Easy Homemade Saag Paneer

Make your own Indian food with this easy homemade saag paneer – plus substitutions if you have difficulty finding paneer.

saag paneer with homemade paneer in a white bowl

When I shared my chicken tikka masala recipe, I promised that I’d also share an easy saag paneer recipe.  It’s time to make your own take out fake out even better with this delicious gluten free and vegetarian Indian favorite!

This is probably one of my favorite things to make for dinner.  The combination of spinach, cheese, and spices is perfect, it comes together quickly, and is quite filling.

I usually make it as a side with something meat-based for my husband (like the aforementioned chicken tikka masala). 

Personally, however, I’d be more than happy to eat a bowl of just this for dinner (and lunch the next day… and again for dinner…).

spinach with cubes of sauteed paneer in a white serving bowl

How to Make Homemade Paneer

If your local grocery store doesn’t carry paneer, it’s quite easy to make your own.  I’ve done this before without any complications, and is usually my top choice.

While the link above provides specific details, in short, you’ll want to simmer a half gallon of milk to 200 °F. Once foamy, remove the milk from the heat and add 1/4 cup vinegar.

Cover the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes. At this point, the mixture will have formed clumpy curds. Strain through a fine mesh cloth to collect the curds.

Squeeze out all the excess liquid, salt to taste, and shape the curds into a square (still in the cheesecloth). Place a heavy plate on top to press out additional moisture. After an hour, your paneer is ready!

saag paneer in a bowl next to indian eggplant curry

Easy Paneer Substitute

Unfortunately, making paneer moves this from a “really quick weeknight option” into a “not really viable for a night I don’t get home from work until 8pm” dinner, since I prefer to press the paneer for longer to get a firmer texture.

So to speed things up, I’ll share a tip which was once shared with me by an Indian friend: use queso blanco instead. 

I’ve never had a problem finding queso blanco at a typical big-box supermarket, and the process to make queso blanco is quite similar to paneer (though it is salted, so I typically don’t add salt to the spice mix with the paneer if I’m subbing in queso blanco).

It also has a high melting point, another reason why the substitution works well.

crispy paneer sauteed in turmeric and cayenne with spiced spinach

Common Questions about Homemade Saag Paneer

I can’t find paneer! What can I use as a substitute?

See the above sections for instructions on how to make homemade paneer, or use queso blanco as a direct substitute.

Can I substitute other leafy greens for the spinach?

Yes! Saag refers to ‘leafy greens’ whereas palak paneer indicates just spinach. You can use kale, swiss chard, or other leafy greens in this recipe.

Is the paneer spicy?

The addition of cayenne pepper does give the paneer a little kick, but it is not overwhelmingly spicy when mixed in with the spinach. If you are spice-averse, halve or leave out the cayenne pepper.

Is saag paneer gluten free?

Saag paneer is gluten free and vegetarian. If you would like to make a vegan version, use a dairy-alternative plain yogurt.

What should I serve with saag paneer?

We like to serve this with chicken tikka masala, Indian spiced lentils, or eggplant curry with coconut milk, and of course a side of homemade garlic naan!

Can saag paneer be frozen?

To freeze saag paneer, cool completely, then transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the container in the refrigerator for several hours, then heat in a saucepan over medium low, or thaw directly from frozen in the microwave using the defrost setting.

More Easy Vegetarian Recipes

Easy Homemade Saag Panner: Make your own Indian food at home with this easy saag paneer recipe, plus substitutions if you have difficulties finding paneer. {Bunsen Burner Bakery} #saagpaneer #indian #vegetarian #glutenfree

Easy Homemade Saag Paneer

Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Make your own Indian food with this easy homemade saag paneer – plus substitutions if you have difficulty finding paneer.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 32 ounces spinach, fresh or frozen
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, salt, and oil.  Drop in the cubes of paneer and toss to coat with the spice mixture.  Let this marinate for a few minutes while prepping the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Cook the spinach in a microwave safe dish, either according to package directions (if frozen) or microwaved for a few minutes with a few tablespoons of water (if fresh).  Drain the spinach, squeezing out all excess moisture, and chop finely.
  3. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the paneer as the pan warms.  After a few minutes, flip the paneer; each piece should be golden brown on one side.  Fry for another few minutes, then remove the paneer from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan.
  4. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger to the remaining oil.  Saute this mixture for several minutes until dark brown – about 15 minutes.  If the mixture starts to dry out, add a few tablespoons of water.
  5. Add in the garam masala, coriander, and cumin.  Sprinkle a little water in to keep the spices from burning.  Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the spinach and stir well.  Add a little salt to taste, a quarter cup of water, and cook for 5 minutes with the lid off.
  7. Turn off the to low and stir in the yogurt.  Once the yogurt is mixed into the spinach, add the paneer.  Cover and cook until everything is warmed through.

Notes

  1. Queso blanco can be substituted for paneer, but do not add salt with the turmeric and cayenne.
  2. Other leafy greens, such as kale or spinach, can be substituted for the spinach.

Leftover saag paneer should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 283Total Fat: 19.9gCarbohydrates: 11.9gProtein: 17.3g

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