Saag Paneer

published Jan 23, 2024
Saag Paneer Recipe

Eat this vibrant green dish with your favorite Indian flatbread or alongside some rice.

Serves4

Prep30 minutes

Cook27 minutes

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A platter of saag paneer with some food missing with a wooden serving spoon. There is whole wheat pita bread on the side.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

You’ve probably heard of saag paneer, a popular dish that’s a staple on Indian menus across the United States and the United Kingdom. But that’s not the saag paneer I know. That dish of puréed spinach and cheese is actually palak paneer (palak means spinach in Hindi). 

To me, saag means leafy greens — specifically, mustard greens (also known as sarson). I grew up eating my mum’s sarson ka saag, a very popular dish eaten with makki ki roti (a kind of flatbread made with corn flour). It’s the ultimate comfort food during winters in the north of India. 

Unlike palak paneer, saag paneer is not a traditional or a classic dish. Rather it’s something that has come along over the years. You start by making a saag and add paneer at the end, which incorporates more bite and texture. This recipe is my version of saag paneer made with a mix of greens like kale, spinach, fenugreek, and mustard greens and finished with chunks of soft paneer. Eat with your favorite Indian flatbread or alongside rice. 

Key Ingredients in Saag Paneer

  • Leafy greens: It’s a bit tricky to get hold of the mustard leaves where I live in the U.K. These leaves have a sharp, slightly bitter taste which gives saag its unique flavor. So instead of mustard leaves, I combine spinach, kale, and fenugreek to achieve a somewhat similar flavor. If you are able to find mustard greens, substitute it for some or all of the kale or fenugreek. 
  • Paneer cheese: Many recipes call for frying the paneer first, but I find that the paneer gets chewy after frying, which is why I skip that step. By adding it directly to the puréed greens, the paneer stays lovely and soft. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How to Make Saag Paneer

  • Wilt the greens. Tear leaves into bite-size pieces and wilt in some water in a large pot. Transfer to a high-speed blender, add ginger, fresh green chiles, and garlic, then blend until smooth. 
  • Cook the puréed greens. Cook onion, dried red Indian chiles, and garlic in ghee. Add the greens, let simmer to allow the flavors to meld, then add cubed paneer.  
  • Make the tadka. Melt more ghee, add a couple of dried red Indian chiles, and let cook for a few seconds. Drizzle over the saag paneer. 

What to Serve with Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer Recipe

Eat this vibrant green dish with your favorite Indian flatbread or alongside some rice.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 27 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 10 to 12 ounces

    kale, mustard greens, or fenugreek greens (methi), or a combination

  • 10 to 12 ounces

    baby spinach (10 to 12 cups)

  • 1/2 cup

    water, plus more as needed

  • 1 (1-inch) piece

    ginger

  • 2

    fresh Indian or Thai green chiles

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, divided

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 8 ounces

    paneer

  • 5 tablespoons

    ghee, divided

  • 4

    small dried red Indian chiles, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • Naan, paratha, rice, or cumin rice, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pick the leaves from 10 to 12 ounces kale, mustard, or fenugreek greens, discarding any tough stems. Tear or chop the leaves into bite-size pieces. Place in a large pot. Add 10 to 12 ounces baby spinach and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a blender.

  2. Peel 1 (1-inch) piece ginger and coarsely chop. Trim 2 fresh green chiles. Add the ginger, green chiles, and 2 of the garlic cloves to the blender and blend until smooth, adding a little water to help blend if needed.

  3. Finely chop 1 medium yellow onion (about 1 1/2 cups) and the remaining 2 garlic cloves. Cut 8 ounces paneer into 3/4-inch cubes.

  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the ghee in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 2 of the dried red Indian chiles. Cook until the onion is softened and golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

  5. Add the puréed greens, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, and stir to combine. If the mixture is very thick, add up to 1/2 cup boiling water to thin. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat as needed, for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld.

  6. Add the paneer and stir to combine. Cover and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons ghee in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 dried red Indian chiles and cook for a few seconds. Pour over the saag paneer. Serve with naan, paratha, rice, or cumin rice if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.