Saag Paneer

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Saag Paneer – a classic Indian dish made with spinach and golden crusted paneer cheese, fresh ginger and an assortment of spices.

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Saag Paneer | ZagLeftA couple of weeks ago I wrote about my exploration into the world of cooking Indian food.  I’d only experimented with Indian flavors by way of using the Garam Masala spice blend I often make.  But after a visit to an Indian restaurant in Austin for the third time in a month and my husband’s plea for me to make his very favorite Indian dish, Saag Paneer did I fully dive in.

I had put off trying to make saag paneer for a while.  I think the Indian flavors intimidated me just a bit. I went slow in learning how to make saag paneer by first learning how to make paneer.  When I realized how easy paneer was to make, well – I had no more excuses.

A blend of wonderful spices, fresh ginger, onions and chiles all cooked in with spinach – saag paneer is savory and completely satisfying.

Saag Paneer | ZagLeft

I have to say that my husband and kids absolutely loved this dish.  It was easier to make than I thought and the aroma coming from my kitchen was wonderful.

Here’s how it came together…

I first mixed up a blend of turmeric, cayenne, kosher salt, cinnamon and olive oil.  I dropped cubes of the paneer into the mixture to coat them and let them marinate while I got the rest of my ingredients together.  When I was ready to begin, I added the paneer to a hot pan to warm and brown.  One thing to note is that paneer does not melt so it will hold it’s shape when it warms.  The outside becomes crisp and golden while the inside warms.

Saag Paneer | ZagLeft

After the paneer browned on all sides, I removed the cubes from the pan and placed them on a plate.  To the pan, I added all of my chopped vegetables; the onions, minced ginger, garlic and a chopped serrano chili.  I let this fragrant mixture cook for 15 minutes until it was a gorgeous caramel color.

Saag Paneer | ZagLeft

I added in 1 tablespoon of butter and garam masala, ground coriander and ground cumin, stirring and cooking for a few minutes to cook out the raw scent of the spices.

Then, I added in the frozen, thawed spinach and stirred it in with the spiced onion mixture.  I added a little water and a touch of salt and cooked it for about 5 minutes.

Saag Paneer | ZagLeft

I turned the heat off and slowly stirred in yogurt.  Once the yogurt was mixed in with the spinach, I added back the paneer, covered the pan and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

Saag Paneer | ZagLeft

This saag paneer is surprisingly simple to make and tastes divine.  I served it with a side of basmati rice and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. A  Sauvignon Blanc is a wondeful wine to pair this dish with because the sweetness of the wine will cut the heat if you find the saag paneer a bit spicy.

Saag Paneer
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

Saag Paneer - a classic Indian dish made with spinach and golden crusted paneer cheese, fresh ginger and an assortment of spices.

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Joanie Zisk
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil , divided
  • 10 ounces paneer , cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 16 ounce package frozen chopped spinach , thawed
  • 3/4 cup onion , finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger , minced
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 large serrano chile , finely chopped, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup plain or greek yogurt
Instructions
  1. Mix together the turmeric, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Stir in the cubes of paneer.
  2. Set aside so the cubes marinate about 20 minutes.
  3. Pour the thawed spinach into a colander and gently squeeze out excess water. Leave in the colander to drain.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the paneer to the pan along with the marinade. Cook the paneer on one side for 2-3 minutes, then flip the paneer so the other side browns and cooks another 2 minutes. Remove the paneer from the pan and transfer to a plate.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chile to the pan. Saute the mixture until it's the color of caramel, about 15 minutes.
  6. Melt the butter in the pan. Add the garam masala, coriander and cumin to the pan. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes.
  7. Stir in the spinach. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup of water, stir, and cook 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the yogurt, a spoonful at a time.
  9. Add the paneer. Return the pan to the stove, cover and cook about 5 minutes more.
  10. Serve.

Recipe adapted from Aarti Sequeira

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22 COMMENTS

    • Thanks Michelle. My older kids didn’t like to try new foods when they were younger but my 14 year old is the exact opposite. Fortunately she’ll try anything 🙂

  1. I fell in love with saag paneer while in Cambodia last December! There’s something about those foreign cuisines that I wish we would embrace near where I live! Every single bite is a mix of flavors. Sooo good. I am jealous that you have such a fun family willing to try things! Mine would never try this (more for me!)

    • Thank you Heather. The cheese with all the spices is probably my favorite part. Next time, I think I’ll make an extra batch of cheese to eat on the side.

  2. I’ve only recently discovered that I like Indian food, and now I can’t get enough! I haven’t been brave enough to try cooking it yet though – need to change that soon and make this dish! It look so flavorful and delicious!

  3. I love this version of saag paneer, one of my favorite Indian vegetarian dishes. The only issue for me is where to find the paneer (cheese)? I am sure there must be a grocery store in the suburbs that carries it – among the many ethnic food stores, but in the city? Hmm. Have to figure that out and then I’m off and running.

    • I’ve seen paneer in just a few grocery stores in my area but if you have the time, making paneer is really easy to do. If you’d rather not make paneer, you could use well drained tofu, potatoes or ricotta in it’s place. Saag Paneer is one of my favorite Indian dishes too, Laura. Thank you.

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