Saag Paneer (or Indian-Style Spinach with Fresh Cheese)

This recipe comes from past Root Radical crew member Anika, who found it in Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

I think you could go with a combination of greens and spinach with this recipe or just use all mustard greens.

Saag Paneer (or Indian-Style Spinach with Fresh Cheese)



  • 3 quarts whole milk
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Spinach Sauce

  • 10 ounces curly-leaf spinach rinsed
  • 3/4 pound mustard greens stemmed and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 onion chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeño chile stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes drained and chopped coarse
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews chopped coarse
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped


For the cheese:

  1. Line colander with triple layer of cheesecloth and set in sink. Bring milk to boil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Whisk in buttermilk and salt, turn off heat, and let stand for 1 minute. Pour milk mixture through cheesecloth and let curds drain for 15 minutes.

  2. Pull edges of cheesecloth together to form pouch. Twist edges of cheesecloth together, firmly squeezing out as much liquid as possible from cheese curds. Place taut, twisted cheese pouch between 2 large plates and weigh down top plate with heavy Dutch oven. Set aside at room temperature until cheese is firm and set, at least 45 minutes. Remove cheesecloth and cut cheese into ½-inch pieces. (Left uncut, cheese can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

For the spinach sauce:

  1. Place spinach in large microwave-safe bowl, cover, and microwave until wilted, about 3 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop enough spinach to measure 1/3 cup and set aside. Transfer remaining spinach to blender and wipe out bowl. Place mustard greens in now-empty bowl, cover, and microwave until wilted, about 4 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop enough mustard greens to measure 1/3 cup and transfer to bowl with chopped spinach. Transfer remaining mustard greens to blender.

  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds, coriander, paprika, cardamom, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion and ¾ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeño; cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and just beginning to stick to pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook mixture until pan is dry and tomatoes are beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
  3. Transfer half of onion mixture to blender with greens. Add half of cashews and water; process until smooth, about 1 minute. Return puree to skillet.
  4. Return skillet to medium-high heat, stir in chopped greens and buttermilk, and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until flavors have blended, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in cheese cubes and cook until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with remaining cashews and cilantro, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Serves 4 to 6. To ensure that the cheese is firm, wring it tightly in step 2 and be sure to use two plates that nestle together snugly. Use commercially produced cultured buttermilk in this recipe. We found that some locally produced buttermilks didn’t sufficiently coagulate the milk. Serve with basmati rice.