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??
- 2 16oz bags of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp ghee or olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp chaat masala
- 1/4 tsp red chili powder (optional)
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt and pepper (adjust salt as needed)
- 12oz store-bought paneer, cut into 1" cubes
- about 3 tbsp of sour cream or greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup of water (if needed)
- 2 large naans, store-bought
- goat cheese, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, lemon, etc. for topping and garnish
- remove the thawed spinach from package. add half of the spinach into a food processor as is, and squeeze most of the water out of the other half of spinach and add to the food processor. pulse the spinach in the food processor a few times to bring together. If you prefer the spinach to be smoother like you would eat palak paneer on its own, continue to pulse until smooth. otherwise pulse just a few times to keep a little texture in the spinach. remove spinach from the food processor and set aside in a bowl.
- add the onion, ginger, and garlic into the food processor with a pinch of salt and pepper. pulse until you have a paste-like consistency.
- add the ghee to a stove-top pan and bring up to a medium heat. add the onion/ginger paste to the melted ghee and let sizzle for about a minute.
- add the cumin, turmeric, garam masala, chaat masala, red chili powder, and salt and pepper to the onion mixture and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes until the spices become fragrant, stirring occaisionally.
- add the cubed paneer to the spice mix in the pan and continue to saute and carefully stir so as to keep the paneer whole. this step allows the plain paneer to pick up some extra flavor from the spices.
- add the spinach to the pan and carefully combine the spinach with the paneer and spice mixture, being careful to keep the paneer pieces whole but evenly distributing and combining the ingredients. saute for about 8 to 10 minutes.
- add the sour cream into the mixture and combine. if the palak paneer seems to thick or dry, you can add about 1/4 cup of water, but be careful not to add too much extra to keep the naan from getting soggy when you bake the pizza. adjust salt and pepper as needed, the spinach may need a little extra salt.
- let the palak paneer cool for an hour or so, or cool and keep in the fridge overnight.
- when ready to bake the pizza, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- place the two naans on a parchment lined baking sheet. spoon about a cup and a half of the palak paneer onto each naan and spread into an even layer, leaving the paneer pieces whole.
- crumble up some goat cheese to top the naans. bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes until the goat cheese is slightly melted and golden, and the crust is crisp and browned.
- remove from oven and top with chopped cilantro, lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, etc. slice and serve hot, enjoy!
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