Saag Paneer


21 Oct Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer with Garlic Chips - The Messy Baker

What are those things? Slivered almonds? Potato chips sprinkled a spinach dip? No. Crispy garlic slices atop a quick-cook version of saag paneer. See.

Saag Paneer with Garlic Chips - The Messy Baker

And it’s so good I ate it two days in a row.

Spinach is one of those foods that doesn’t photograph well when cooked. It can look slimy or gray. Or slimy and gray.

While I really enjoy a long-simmered sag paneer, also spelled saag panir, (a curry made with spinach and the Indian cheese, paneer) it’s usually best eaten in dim lighting along with a vitamin pill to make up for all the goodness you’ve cooked away. But Lucy Waverman reinvents the dish in A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes and Memorable Meals (Random House Canada, 2009).

Her version cooks up in less than 20 minutes (included slicing the garlic and chopping the ginger), maintains its brilliant colours and actually tastes like spinach (in a good way). My only gripe? There’s no way this recipe serves 6 people. No way.

Before I get to the recipe, what’s your stand on spinach? Raw only, not cooked? Any day, any way? Or  do I get to eat your share?

Saag Paneer with Fried Garlic - The Messy Baker

Saag Paneer
Excerpted with permission from Lucy Waverman’s A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen (Random House Canada, 2009)

Serves 6


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 tsp finely chopped gingerroot
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 5 cups baby spinach (My note: pack the spinach when you measure because it cooks down significantly)
  • 1 cup diced paneer
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and saute for 4 minutes or until pale gold. Remove garlic and ginger from skillet and reserve.
  2. Return skillet to heat and add cumin, coriander and mustard seeds. Saute for 1 minute, or until you can just smell the spices. Immediately add spinach and cook together until spinach wilts.
  3. Add paneer and cook for 1 minute, or until paneer is warmed through. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in yogurt and mint and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with fried garlic and ginger.

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No Comments
  • Daniel
    Posted at 09:13h, 21 October Reply

    It’s definitely frustrating when a cookbook misrepresents the number of servings of a recipe. That’s why on my blog I try to estimate the servings ridiculously conservatively, so I always err on the side of leftovers. After all, there’s no better way to get a quick meal on the table than reheating yesterday’s dinner. Thanks for another great recipe!

    Casual Kitchen

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:42h, 21 October Reply

      Leftovers are a godsend!

      I often disagree with serving size in recipes. Maybe I have a big appetite but often if it says serves 6, I think it serves 3. I do wonder if, in this case, the recipe was meant as a side dish and not a main.

  • aviva
    Posted at 09:34h, 21 October Reply

    I love saag paneer and will try this recipe. The spinach in your photo looks neither grey nor slimy — it looks wonderful. I guess paneer is available at Indian grocery stores? I’ve seen recipes for it and it appears to be rather involved…. Thanks for this recipe. Indian food is our absolute favorite (although it will be interesting to see if the little guy eats it).

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:45h, 21 October Reply

      Thanks, Aviva. You can get paneer at Indian grocery stores. I can’t find it in regular grocery stores and haven’t the patience to make my own. I know it’s simple enough, but I often want the paneer right away and don’t have half a day to let the curds compress.

      This is a very different version of sag (saag). Let me know how you like it.

      I’m going to make the slow-cooked version when the weather gets wintery, but don’t think I’ll be able to post shots of it. Some food should be served with a blindfold.

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 10:56h, 21 October Reply

    No, you do not get to eat my share! I love spinach any day, any way! I’ve been meaning to try making my own paneer one of this days, perhaps this recipe will force my hand. Or, more likely, I’ll just buy some and make this … it looks excellent, Charmian! Absolutely good enough to eat for two day.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:08h, 21 October Reply

      When I have you to dinner I will make a triple batch :-)

      • The Diva on a Diet
        Posted at 11:20h, 21 October Reply

        @Charmian Christie, its a deal! And I’m not kidding … you might well find me at your dinner table come spring! :)

        • Charmian Christie
          Posted at 12:37h, 21 October Reply

          I’d love to have you. Of course, now I’ll panic about what to make…

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 10:58h, 21 October Reply

    Gah, could there be more typos in my above comment? No, there could not. :(

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:09h, 21 October Reply

      Hey, DIva, I could still read it. I once transcribed an entire paragraph with my fingers off by one key — the results were complete gibberish. I can out do you in the typo contest any day!

      • The Diva on a Diet
        Posted at 11:21h, 21 October Reply

        @Charmian Christie, that is hilarious … and sounds like something I might do. My brain moves faster than my fingers … and I’m impatient too!

  • Francesca
    Posted at 11:01h, 21 October Reply

    This looks delicious. I’ll be trying this for sure.

    P.S> again, I love the new look of your blog. Seems very fresh!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:10h, 21 October Reply

      Thanks Francesca. I’m liking it too. And of course, I now wonder what took me so long to switch over. (In case you were wondering, it was the learning curve!)

