Saag Paneer Recipe (Instant Pot & Stovetop)
Aug 10, 2023
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Creamy greens tossed with paneer (Indian cottage cheese), Saag Paneer is the ultimate comfort food. The earthiness of the greens cooked with spices, onions, and tomatoes makes this one of my favorite ways to enjoy greens. Make it in the Instant Pot, or stovetop.
Paneer is one such ingredient that’s hard to miss when you talk about Indian food. From curries, to breads, sweets and so much more, we use it all the time. One of the most popular paneer recipes happens to be one made with leafy greens. Saag Paneer is a great way to consume those healthy greens and make them a part of your diet. You can use any greens you want for this recipe but the most common ones are spinach and mustard greens (also called sarson in Hindi).
Palak Paneer vs Saag Paneer
The fact is that growing up in Delhi, I was familiar with palak paneer and saag but not saag paneer. It was not a term that we commonly used in our home. Mom made palak paneer and made saag ( sarson ka saag during winters) but never saag paneer. The difference between saag paneer and palak paneer lies in the greens that are used in the recipe. Generally when we say saag, we mean mixed greens. If you say “palak”, it only means spinach.
What’s the Difference?
Palak is Hindi word for Spinach so palak paneer is always made with spinach and paneer.
Saag usually refers to mixed greens which primarily includes mustard greens (sarson) and spinach. It can also include other greens like methi (fenugreek), bathua, kale etc. So saag paneer can be made with mixed green or with spinach only as well.
Ingredients for Saag Paneer
Leafy greens: choose the greens that are most easily available to you. Do not make with 100% mustard greens as that can be bitter. Spinach has a mild flavor and it is the reason why we mostly use it while making saag. Collard, turnip, swiss chard, kale can all be used to make saag.
Paneer: homemade is best but you can also get one from Indian grocery stores. Soak the paneer in warm water for 20 minutes before using it in the recipe. It makes the flavor better.
Spices: I don’t like using a ton of spices in this saag paneer recipe other than coriander, turmeric, garam masala and a bit of chili powder for the heat. Most of the flavor in the saag comes from the greens and it should be that way in my opinion.
Cashews: the purpose of cashews in this recipe is to thicken the saag and make it creamy. You can use almonds as well. If you don’t want to use nuts, that’s fine as well. You might add some heavy cream or coconut milk at the end in that case.
How to Make Saag Paneer
- Press the sauté button on your instant pot. Once it displays hot, add 1 tablespoon ghee and 1 tablespoon oil. Then add 1/4 teaspoon hing and stir.
- Then add the following: 1-inch ginger (roughly chopped), 3-4 garlic cloves (roughly chopped), 1 green chili (chopped), and 12 raw cashews. Sauté for 1 minute until the ginger and garlic start to change color.
- Add 1 medium onion (roughly chopped) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add 1 chopped medium tomato and cook for 1 minute.
- Then add the greens little by little- 250 grams spinach leaves and 250 grams mustard greens (trim the stalk, use just the leaves).
- Stir for around 2 to 3 minutes until the leaves wilt, then add the spices: 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/4 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder and 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste).
- Add 1/2 cup of water and stir. Remember the greens will also release a lot of water when pressure cooked so we don’t need to add lots of water.
- Close the lid and press the manual or pressure cook button. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes with the pressure valve in sealing position. Let the pressure release naturally.
- Open the lid and using an immersion blender, blend the contents. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can wait for the mixture to cool down a bit and then blend using your regular mixer.
- It took me 2 minutes to blend everything nicely using an immersion blender. The texture will be on the thicker side and that is what we want for this recipe. We don’t want a smooth puree.
- Press the sauté button and add 200 to 225 grams of paneer cubes and let it simmer for 2 to 3 more minutes. The saag will bubble a lot at this point, so you can cover the pot with a glass lid. I also added additional 1/4 cup of water at this point. You can adjust the consistency of the saag as needed.
- Finish with 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala. You can also add some cream if you want at this point, I did not add any since I like my saag without cream and prefer this homemade healthy version. Serve warm with rotis or naan.
Stovetop Instructions for Saag Paneer
If you want to make this recipe in a pan on stovetop. Start by heating ghee and oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic, green chili and cashews and cook for 1 minute until ginger garlic change color. Then add the onions and cook 2 minutes. Add chopped tomato and the greens and mix until the leaves wilt. Then add the spices (except garam masala) and salt and 1 cup of water. Cover the pan with a lid and let the mixture cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. You may need to add more water if all the water evaporates.
Then use an immersion blender to puree the saag. Add more water as required to adjust the consistency of saag to preference. Add paneer and let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Finish with garam masala and serve hot.
Fry The Paneer For More Flavor
A lot of restaurants fry the paneer for saag paneer or palak paneer before adding it to the recipe. I am personally not a fan of frying my paneer. I like adding soft paneer straight to the recipes. However, if you want to fry, heat some oil in a pan on medium heat. Then add the paneer cubes and fry until golden brown from both sides (flip the cubes once in between). Place the fried paneer cubes in a bowl filled with warm water for 10 minutes. Then squeeze water out of the cubes and then add to the recipe. This will keep the cubes soft and not turn the paneer chewy.
Making it With Only Spinach
If you can’t find mustard greens and want to make saag paneer with only spinach, you can of course do that. However that will then be palak paneer and not saag paneer. If you want to make this recipe with just spinach, use 500 grams of spinach in the recipe.
You can easily make a vegan version of this saag paneer recipe. All you have to do is to replace the paneer with extra-firm tofu and the ghee with oil. The rest of the recipe remains the same. You can add some coconut milk at the end if you like and you can also fry the tofu before adding it to the gravy.
- To make the saag paneer even creamier, you can add some heavy cream at the very end. Keep in mind that the saag is already thick and creamy from the cashews so it might not be needed.
- If you wish, you can add an additional tadka at the end, like I did in my sarson ka saag recipe. You can heat some ghee and sauté some chopped garlic and pour that over the saag paneer before serving. You can also top it with some butter before serving. Homemade white makhan (white butter) would be even better!
- To make this recipe gluten free, skip the hing (asafetida) or use gluten free hing.
- Other leafy greens that can be used to make saag: collard greens, swiss chard, kale, fenugreek. If you can’t find mustard greens, it will be a good idea to use 50% spinach and 50% remaining greens.
- This recipe is more homestyle and doesn’t use lots of spices or cream. If you want, you can definitely use whole spices like cumin seeds, bay leaf, cardamom etc. Sauté them before adding the ginger-garlic.
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/4 teaspoon hing asafetida
- 1 inch ginger 12 grams, roughly chopped
- 3-4 large garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1 green chili roughly chopped, use more to taste
- 12 cashews raw whole cashews
- 1 medium onion 180 grams, roughly chopped
- 1 medium tomato 164 grams, roughly chopped
- 250 grams spinach stalk removed and roughly chopped
- 250 grams mustard greens stalk removed and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder not the hot variety but you can use regular chili powder to make it spicier
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 3/4 cup water divided
- 225-250 grams paneer cut into cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream optional to add at the end, I did not add
- Press the saute button on your Instant Pot. Once it's hot, add ghee and oil and then add the hing and stir for a few seconds. Add the ginger, garlic, chili and cashews and cook for 1 minute until the ginger and garlic begin to change color.
- Then add the roughly chopped onion and cook for 2 minutes until the onions soften. Then add the chopped tomato and cook for 1 more minute.
- Start adding the greens (spinach and mustard greens), little by little. You should chop them roughly before adding it to the pot. The leaves will wilt in 3 to 4 minutes and reduce in volume.
- Then add the spices- coriander powder, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder and also the salt. Stir and add 1/2 cup of water and close the lid. The greens release a lot of water when pressure cooked so we don't need a lot of water here. If you have an 8qt, you might consider adding additional 1/4 cup.
- Press the pressure cook button and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes with the pressure valve in the sealing position. Let the pressure release naturally. Open the lid and then use an immersion blender to puree the saag. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender. Just make sure to wait for the saag to cool down a bit before you puree it in a regular blender.
- I like using an immersion blender since it doesn't make the saag super smooth which is what I prefer for this recipe. Then press the sauté button again and add the paneer cubes and let it simmer for 2 to 3 more minutes.
- As the saag simmers, you can add more water to adjust the consistency as needed. I added additional 1/4 cup water here. Add the garam masala at the very end and serve saag paneer hot with naan or roti. You can also drizzle some cream on top before serving.
- Heat ghee and oil in a pot on medium heat. Once hot, add the chopped ginger, garlic, chili and cashews. Cook for 1 minute until the ginger and garlic start to change color, then add the chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes until the onions are soft.
- Then add the chopped tomato and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chopped spinach and mustard greens and mix until the leaves wilt. Then add all the spices (except garam masala) and salt. Stir and and 1 cup of water. Cover the pot with a lid and let the mixture cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. You may need to add more water if all the water evaporates.
- Open the lid and use an immersion blender to blend the saag. Add the paneer cubes and simmer for 5 minutes. Use more water as needed at this point and adjust the consistency as needed. Add the garam masala and cream (if using) and serve hot!
- This saag paneer is a low carb dish, it can also be easily made gluten free by skipping the hing and vegan by skipping ghee and replacing the paneer with extra firm tofu.
- To make the saag paneer creamier, you can add heavy cream or coconut milk at the end.
- Any combination of greens can be used but I would strongly recommend using mustard greens and spinach for this recipe. You can add additional greens in addition to these but make sure to have these 2 in the recipe for best flavor.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.