Palak Paneer is a famous vegetarian dish that originated in the Punjabi region of India, but there are many variations depending on tradition in each household. Though there are different ways to make this Indian meal, sometimes the easier route is better for everyone! If you’re looking to make a quick, homemade meal at home, this Instant Pot Palak Paneer recipe is for you. But first, let’s talk about some of the basics.
What is Paneer?
Paneer is a creamy Indian cheese that’s made from curdled milk and some sort of fruit or vegetable acid like lemon juice. There are some distinct traits that make Paneer the cheese that it is:
- It’s an unaged cheese
- It’s a soft cheese
- It doesn’t melt
Many people compare paneer to cottage cheese. There are different theories as to where Paneer originated, the oldest and most common of them dating back to the 16th century in Southeast Asia where Persian and Afghani rulers first introduced the cheese. No matter its origin, it’s no secret that Paneer is a big and tasty part of the Indian culture.
If you’re looking to make Paneer at home, it’s a super easy process! All you need is whole milk, a cheesecloth, and lemon juice. You’ll have delicious Indian cheese in under one hour.
In this recipe from The Food Network, you line your colander with a large double layer of cheesecloth and set it in the sink. Then, bring 8 cups of whole milk to a gentle boil over medium heat while stirring. Once that happens, add in your lemon juice and turn the heat to low. While stirring, the curds will start forming! Remove from heat and pour contents into your lined colander and rinse with cold water. Take the cheesecloth in hand and squeeze out the excess liquid. Then tie it to your faucet to let the remaining liquid drain. After that, twist the ball tight and place another plate on top and weigh it down with a heavy pot to ensure smooth cheese. Refrigerate it like this for about 20 minutes and then enjoy!
If you don’t have time to make Paneer at home, you can usually always find some at Whole Foods, Aldi, online on Amazon, or your local Indian grocer. You can learn more about Paneer in our latest guide about the infamous Indian cheese.
Instant Pot Palak Paneer Ingredients:
To make this perfect Instant Pot Paneer, you’ll need just a few simple ingredients: spinach, cooking oil, finely chopped onion, ginger-garlic paste, cloves, paneer, coriander powder, garam masala, and cream. You’ll also need a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste to round out the flavors for a perfect, saucy mixture of veggies and cream.
For the spinach in Instant Pot Palak Paneer, you can use a bunch of spinach or baby greens depending on what you have on hand. They also don’t have to be fresh! Frozen spinach works in this recipe as well.
If you like the taste of fennel, you can add a teaspoon of fennel seeds as well, but they’re optional. So if you don’t have any fennel seeds at home, don’t worry about it!
Saag Paneer vs Palak Paneer:
So, what exactly is the difference between Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer? While both dishes are made with spinach, Saag Paneer can be made with spinach, mustard leaves, or really any mixture of greens. Palak Paneer is just strictly made with spinach. If you’re looking for a way to remember the difference, just think of this: Palak translates to spinach in Hindi.
Another main difference between Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer is the spices that are used. Saag relies heavily on the use of garam masala whereas Palak Paneer tends to have more coriander. Another small difference is that yogurt is sometimes substituted in Palak Paneer, while Saag Paneer typically only uses cream. This can lead to a difference in texture and a slight difference in taste as well.
How to Make Palak Paneer in an Instant Pot:
Once you’ve gathered all of your ingredients, you’re ready to start making Instant Pot Palak Paneer! You’re going to start out with your cooking oil in the Instant Pot on saute mode. Add in your cloves and fennel seeds, if you have them. As your spices sputter, add in your finely chopped onion and saute for three to four minutes, or until the onion starts to turn translucent and golden. Once that happens, add in your ginger garlic paste and cook for 30 seconds.
After that, stir in your tomato paste until blended and then add in your chopped spinach. You’re now ready to seal up your Instant Pot! Close your Instant Pot with pressure valve to sealing. Now here comes the difference between frozen spinach and fresh spinach If you’re using frozen spinach, put your Instant Pot on Manual (Hi) for one minute. If you’re using fresh spinach, put your Instant Pot on Manual (Hi) for zero minutes.
Then, quick-release your Instant Pot and turn it to Saute (Less). Don’t skip this step because doing this will stop the spinach puree from splattering everywhere! Once you do that, add in your optional half cup of water and blend to make a smooth paste with your immersion blender. Then, add in your cream, garam masala, and paneer. Gently stir it all together and serve over rice or with parathas.
Tips for Making Instant Pot Palak Paneer:
When you’re making Instant Pot Palak Paneer, it’s important not to skip any steps and jump ahead! Doing each step ensures a tasty, quick, and safe Indian meal. Here are some other helpful tips for making Instant Pot Palak Paneer:
- Paneer usually holds in the refrigerator no more than 3 days, so make sure not to make or buy it too far in advance
- As we mentioned earlier, you can use fresh or frozen spinach – the difference is only one minute in the Instant Pot
- If for some reason your Instant Pot Palak Paneer is tasting a little on the bitter side because of the spinach, try adding a little more of the spices to offset that taste
- If that still doesn’t quite do the trick and your spinach is stubbornly bitter, try adding a little citrus juice
- You can tell if your Paneer went bad if it has little yellow or brown patches on it. If this is the case, throw it away
More Easy Indian Recipes:
After you’ve mastered Instant Pot Palak Paneer, try one of our other super easy recipes: