When it comes to comparing saag paneer vs palak paneer, there are a few top differences you’ll need to know. Because the two dishes are very similar, distinguishing between the two can be hard, especially for those who haven’t been exposed to these types of green curries before. In this post, we’ll break down the differences between these two delicious dishes so you’ll know in what ways they differ and in what ways they are the same.
Table of Contents
- What Is Saag Paneer?
- What Is Palak Paneer?
- What Is Difference in Palak and Saag?
- How Healthy Is Saag Paneer?
- Why Palak Paneer Is Not Healthy?
- Is Spinach and Saag Same?
- What Is Paneer and How Do I Make It?
- Best Palak Paneer Recipe
- Saag Paneer Recipe
- Saag Paneer vs Palak Paneer: Similar Yet Different!
What Is Saag Paneer?
Saag paneer is a green curry that is a common but not very popular dish in Indian food culture (palak tends to be more popular). Saag paneer uses various types of leafy greens, along with paneer, heavy cream, and garam masala spices to create one amazing and healthy dish.
What Is Palak Paneer?
Palak paneer is a very popular dish in Indian cuisine. It uses spinach leaves and paneer cheese only.
It also includes a blend of spices, such as garam masala, garlic, and more, that is very similar to saag.
What Is Difference in Palak and Saag?
Both palak paneer and saag are considered green curries.
Saag and palak paneer differ in that they utilize different leafy greens.
Palak paneer only uses spinach (aka only palak leaves), fresh cheeses, and heavy cream.
Saag paneer, on the other hand, uses various types of green leafy veggies, fresh cheese, is lighter on the cream, and is often only available on a seasonal basis.
What’s the Difference Between Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer?
There are a few notable differences between palak paneer vs saag paneer.
Palak is made of similar ingredients, with similar spices. However, sometimes, you can find palak paneer using chili powder, cumin, fennel, cilantro, and yogurt. When these different spices are used along with the yogurt, palak can taste tangier. However, palak can also be made using heavy cream which can render a flavor more similar to saag, though not exactly the same.
How Healthy Is Saag Paneer?
Saag paneer can be considered among healthy Indian foods as it contains many leafy green vegetables and not as much (if any) heavy cream.
Why Palak Paneer Is Not Healthy?
Palak paneer may not always be considered healthy because of its hearty dose of heavy cream and use of paneer pieces. The use of heavy cream and cheese can make it so that the calorie and fat content of palak paneer is increased.
Still, because good quality paneer can be flavorful and still healthy for your body, the nutritional components of consuming palak paneer make it worthy of including in your diet.
Is Spinach and Saag Same?
No, spinach and saag are not the same.
Saag refers to leafy green vegetables, while the term “palak” specifically refers to spinach leaves.
What Is Paneer and How Do I Make It?
Wondering how to make paneer at home to use in your saag and palak recipes?
Read on to find out!
Paneer: Homemade Indian Cheese
(Note: Makes 12 ounces of cheese)
- Place a double layer of cheesecloth in a colander. Set it in your sink.
- Bring the milk to a low boil over medium heat. Be sure to stir frequently to avoid burning. be patient, as the process can take a while. Also, be sure to watch the milk very closely as it can quickly overflow!
- Add your lemon juice. Turn the heat down on low. Soon, you’ll begin to see the curds and milk separate. This is what you want!
- Once this happens, remove the pot from the heat. Pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth in your colander. Rinse the curds with cool water to rid them of lemon flavor.
- Grab your cheesecloth and twist your fresh ball of cheese to squeeze out the excess whey. Tie your cheesecloth to your faucet to allow your cheese to drain for 10 minutes.
- Twist the cheesecloth to compact the cheese and place it on a plate. Set another plate on top. Weigh the top plate down with a can of veggies or a heavier pot. Allow it to sit in the fridge this way for 20 minutes.
- Voila! Now, you’ve for fresh paneer for saag or palak!
Best Palak Paneer Recipe
Now that you know how to make paneer, it’s time to put it to good use.
