This saag paneer (braised greens with Indian cottage cheese) is full of flavor, easy to whip up, and an efficient way to use up any extra greens you have lying around. A 10/10 meal I fear !!!!
Let’s talk Indian food and saag paneer. I find that everything I type here in the writing portion of the blog posts is SO CORNY but I have things to share and I will share them! One book I found in the summer of 2021 (in the Ames public library on a cookbook binge) is Chaat by Jody Eddy & Maneet Chauhan and it CHANGED !!! MY !!! LIFE !!! I truly could go on a tangent here about how I want to get better at cultural cooking and how even though I spend a lot of time in the kitchen I still feel like I’m not good at south asian cooking and that’s something I want to work on… etc etc….. This book made me feel so much better and closer to the culture. Even though I’m not Indian, reading about Indian cooking gives me comfort and makes me feel like I can soon tackle Bengali cooking (the motherland cooking, if I will, that I watched my mom do in the kitchen for years). The Kolkota chapter (Kolkota where many Bengalis stay) also has a lot of great recipes similar to those I grew up with <3
This saag paneer was a good first step for me; it’s so easy to make, uses paneer which is very common in Indian food culture, and uses up greens like none other. I made it ALLLL the time last summer at my internship in the small university dorm kitchen,,, so practical, so yummy, so flavorful! My iteration of the recipe is similar to that in the book with small changes based on what I found flavorful and I had on hand. Thank you, Jody Eddy and Maneet Chauhan, for allowing this little step closer into South Asian cuisine… bought this cookbook immediately after returning it to the library and I WILL be cooking more from it….
Saag Paneer basics (from my inexperienced amateur home cook self)
- Paneer: best straight from the Indian supermarket I fear. The versaility makes me shake….
- Spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, kashmiri red chili powder. I find that for South Asian cooking (that I saw growing up) these are the ESSENTIALS !!! Also, Thai green chili peppers. So heavily used, such a nice spice, so perfect.
- Greens: Saag means all types of greens. The more familiar Palak Paneer uses just spinach (Palak) but Saag uses all kinds of greens. The cookbook suggests arugula and kale, or if you have leftover green tops from cutting carrots and such they can be thrown in! For a total of 12 cups, a majority should be the spinach, but use up all the greens in your fridge. Sustainability, no waste, etc. I know it sounds like a lot of greens, but look how much spinach shrinks !!!! We teach our spinach to shrink…. to make itself smaller…..
Always Fun Variations & Other Notes
Finally, a post where I can talk variations !!!! There’s plenty in this recipe.
- Vegan variation: if you are vegan or perhaps don’t want so much cheese (shoutout to my lactose intolerant girls), you can switch the paneer for tofu and the ghee for vegan butter.
- About the greens: Any 12 cups of greens with a majority being spinach will be fine. I like arugula for its peppery flavor !!! As previously mentioned, use up green scraps or kale or arugula or bok choy or collard greens.
- What to serve with? I honestly like it equally with paratha (you can find frozen ones that are simple to heat up and serve with) or rice. Pro tip for wanting rice on the side: put the rice on the stove before starting to cook the saag paneer; rice has a lot of wait time which can best be used by making the dish itself.
More Indian-ish dishes coming soon (like these Indian-style potato wedges). 2022 IS THE YEAR !!!!
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1½ tsp ground cardamom
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp mustard seeds brown or white
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1½ tbsp ginger paste
- 1½ tbsp garlic paste
- 2-4 Thai green chili peppers, chopped depending on spice preference
- 8 cups packed baby spinach
- 4 cups packed baby arugula
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- 1 lemon
- ½ tsp salt adjust to taste
- 10 oz paneer cut into cubes
- basmati rice and/or paratha
- In a sauté pan, melt the ghee over medium-high heat. Add the cardamom, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, and mustard seeds, and sauté until the mustard seeds begin to pop, about 2-3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and sauté until translucent and light golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Add the ginger paste, garlic paste, and thai chili peppers and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the arugula and spinach and sauté until the greens are wilted, 4-5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and cool at room temperature for 5 minutes.
- Transfer the greens to a food processor. Add the cilantro and blend on medium speed until chunky but uniform. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste and return to the sauté pan.
- Set the pan over medium-low heat and stir in the paneer cubes. Cook until the paneer and saag are heated through, 4-6 minutes.
- Take off heat and serve. Spoon saag paneer into bowls, drizzle with melted ghee, and garnish with cilantro. Serve with cooked rice and/or paratha.