Saag Paneer vs Palak Paneer is a great battle, isn’t it?
Well, not really!
Palak is the Hindi word for spinach, while saag refers to leafy greens in general, which in this case can be a mixture that includes spinach, or palak.
So, Palak Paneer vs Saag Paneer, who wins? Well, in this recipe I used palak, however you can use saag if you prefer.
This dish is very special for me because it is a dish I cooked for myself exclusively! This is something Jay would never eat nor order in a restaurant as he dislikes both spinach and cheese (what kind of person hates cheese?), but I love both and have often ordered it in restaurants or as a take-away option.
This palak paneer recipe is very easy to follow, extremely tasty, and low in calories; there is no cream necessary (I have used some just for garnishing) and the paneer is low fat, although the other ingredients are very low in calories so you could use full-fat cheese and perhaps divide this into five or six portions instead of four, if necessary.
What is saag paneer?
Saag paneer is a spinach-based curry that is flavored with spices, tomato, and onion among others, and enriched with cubes of Indian cottage cheese, paneer.
~~ Love cheese and vegetables? Tomato Burrata Salad with Homemade Pesto without Pine Nuts | Burrata Caprese Salad with Pesto Dressing
Let’s talk nutrition!
Spinach and paneer (Indian cottage cheese) are the two main ingredients in this recipe and they are both extremely nutritious in their way.
Spinach is one of the foods we now know as ‘superfoods’, which is a group of foods that are highly rich in nutrients; spinach (palak) is very low in calories and is important for bone, hair, and skin health.
The nutrients in spinach I’d like to highlight are Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
- Ascorbic acid – or Vitamin C – is very well known and mainly associated with the immune system, but it assists with many other body functions as well; this vitamin is necessary for the growth, repair, and also the development of body tissues, it is needed for the formation of collagen and it also assists with the absorption of iron. In addition to this and many other functions, Vitamin C is also involved in the good maintenance of teeth, bones, and cartilage.
- Iron is a nutrient that greatly affects the body’s energy usage and one does not notice its importance until they finally start having enough! Iron assists the body with preserving many vital functions, such as regulating the body temperature, assisting with the immune system and the gastrointestinal processes, energy levels, and focus. As iron is better absorbed by the body when consumed with Vitamin C, it is good to pair food rich in iron with Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus, although spinach has both already.
- Calcium in spinach is a topic worth exploring as it is the demonstration of how the same nutrient is absorbed differently by the body when present in different foods; although spinach is rich in calcium, which is notoriously known for assisting with teeth and bone health, it is less absorbed than the calcium found in dairy food. Spinach is rich in oxalate, which attaches to calcium and helps the body eliminate it, especially when it is too much for the body, making it difficult for spinach calcium to be used by the human body.
- Magnesium assists in hundreds of biochemical reactions occurring in the body every day, and spinach is one of the best sources of this dietary nutrient. Magnesium is used for maintaining the function of nerves and muscles, the regular heart rhythm, assisting in preserving a healthy immune system as well as regulating blood pressure, among many others.
Paneer, or Indian cottage cheese, is made by curdling milk using acid that is derived from food, such as citrus or vinegar, which is then separated using a muslin cloth and finally pressed into blocks, which is what is then available to purchase.
Paneer is an excellent source of proteins, especially in vegetarian diets and it also contains nine essential amino acids. Proteins are very important as they are what ‘builds’ our cells, give them volume and they are also essential for the immune system, the repairing of body tissues, maintaining growth, and the blood volume. Proteins are also necessary for growing and maintaining muscles and they can be found in both animal and vegetal sources.
While paneer is rich in saturated fats, which should be controlled in any diet, it is also a great source of monounsaturated fats, which are associated with multiple health benefits, such as lowering bad cholesterol levels. By comparison, paneer is not rich in carbohydrates.
~~ Love cheese and vegetables together (especially the cheese part)? Lemon Zucchini Pasta with Crumbled Feta Cheese
How to make palak paneer? How to make saag paneer?
This recipe is easy and below I have divided it into easy-to-follow stages, and as long as you follow them you will be ready for the next stage before you know it.
You start by preparing a spinach, cashew, and chili puree which is set aside and the main ingredient to give color to this bright and delicious dish.
Once that is done, the chunky curry base is created with a few whole spices (masalas), onion, tomato and ginger, and garlic paste; once all of these ingredients are cooked and the tomatoes are mushy, some fenugreek, garam masala, and water are added, together with the spinach puree.
While these lightly simmer away, the paneer is diced and lightly pan-fried (optional step) and then added to the curry, which is ready to be served!
Preparing the spinach puree
Preparing the chunky curry base
Putting everything together
Is this palak paneer instant pot-friendly?
While you may find people saying that their palak paneer recipe is instant pot-friendly, I am sure it won’t be as tasty and authentic as this recipe! Yes, this recipe may mean that you need to spend half an hour in the kitchen, but it also ensures that all components of the curry have the right consistency, from the firmer paneer to the creamy palak and the pieces of onion. This recipe is easy to make, quick and tasty, while also being low in calories!
How many calories in palak paneer? How many calories in saag paneer?
This recipe, prepared as described, has only 262 calories per portion and these portions are very generous and filling!