Check out the following recipe for making palak paneer:
- 1¼ cup paneer
- 3½ to 4 cups palak (spinach, 2 cups packed)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 green chilies (unseeded, use mild variety)
- ¾ cup onions (finely chopped)
- ½ cup tomatoes (chopped and unseeded)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger (finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (finely chopped)
- ¾ teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 10 cashew nuts or 7 blanched almonds
- ½ teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
- ½ teaspoon kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) (optional)
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Whole spices for palak paneer
- ⅛ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 green cardamoms
- 1-inch cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- Prepare the spinach leaves by washing and removing the stems (the stems can result in a bitter taste. However, feel free to leave the stems on if you are using baby spinach).
- Add your spinach to the drain in a large colander to remove the water.
- Heat oil in a pan. Saute your green chilies, spinach, and cashers for 4 minutes or until the leaves wilt.
- Cool the mixture completely. Blend the mixture along with 1/4 cups of water until it becomes a smooth puree. You can add up to 2 more tablespoons of water to assist in blending.
How to Make Palak Paneer Gravy
- Heat your butter and oil in the same pan you cooked the spinach in. Once melted, add your spices (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and cumin seeds).
- Once the spices begin to cook and become fragrant, add your onions. Cook until they develop color and begin to sweat.
- Add your ginger and garlic and sauté for about 1-2 minutes or until it turns fragrant.
- Add your tomatoes with the salt. Sauté this mixture until the tomatoes begin to break down and before soft and mushy.
- Add your garam masala and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Pour in ¾ cup of water and cook the mixture until the onions are soft. There will still be a little water left in the pan.
- Lower your heat.
- Add your kasoori methi and the pureed spinach mixture. Stir until incorporated.
- Cook the mixture until it bubbles for about 2-3 minutes. Add an additional 2 tbs of water if needed for a thinner consistency.
- Turn off the heat.
- Add paneer cheese and mix it well.
- Garnish with a few dollops of heavy cream.
- Serve with naan, basmati, or jasmine rice.
Saag Paneer Recipe
Let’s take this a step further and discover how to make saag paneer.
The recipe is as follows:
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
- 12 ounces paneer (cut into cubes)
- 1 (16-ounce package) thawed frozen chopped spinach
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons of ginger, peeled and minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large green serrano chile, finely chopped (unseeded for a milder taste)
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ cup plain yogurt, stirred until smooth
- Mix together your cayenne, turmeric, salt, and oil.
- Add paneer cubes to the mixture and toss carefully, being cautious not to break the cubes, especially if you’re making the homemade version as detailed above. Allow the paneer cubes to marinate while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Thaw your spinach and puree in a food processor (or chop it finely with a knife if you don’t have one).
- Place a large skillet over medium-heat and add your paneer as the skillet warms up. Fry the paneer cubes on each side so that the sides are browned. Remove the paneer and place it on a plate.
- Add the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of oil to your pan. Add your onions, ginger, garlic, and chilies. Puree this mixture until it is the color of toffee. This will take about 15 minutes. Be very careful next not to skip this important step! Feel free to add up to 2 tablespoons of water if the mixture seems to be too thick or is burning.
- After 15 minutes, add your garam masala, cumin, and coriander. Sprinkle with a little water if you didn’t before. Cook until fragrant (and no longer smells like raw spices) for about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the spinach to the spices and stir, along with the onion mixture. Add a little extra salt and ½ cup of water. Cook this for about 5 minutes, uncovered.
- Turn off your heat and add your yogurt. Mix into the spinach.
- Lastly, add your paneer.
- Turn your heat back on, cover, and heat through until fully warm.
- Serve with naan. Enjoy!
Saag Paneer vs Palak Paneer: Similar Yet Different!
Though saag paneer and palak paneer recipes have similarities, they are still quite different types of Indian food.
Both are green and utilize similar spices, but only palak paneer is most often served with heavy cream and palak only. Saag is sometimes garnished with cream or yogurt but uses a variety of green leaves (not only spinach) in the dish.
The results are two deliciously satisfying dishes from Indian food culture that people anywhere can enjoy.
Is palak paneer bitter?
The use of many spinach leaves can make palak paneer taste bitter. To curb the bitter taste, consider adding additional heavy cream to palak paneer ingredients to mute the bitterness of the spinach leaves.
Is palak the same as spinach?
Yes. The name “palak” means “spinach” in the Indian language.