i want to get this out of the way right at the beginning: this “palak paneer style spinach” is a total mashup of a few recipes with tenuous ties to “authentic” palak paneer and my own personal eating preferences and self-imposed rules de jour.
really, a much more accurate title for this recipe would be “kate’s personal current favorite way to eat spinach and chick peas and spices for dinner”, buuuuut, i wasn’t sure that phrase would get much traffic from the googles, nor did i think it would give you much of a clue as to what to expect from the recipe. (though as i think through it a bit more, perhaps creating “expectations” tied to a known recipe that is beloved by many AS IS – not tweaked and contorted – is *not* such a great idea… onward!)
ok, so, now that we’ve got that bit out of the way (and i’ve really set a solid foundation for convincing you how good this palak paneer style spinach is…), let’s talk flavor. in a word, yum. this part (the spices) is reasonably free from my meddling. onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, cumin, garam masala, etc. all the usual (delicious) suspects.
where things start to get a little weird unconventional is when we get to the protein. paneer, as you may know, is a type of indian cheese. it is delicious. also sometimes difficult to find if you are shopping in an american grocery store. extra firm tofu, as it turns out, has a similar texture and sufficiently mild flavor as to make it a good substitute for paneer.
unless you are simultaneously experimenting with not eating dairy or soy. so while i have made palak paneer style spinach with tofu standing in for paneer in the past and thought it was delicious, this time i used chick peas in place of the paneer.
paneer and chick peas have little in common, aside from the fact that they both taste delicious in indian-inspired dishes such as this one. and i’ve successfully put chick peas and spinach together in the past, so i wasn’t worried that they would get in a fight with each other and stage a mutiny (looking at you, every egg custard based ice cream recipe i’ve ever tried to make…).
and indeed, all of the flavors and ingredients behaved harmoniously and made for delicious leftovers, which i appreciate. that said, if you’re not imposing dietary restrictions on yourself for sport (only kind of true…) and eat tofu, i encourage you to swap that in for a more “authentic” (ha!) palak paneer style spinach. or if you can find paneer in a local store, give yourself a high five and use that!
sort of regardless of what you use (don’t use week old fish), this palak paneer style spinach will be delicious because did i mention there’s ginger and garlic?
- 1 cup (7 oz. / 198 g.) brown basmati rice
- 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 green chili (not a jalapeño), minced, with the ribs and seeds included for medium spicy
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, see notes
- 2 teaspoons garam masala, see notes
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 5 medium size cloves of garlic, minced
- 14.5 oz. (411 g.) can of diced tomatoes, with their juices (i used low sodium)
- 16 oz. (454 g.) bag of frozen spinach
- ~7 fl. oz. (half a chick pea can / 207 ml) of water
- 15.5 oz. (439 g.) chick peas, drained and rinsed, see notes (i used low sodium)
- small handful fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
- cook rice according to package directions.
- heat the oil in a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium heat. when hot, add the onion and chili. sauté until they are soft.
- move the onion and chili to the side of the pan and put the cumin seeds in the center of the pan. stir the seeds around for a minute.
- add the garam masala, coriander, ginger, and garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring frequently, for 2 – 3 minutes, until the spices have darkened a little bit and everything smells amazing.
- turn the heat down to medium low and add the tomatoes. stir everything around and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
- blend the onion/spice mixture, spinach, and water until it reaches your desired consistency. i don’t like it to be too smooth. return the mixture to the pan.
- add the chick peas (or tofu/paneer) to the pan and stir until everything is evenly mixed (stir gently if you’re using tofu) and then cover the pan. adjust the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes, leaving the lid off at the end if the mixture is too thin or adding more water if it dries out.
- serve hot over rice with a sprinkle of cilantro. leftovers keep well in the fridge for several days and reheat like a charm.
mccormick spices has cumin seeds in their line up and mccormick gourmet spices (in the glass jars) has a garam masala blend and ground coriander. i mention this not because i’m particularly partial to mccormick (though i did use their coriander and garam masala for this palak paneer style spinach), but rather because they’re a big brand that a lot of grocery stores stock, so hopefully that bodes well for you finding these ingredients.
as i mentioned above, if you’re not avoiding soy and want this to be more like palak paneer, you can use tofu (or paneer, of course, if you can find it) instead of chick peas. press the excess water out of the tofu (or paneer) then cut it into 1” (2.5 cm) cubes and add it to the pan after you’ve blended the spinach.
adapted from a mash-up of homemade healthy palak paneer on pinch of yum and palak paneer on food52, with a splash of my chick peas and spinach thrown in for good measure.