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Five flavours » Indian, Vegetarian » Tomato Saag Paneer

Tomato Saag Paneer

When I was a spinach-disliking child, my brother would torment me at the dinner table by telling me how delicious the spinach was, “MMMMmmmMMMMMMmmm”, in that annoying way that only little brothers can do. I later found out that he didn’t even like it himself. He admitted that he just ate it because Popeye did. Well, Popeye wasn’t one of my childhood heroes, but fortunately I did eventually learn the joys of leafy green veggies and now I’m a total convert. Nobody has to tell me to eat my greens now.

One reason I like making saag paneer is that you can make the delicious green sauce out of anything you have at hand, even frozen spinach. When Indians refer to greens in recipes it usually means you can use any leafy green vegetable. For instance, saag paneer (or similarly Palak Paneer) is often made of spinach with a bit of mustard greens thrown in for good measure even though “saag” often gets somewhat mistranslated as “spinach”. Of course in New Zealand we are fortunate to have a variety of leafy greens available all year round especially if you frequent Asian supermarkets as I do. So, It’s cheap, delicious and healthy. Three cheers for easy healthy meals!

The second reason I like making this is that I love paneer. As I was frying this up I realised that many people might not have access to fresh paneer, so watch for my upcoming post on how to make your own. But, until then, try Indian spice shops and just ask the shopkeeper if you don’t see it in the fridge. Another alternative that I’ve heard of (although I haven’t tried myself) is to use tofu. Paneer has a very mild taste and so I can imagine this working with a firm tofu.

The two things you can play with here are the texture and the treatment of the paneer. If you have a hand blender or a food processor you can blend the whole sauce before adding the paneer so that you get a nice, smooth gravy. But if you like it with more texture, you can just leave it as it is. Also, I like to fry up the paneer so that you get that nice, golden crust on the outside. But it’s absolutely OK to just cook the paneer straight in the sauce.

Tomato Saag Paneer


Vegetable oil for frying

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic (or more)

A couple of centimeters of fresh grated ginger

1 teaspoon of cumin powder (jeera)

½ teaspoon ground coriander powder

½ teaspoon turmeric (haldi)

½ teaspoon of chili powder

100 grams of paneer cubed

250 grams of spinach or other green leafy vegetable (you can use fresh or frozen)

2 handfuls of chopped fresh tomatoes or one tin

Salt to taste


Fry the paneer in a little oil until brown and then set aside on kitchen paper. You don’t have to fry it, but it gives a nice texture.

Add a bit more oil to the pan if needed and fry the onion for a minute before adding the garlic and grated ginger for one more minute.

Now add the spices and stir around until fragrant (about a minute).

Add the spinach and cook down adding the tomatoes and paneer at the end.

Let everything simmer together with a bit of salt to taste and serve with rice or roti.

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11 Responses to "Tomato Saag Paneer"

  1. Marie says:

    Thanks Heather! It’s good to hear from you because we were just talking about you and wondering how you were getting on down there. We should catch up! I’ll send an email soon:)

  2. Heather says:

    This sounds so good, I can’t wait to try it! Marie, the blog looks great! We just got our internet in Welly so I’m able to catch up on your posts! They all look so yum! Cheers!

  3. Marie says:

    Bombay Grill power lunch. I love it!

  4. Shiela says:

    We recently went to a place called Bombay Grill for my 40th and they have paneer there – so yummy! Very mild and yes I think you are absolutely right that you could use a firm tofu for this. Girl – we do need to hang out before I turn 50 – and we are going to the Bombay Grill for one of our power lunches :) I need you to introduce me to all the other good stuff on the menu that I have no idea what it is…

  5. Marie says:

    Hi Ana! Nice to see you here.

  6. Ana O'Reilly says:

    Hi Marie! just stumbled upon your post :):)

  7. Mel says:

    YUM. I recently used similar spices in a fry up of potatoes and chorizo (odd but nice) – but this just sounds so good! I fell in like with paneer when I was in Singapore last year (at a lovely restaurant in Little India) – I am intrigued about the concept of homemade paneer, look forward to your post on that!

  8. My taste buds have just “discovered” kale (yep, I know..,its always been there, but for some reason I had never got too excited about it…, perhaps it was the spinach thing which I later learnt had more to do with the cooking of than the fabulous vegetable); so I’m going to use kale in this palak paneer, it looks great. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Marie says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    Mary Anne it must be lovely having a Nepali restaurant nearby. We used to go to a good one in Tokyo, too. It’s nice to have the variety without having to make it yourself everytime. I’ve heard that Hokkaido milk is exported to China. Can you get that there? That’s what I used to make my paneer with in Japan although if it’s UHT it might not work. Maybe you could ask the restaurant owners what they do.

    Hi Nissa! Yes, kale would work (yum!) but take the hard stalks off first and just use the leaves. Since kale has tougher leaves you’ll probably want to blitz it with a food processor or blender to make it smooth before adding the paneer. Leave the lid off while cooking but if it’s still too watery you could drain it in a sieve. I’d love to know how that comes out!

    I’m not sure about the North Shore (my future mission, perhaps?), but if you can get over to Sandringham, most shops there sell paneer. Also Xotic, the restaurant on Mt. Albert Road, often has it and you can pick up some samosas or sweeties at the same time!

  10. Oh oh oh! we just had palak paneer for dinner tonight at the Nepali restaurant nearby! What a lovely coincidence! I used to make my own paneer back in Canada years ago but the milk here is a bit dodgy so I haven’t bothered. I may go back to making my own saag. Yum.

  11. Nissa says:

    Thanks for posting this recipe – it sounds easy and delicious. I have an excess of kale at the moment – wonder if that would work. Have you tried this? Also, could you email me where to find paneer in Auckland? Cheers! Nissa

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