  • Jill U Adams
    Posted at 11:02h, 21 October Reply

    And if I don’t go to the Indian grocery — what would work as a substitute for paneer?

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:16h, 21 October Reply

      Great question, Jill! I know people make their own paneer. It’s very simple but does this requires planning. And if you’re like me, you don’t want to wait.

      Since paneer keeps its shape during cooking (i.e. it doesn’t melt like mozzarella), has little or not salt, and a neutral flavour, firm tofu is a logical substitution. You could also substitute dry curd cottage cheese. Anyone else have suggestions?

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 11:14h, 21 October Reply

    That looks yummy! I don’t live or die over spinach, but I do like it.

    It our house of two adults and two kids I like to try recipes that say they serve 6. That’s because Hubby eats two servings alone (him and his damn metabolism), me 1, and anywwhere from none to 2 for the girls. If I’m lucky I’ve got lunch the next day. If I’m lucky.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:35h, 21 October Reply

      I usually allot two portions to my husband, too. The whole concept of “servings” is a crap shoot when you’re feeding a group.

      Here’s to lots of leftovers!

  • Sophie
    Posted at 11:29h, 21 October Reply

    I also love saag paneer & i will give this lovely recipe a try!! Thanks!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:28h, 21 October Reply

      Thanks, Sophie. If you make it, I’d love to hear your comments. It’s a bit different from the traditional recipe but is a nice change.

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 11:45h, 21 October Reply

    My husband won’t eat “wet leaves” but I do love spinach. I even had some last night. As for paneer, it’s my favorite Indian food. I’m not sure what this says about me since it’s relatively bland on its own, but I’ll always order the paneer-whatever that’s on the menu. Now I have a recipe for the two foods together, so for that I thank you.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:30h, 21 October Reply

      Paneer is your favourite Indian food? Really? I’d have thought you were more into samosas. Or pakoras.

      Funny thing is I wouldn’t touch “wet leaves” until I was well into my teens. Now, I love it — providing it’s spiced up a bit.

  • Lorraine
    Posted at 12:00h, 21 October Reply

    Four out of five in our house love spinach any way it’s cooked or tossed. But I might actually get #5 to eat the crispies in this recipe.

    These flavor combos–ginger, coriander, mint, yogurt–sound heavenly. A must-try-soon!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:32h, 21 October Reply

      Lorraine, the “crispies” are addictive. The second time I made this I doubled up on that part of the recipe and munched on them as a snack.

      And I agree, there’s something about the spice combo that’s just about perfect.

  • Lisa MacColl
    Posted at 15:34h, 21 October Reply

    You can have my share on 2 fronts. I only like spinach in salad, drowned in homemade boiled dressing…and then there’s the whole garlic thing.

    Looks good, though. Great picture!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:16h, 22 October Reply

      Okay, I’ll eat your spinach if you eat the boiled dressing. Never got into that. Think we’ll have to share the chocolate dessert, though.

  • Kerry Dexter
    Posted at 16:47h, 21 October Reply

    about spinach: for me it’s great raw, and in the last couple of years I’ve taken now and then to adding some at the very last minute to pasta marinara or on the top of pizza. but once it gets beyond the just wilted stage (or if it’s frozen), I’ll pass. heard of this dish but never had it or made it. sounds like a fine combination of flavors.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:20h, 22 October Reply

      I love spinach in pasta too. I like it raw in salad and sometimes have a salad of nothing but baby spinach.

      If it’s cooked? It really needs the supporting spices, in my opinion. I can’t eat it as a wilted lump with nothing but butter.

  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 22:39h, 21 October Reply

    I used to recipe test for Lucy and I learned so much from her simple, straightforward combinations of ingredients. She really knows how to isolate flavours and make them sing.

    On a related note, my friend Amy was just telling me earlier this week that she saw paneer at her local Longo’s Supermarket. I think that’s a great sign that this yummy cheese is catching on.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:23h, 22 October Reply

      You tested for Lucy? Wow. I’m jealous. I agree, her use of flavour combinations is impressive.

      Thanks for the info about Longos. We don’t have one here. I think Price Choppers carries paneer, but I don’t go there often.

      I’m sure this cheese will show up in standard grocery stores soon since cooking Indian food at home is gaining popularity.

  • Andrew
    Posted at 23:35h, 21 October Reply

    On the question of spinach I think it must be eaten raw. I would add a creamy ranch dressing. Perhaps like the one my wife makes, or failing that some chemical concoction from the supermarket.

  • peninggi badan
    Posted at 00:02h, 23 June Reply

    Spinach is one of those foods that doesn’t photograph well when cooked. It can look slimy or gray. Or slimy and gray.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 10:28h, 28 June Reply

      Tell me about it. Fortunately, this recipe is lightly cooked. Traditional sag paneer? Totally unphotographable!

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