If you crave exotic, all encompassing spices that throw you for a loop and keep you pleasantly guessing from one bite to the next, then palak paneer is a must in your life.

This is one of my all time favorite Punjabi dishes. It was first introduced to me by my best friend Shehrbano to which I replied “I’m sorry, the base of the dish is cooked spinach?” I thought for sure the spinach would make it super bitter. Oh, how wrong I was. This thing oozes yum.

The slow roasting of the cumin, ginger/garlic, chillis, garam masala, paprika and onions give the spinach a full-bodied flavor. The slow cooked tomatoes and light cream brings together all of the ingredients and adds a smooth texture. The coriander and green onions give the dish a cooling, fresh finish and chunks of feta compliment the intense spice of the dish. Drooling yet?

I visited Punjab, India a few years ago for a friend’s wedding and finally had the chance to try all of the dishes I had been trying to emulate in my own home for years. Now of course I was beyond excited to see two of my best friends get married, but is it bad that I was just as excited (if not more) to eat? I mean who doesn’t get excited to try actual Indian food in India? My taste buds were on overload. I kid you not, every single meal was out of this world fantastic. As an avid follower of “the spicier, the better” motto, India was heaven.

I finally had the opportunity to try the real deal palak paneer. OMG was it ever the real deal. The spinach was super creamy and the paneer had a cottage cheese like texture that literally melted in my mouth.

I’ve tried to mirror this experience in my personal palak paneer recipe with some additional, heathier tweeks. I went as lean as possible, using low fat cream and low fat feta as a paneer substitute. Both of these ingredients are still super filling so a little palak paneer can fill you up quick. Although, it is difficult not to eat the whole thing in one go! I will be honest, this dish is not a quick one to whip up. It requires some TLC but the extra time and care is so worth it in the end.

Behold, slow roasted spicy goodness in a bowl. Hope y’all enjoy!


Palak Paneer

Yields: 3 cups Total time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 hot green peppers (or substitute for jalapenos)
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup feta cubes (or paneer)
  • 4-5 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 whole tomato
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander (or cilantro), chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup light cream
  • 1 tsp methi leaves (optional)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder (optional to add more heat)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
Directions:
  1. Add 1 tbsp of oil to a frying pan on medium heat. Add spinach in batches. As the leaves wilt down, add salt to taste. Remove spinach once completely wilted and transfer for a vegetable processor. Once all spinach has been cooked, process until smooth and set aside.
  2. Add 1 tbsp of oil to the same pan on low heat. Add chili flakes and mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds, being careful not to let them burn.
  3. Add paprika, turmeric and peppers and saute for 1 minute. Add cumin and half of the garam masala, stir and cook until fragrant. Add ginger/garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stir.
  4. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes and allow to saute for about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and stir until incorporated. Add salt to taste and allow the spinach to simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste, mix and simmer for another 5 minutes. (add chili powder as well if necessary).
  6. Add the cream, stir until incorporated and sprinkle the remaining garam masala on top (add methi as well if preferred). Let the dish sit on low heat for another 10-15 minutes.
  7. Add the feta (or paneer), coriander and green onions. Stir all ingredients and cook for 5 minutes. Serve with fresh sliced red onions.