This beloved paneer dish is not only a popular dinner staple in North-Indian homes but also part of every single Indian celebration. In fact, a North-Indian wedding buffet would be incomplete without bright-green Palak Paneer adorning the buffet table. Yes, I used the word “Palak” and not “Saag” - aren’t they the same thing? Well, Palak literally means Spinach, and Saag refers to any leafy green curry - whether it’s made with spicy mustard leaves, delicious fenugreek leaves, or Popeye’s favorite Spinach. Spinach or Palak is commonly used and served in restaurants all over the world because it’s cheap, fuss-free, and easily available all year long.
Like many restaurants, I quickly blanche and blend my spinach leaves in this recipe - way easier and faster than having to chop a ton of spinach, like it was originally done. Herbs like coriander leaves, dill, spring onion and kasuri methi are added for additional flavor, but are optional in this recipe. Do add them if you have them lying around, otherwise just pure spinach leaves works well in this dish.
If you are not familiar with Kasuri methi, it is the dried, more concentrated version of fenugreek leaves (methi), which is a delicious, iron-rich leafy green from the Indian sub-continent. Unlike fresh fenugreek leaves which are available at Indian grocers in the fresh produce section, kasuri methi is in smaller 50-100g packs in the dried spices isle of these stores. Kasuri methi has a very unique earthy flavor to it and is a very commonly used garnish in Northern-Indian cuisine, especially in dishes like, Butter Chicken and Dal Makhani. I prefer to store it in the freezer to keep it extra-dry and crush it in between my fingers into finer bits (to release flavor), before adding it as a garnish.
I am using frozen paneer in this recipe for ease. Gone are the days when good paneer was next to impossible to find in countries outside of India. Now-a-days, you can find it fresh and/or frozen in most Indian and even international stores around the world. Fresh paneer can be cubed and used immediately with just a short simmer in the curry, whereas frozen paneer needs thawing in the refrigerator first. To use thawed paneer, simply simmer in boiling hot water for 2-3 minutes and voila, it’s as good as fresh!
Saag sauce can also be served with hard-boiled eggs instead of paneer; in fact Saag with eggs is simply outstanding! I also often make tandoori chicken tikka separately, then add it to my saag sauce - the best "Saag Chicken" in the world! You can also add white fish fillets to saag, simmer them for 10-12 minutes until fully cooked, and you have lip-smacking "Saag Fish". Now that you are a Saag expert, go ahead and give this amazing recipe a try. And do let me know in comments if you have any further questions. Happy Cooking!
Saag Paneer Recipe Video
Serves 4-5 (makes about 350g)
Notes: Paneer can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze paneer, cut into cubes and store in a Ziploc bag.
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Payal Thakurani is a cooking instructor, consulting chef, and author of the popular Southeast Asian cookbook “Curries for the Soul”. Originally based in Shanghai China, chef Payal has been in the food industry since 2012, working in training and brand development in central kitchens. She was also the proud owner of a cooking school and several food brands in Shanghai. She now lives in Singapore and heads Commune Kitchen in Downtown Gallery, where she hosts affordable, hands-on cooking classes for all ages.