky smooth texture, but you can leave it a bit chunky if you like. (you may want to read the section about avoiding spinach splatters while pureeing).
Step 4: Add Paneer and Simmer. Turn on Saute on medium setting. The reason we do that is that spinach puree tends to create large bubbles when simmering. They are super tasty, but trust me, you don’t want them landing on your hands 🙂 Add the cubed paneer pieces, a teaspoon of butter, and simmer everything for 1 minute, till the paneer becomes tender.
Variations: Palak Tofu (Vegan)
You can make this recipe Vegan by swapping out the paneer with Extra-Firm Tofu. Follow the recipe exactly, just switch out the paneer with cubed tofu pieces.
Stove-Top Recipe for Palak Paneer, Saag Paneer
✅Heat a deep sauce pan on medium high heat. Since spinach puree tends to splash when simmering, using a deep sauce pan prevents it from messing the cooktop.
✅Add oil and cumin seeds. When cumin seeds begin to sizzle, add crushed ginger and garlic. Sliced onion and green chili go in next, sauté for a minute.
✅Add salt, spices and stir well. Then, add 3/4 cup water, stir, cover the pan and cook for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
✅Open the lid and add 1/2 bag of baby spinach and stir to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining spinach and wilt for around 2 minutes. Saute for another 1 minute. Turn off the heat. Using a hand blender puree the spinach mix.
✅Turn the heat back on to medium, add paneer cubes and simmer for 1 min, till paneer cubes become soft. Turn off the heat. Stir in butter, this adds a silky smooth finish to the sauce, and gives it a gorgeous shine.
Tip for Pureeing Spinach Without Painting your Kitchen Green 🙂
Hand Blenders are great when you want to puree a sauce and get a velvety smooth finish. But, unless the quantity is enough to submerge the blender-head in the sauce, they tend to splash the sauce all over.
To avoid that, I tilt the pot a bit till the blender is completely submerged in sauce and that does the trick. Alternatively, I transfer the spinach mix to a tall measuring cup, or the jar that came with my hand blender set. I puree the spinach in that and there are no splashes at all.
Enjoy a Delicious Indian Vegetarian Meal!
Some more Popular Paneer Recipes
|Paneer Butter Masala||Paneer Tikka Masala|
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Palak Paneer | Saag Paneer in Instant Pot
- 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 inch ginger grated or finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 cup onion (1 medium onion, chopped or sliced)
- 1 green chili (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder (or Paprika)
- 10-12 oz. bag of baby spinach
- 1 cup water adjust based on size of pot
Add After Pressure Cooking
- 10 oz. block of paneer cubed in 1/2 inch pieces (Costco or Indian grocery store)
- 1 teaspoon butter (optional)
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
- Prep: Coarsely chop or slice onions, ginger and garlic. Chop paneer cubes in 1/2 inch cubes. Wash the baby spinach, if not pre-washed.
- Turn on the Instant Pot on SAUTE (high). When it displays ‘hot’, add oil and cumin seeds. When cumin seeds begin to sizzle, add onions, ginger, garlic, chili, and sauté for about 1 minute, till onions turn translucent.
- Add salt and spices and stir well. Add 1/2 cup water and use it to deglaze the pot. Add baby spinach with 1/2 cup water and close the lid. Hit ‘cancel’ and set pressure valve to SEALING position. Cook on Manual or Pressure cook for 0 minutes.
- After pressure cooking is done, release the pressure manually (QR). Using an immersion blender, puree the spinach mix. If the quantity is less for blending, tilt the pot a bit.
- Turn on SAUTE (medium). Stir in paneer cubes and simmer for 1 minute, till paneer cubes become soft. Turn off the Instant Pot. Stir in butter. This adds a silky smooth finish to the sauce, and gives it a gorgeous shine. Serve hot with cumin rice or naan. Enjoy!
- Heat a deep sauce pan on medium high heat. Since spinach puree tends to splash when simmering, using a deep sauce pan prevents it from messing the cooktop.
- Add oil and cumin seeds. When cumin seeds begin to sizzle, add crushed ginger and garlic. Add sliced onion and green chili, and sauté for a minute.
- Add salt, spices and stir well. Then, add 3/4 cup water, stir, cover the pan and cook for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
- Open the lid and add 1/2 bag of baby spinach and stir to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining spinach and wilt for around 2 minutes. Saute for another 1 minute. Turn off the heat. Using a hand blender puree the spinach mix. Add a little water if needed.
- Turn the heat back on to medium, add paneer cubes and simmer for 1 min, till paneer cubes become soft. Turn off the heat. Stir in butter, this adds a silky smooth finish to the sauce, and gives it a gorgeous shine.