Not Approved by Mother: Irreverent Spiced Spinach

Saag Paneer or Saag Aloo is the quintessential Indian dish – which comprises of spinach cooked in spices with pan fried Indian cheese (paneer) or fried potatoes (aloo) added.  This recipe is definitely not a traditional saag recipe and my mother does not approve of it at all.  I think, she also complains because I make it all the time and she is simply bored of eating it.  Though, the truth is, in my humble opinion, that she doesn’t like that I have modified her wonderful recipe and pass it off to my non-Indian friends as saag paneer.  To make matters worse, all of them actually love it.  It may just be a bad case of sour grapes.  Sorry Mum!

Fortunately my little one approves whole-heartedly and it has meant that spinach has been a regular part of her diet since she was a wee baby.  She eats it with rice and dhal, stuffed in quesadillas (with other things added), mixed in mac and cheese and with just about any grilled/roasted piece of meat/fish.  The possibilities for use in leftovers are endless. In fact, this dish is probably more of a spiced up steakhouse creamed spinach.  Killer with a good piece of steak and takes your dinner in a cool, fusion-y direction.  I have served it at dinner parties in this manner as well:  Steak (or even roast chicken or pork loin), this spinach/saag and roasted spiced cauliflower.  So very American Masala.  And just a little bit irreverent.

However, to appease mom and, because she has taught me a good deal about life (and cooking) and I love her, I don’t call this “saag-paneer/aloo”.  It’s an Indian spiced creamed spinach.  And I am pretty sure you will fancy it.

Indian “Creamed” Spinach

This is staple at our house and a regular at dinner parties.  My daughter has been eating this with rice since she was a year old. A great filling for quesadillas and stir in for basic mac & cheese.  A delicious side for a grilled piece of meat, chicken or fish.  In a pinch, I make it without onions or ginger and it is still quite yummy (and cooks up in a flash).  You can use chopped up fresh spinach, but I never have.

 Serves 2 adults and 2 kids


  •  1 lb frozen chopped spinach, thawed or unthawed
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala (optional)
  • ½ – 1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • ¼ – 1/3 cup of heavy cream (add less, add more – depending on mood and size of waist on particular day.  Ok, to omit but I wouldn’t :))
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed skillet and add diced onion and salt to taste.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes till onion is soft and then add ginger.  Fry for about 2 minutes.
  2. Push the onion and ginger mixture to the side and add remaining 1 tbsp of oil to skillet.  Add cumin seeds, coriander, chilli powder and garam masala and fry in the oil for 15-30 seconds.  Combine spices and onion mixture and fry for about a minute.
  3. Add spinach, stir as needed to prevent spinach from sticking to bottom of pan.  (You can add fried paneer cubes/fried cubed potatoes at this point, if you like) It should take about 7-9 minutes for water get cooked out of the spinach
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  5. Add heavy cream, stir to combine and simmer covered for 2 minutes.  Ready to serve.

11 thoughts on “Not Approved by Mother: Irreverent Spiced Spinach

  1. This sounds like a wonderful way to cook spinach! You’re so lucky your little one loves it. My hsband and son don’t like it. I will try this recipe though–maybe I can entice my son. I know. I would love it. But my husband is, sadly, a lost cause. Lol

  2. Spinach is a favorite in our house, and I’m always looking for new, simple ways to prepare it. I have a question about the frozen spinach. It’s what I use when making German-style spinach dishes, as that’s what’s been stated in the recipes. I notice you say it’s OK to substitute fresh spinach in yours, but that you haven’t done it. Is it simply a convenience issue (not having to chop up the spinach), or would using fresh spinach change the consistency of the dish? Thanks!

  3. Ok, I’m making this very soon. Thank you for this post! I totally understand coming from an Italian family. I could never quite admit to my mother that I some times used jarred tomato sauce (insert gasp here). Anyway, a question; what do you use for the paneer? I have seen a grilling cheese in the store (Yanni’s brand). Would that work? Thanks!

    • I get paneer at the Indian grocery store. Have never used a substitute. I have heard of people say that haloumi works…but I don’t know. Tofu is a reasonable substitute. That I have used! Lower fat too. 🙂

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