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Saag paneer: Indian greens curry with farmer’s cheese

One of my favorite desi dishes is saag paneer: Spicy greens with chunks of farmer’s cheese. It’s very similar to palak paneer which, if I understand the names properly, is made primarily with spinach as the leafy green. I enjoy a mix of several greens, including fenugreek leaves and mustard greens to add some oomph to the spinach.

Food52’s “The Quest for the Easiest, Tastiest Palak Paneer” provides great tips. I hadn’t realized the importance of tomatoes, so don’t omit them.

Saag paneer bubbling in pot

Saag paneer over brown basmati


  • 12 ounces paneer, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 inches ginger root
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves
  • 4 to 6 ounces tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
  • 2 small to medium onions, chopped into a small dice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot curry powder: a mix containing garam masala, turmeric, and hot red chile — I used Penzey’s “Hot Madras Curry Powder”
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek seed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 small handful of curry leaves: chiffonade if fresh, otherwise crumble
  • a large handful of fenugreek leaves, dry or fresh
  • 1 pound (frozen or fresh) of a combination of chopped spinach and mustard greens — try arugula!
  • additional hot water, as needed
  • 1/4 cup lowfat or whole plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream


  1. In a broad frying pan, heat the oil until shimmering. Fry the paneer so that 2 or 3 sides are lightly browned. Set aside on a paper towel plate to absorb excess oil.
  2. Purée the ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup water with an immersion blender, and set aside.
  3. In a large pot, sauté the onions until translucent. Stir in spice mixture until fragrant.
  4. Stir in ginger, garlic, and tomato purée, followed by the greens. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Partially purée the saag with an immersion blender. I like some texture with sauce, so I take out about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the saag to purée. Add some hot water if it seems dry to purée.
  6. Stir in the yogurt and cream, followed by the paneer. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
  7. Adjust seasoning, then serve with rice or breads.

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