As this dish has a cheese component its calories may be a concern, however, I have used low-fat paneer (Apetina Paneer) which is delicious and, as cottage cheese and paneer, are normally quite bland in taste whether they are full or low fat, the important part is to pair them with a flavorful ingredient anyway, in this case, this delicious saag curry!
How to make vegan palak paneer/vegan saag paneer?
The only ingredient to change in this recipe is the paneer, which can be swapped for firm tofu.
Something I love to do is use boiled potato cubes instead of paneer, which have a nice consistency and because potatoes work with anything!
If you are thinking of drizzling some cream on top for garnish, as I did, you can use a vegan one, although it is not necessary as the saag curry is extremely creamy already.
~~ Looking for more vegan inspiration? Easy-Peasy Potato Curry Recipe with Coconut | Vegan Potato Curry With Coconut | Aloo Mappas and The (tastiest and easiest) Vegan Dry Potato Curry | One Pot 30 Minute Meal
Can I use frozen spinach for this recipe?
This recipe uses frozen spinach, as where I am currently living it may difficult to find baby spinach, which is much less bitter than full-grown spinach leaves and it takes a long time to trim the stem of the bigger leaves, which give a lot of bitterness.
Should you find baby spinach, you can lightly blanch the leaves and follow the recipe as written, but if not, frozen spinach ‘cubes’ can be easily defrosted on a low flame and used in this recipe; I purchased mine from the local Indian shop, as they freeze baby spinach leaves. I have added half a teaspoon of sugar to this recipe, as it has a sweet side, which also helps should your spinach be a bit bitter.
This easy saag paneer recipe is filling, tasty, and tastes authentic!
It is very low in calories, creamy although cream-less, and gorgeous to serve, as the spinach maintains its rich color.
If like me, you love spinach and cheese this is a great dish to prepare.
What to serve palak paneer with? Rice, chapattis, parathas… you have no excuses, as it works with everything and anything, also cauliflower rice!
Give it a go… this is another great fakeaway recipe!
Palak Paneer Recipe | How to make Saag Paneer | Spinach with Indian Cottage Cheese
For the spinach puree:
- 300 g Frozen Spinach 11 oz
- 2 Green Chilies
- 5 Cashew Nuts Unsalted
- 1 tsp Sunflower Oil or any unflavored vegetable oil
- 100 ml Water 3.5 oz
For the Curry Base:
- 1 Tbsp Sunflower Oil or any unflavored vegetable oil
- 2 Cardamoms I used one green and one black
- 2 Cloves
- ½ Inch Cinnamon Stick
- 1/8 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 150 g Red Onion Finely Chopped (5.3 oz)
- 1 ½ tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
- 150 g Tomato Finely Chopped (5.3 oz)
- Salt to Taste
For the finishing touches:
- ¾ tsp Garam Masala Powder
- 100 ml Water 3.5 oz
- ½ tsp Dry Fenugreek Leaves
- ½ tsp Sugar
- 200 g Low Fat Paneer 7 oz
- 1 tsp Sunflower Oil or any unflavored vegetable oil
Prepare the spinach puree
- In a large pan, which will be used to cook the whole curry, place the frozen blocks of spinach and put a lid on it; turn on the heat to low and allow the spinach to defrost, but not cook. This should take about 8-10 minutes.
- Once the spinach cubes are defrosted put them in a self-standing blender and set aside, without blending.
- In the same pan used for the spinach, add 1 tsp of oil and warm up; once the oil is warm add the green chilies and cashews and lightly fry, without burning. This should take 30 seconds to one minute.
- Add the cashews and chilies to the spinach, together with the 100ml (3.5 oz) of water, and blend to a very smooth pure and set aside.
Start preparing the base curry:
- Using the same pan which is now empty, add one tablespoon of oil and warm up on low to medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add the whole garam masalas (cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, and cumin) and lightly fry until fragrant for about 30 seconds to one minute.
- At this stage, add the finely chopped onion and a bit of salt and mix well; sauté the onions for two to three minutes.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste and mix well to the onions and lightly fry until the smell of rawness of the paste has gone; this should happen in about one minute.
- Once the smell of rawness of the ginger garlic paste has gone, add the tomatoes and mix well; put a lid on the pan and reduce the heat to low. At this stage, allow the tomatoes to cook until mushy, which should take about 5-7 minutes. Keep the flame on very low so the tomatoes don’t try to stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Put the fenugreek leaves in a small ceramic pot or paper towel and microwave for 15 seconds, so the leaves release their fragrance and are easier to crush between the palms of your hands into the curry.
- Add the dry fenugreek leaves to the curry base by crushing them between your palms; add the garam masala as well and mix the curry well.
- After about thirty seconds, the spices will be cooked and nicely integrated, the last 100ml (3.5 oz) of water can be added. Bring the curry to a simmer.
- Add the spinach puree and mix well; apply the lid to the pan again and keep the curry on a low flame.
- (OPTIONAL)In the meantime, while the spinach curry is simmering on a low flame, chop the paneer into cubes about half an inch (1 to 1.5cm) in size; add a teaspoon of oil to a pan, warm it up and lightly fry the cubed paneer. The paneer can be cubed and added to the curry without frying.
- Once the paneer is lightly fried, add it to the spinach curry and mix well; allow the paneer to cook in the curry for 2-3 minutes then serve!
- This can be garnished with a little cream or without it! It is extremely creamy and rich – while being low in calories – and it does not need any addition!