If it’s not obvious based on the recipes that I share here on Global Kitchen, I’m not super traditional when it comes to my Indian food. I grew up eating super traditional dishes that my mom and dad cooked, but now that I’m learning how to make all of their recipes on my own, I’m definitely putting my own twists on things so that they can fit into my weekly recipe rotation. To be completely honest, the recipes my mom gives me are very loose in terms of measurement. Most of it comes out as “just add a spoon of this and a little of that to adjust the taste”, so I spend a lot of time experimenting with tastes and flavors to get them to my liking. But that’s what I love about recipes! It’s always a learning process and adjusting to how you prefer things. I like to think of recipes as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. So for me, most things start off as an experiment by trying to figure out if the flavors of something familiar can be replicated into a new form and different recipe, and that’s basically the story of how this pizza came together.
If you’re still new to the world of Indian food, palak paneer is a spinach and cheese dish that you will likely find on almost an Indian restaurant menu. Paneer is a fresh cheese that is made by curdling milk with an acid like lemon juice or vinegar, straining it through a cheese cloth, and then letting it set so it can be cut into cubes. It’s softer in texture than a halloumi cheese, but still holds its shape when cooked, acting as a non-melting cheese. My mom makes fresh batches for paneer dishes, and I’m totally guilty of swiping a few cubes after she grills them because there’s nothing better than some fresh paneer.
To make this one of those easy prep recipes, I just used store-bought naan as the base. There are actually so many great quality naans at most grocery stores now, so just find the brand you like and you’re good to go! This one is actually a whole wheat version which I love, but I also like using garlic naans as the base for some extra flavor. I’m sure you could experiment using fresh pizza dough on a pizza stone or even on the grill – especially now that grilling season is right around the corner.
Palak Paneer is fairly simple to make, and I’ve adjusted my version to be more similar to my mom’s version than to a restaurant version. The palak paneer you’ll get with Indian takeout is likely made with lots of butter and heavy cream, which is definitely delicious, but not something I want to eat on a daily basis. My mom has always made hers with a little ghee to saute the spices in, and with a few spoons of sour cream instead of the heavy cream. This way you still get a little bit of that creaminess but without all the rich parts of heavy cream. You could even sub in a few spoons of greek yogurt as well!
While palak paneer is fairly mild in flavor compared to some other curry dishes in my personal opinion, it still packs those subtle spice flavors that make it the perfect dish to warm up to. You’ve of course got things like cumin and turmeric in there because that’s classic, but the blends like garam masala and chaat masala make it easy to get in extra flavor with a ready made blend that is full of flavor from things like coriander, ginger, hing, and mango powder. (We have grown up using the MDH brand if you’re wondering which blend to try, and you can find them at your local South Asian market, or order on Amazon!) While I’m usually a proponent of making your own blends, these masala blends make it so easy to get all the right flavors in one spoon and in the right ratios.
It’s also important to note that when eating palak paneer on its own over rice or with flatbreads, I like the spinach to be super smooth and creamy. For the sake of this pizza though, I make the palak with less liquid so as to keep the naan from getting soggy. Feel free to experiment with the textures of the spinach though!
So once I’ve got the palak paneer made, I let that sit overnight or for a couple hours to make sure it’s set and not too loose in texture for a pizza – which is not what you would do if you were just eating it as is – and then top the naans with it. I also add a little goat cheese to get some of that melty cheese texture and tang since paneer itself doesn’t melt. You could also top with some lemon juice, drizzly yogurt, tomatoes, and cilantro!
I’m always a fan of quick and easy recipes that pack in the most flavor, and these naan pizzas are a fun twist on a normal roti and palak paneer dinner that we would have growing up. Plus I love that I can make the palak paneer the night before and have it ready to go for dinner the next night.
I think it would be so fun to experiment with other Indian sabji’s like a tikka masala or aloo mattar pizza too. I mean, who doesn’t love pizza??