Both palak paneer and paneer butter masala are popular Indian paneer (Indian cottage cheese) dishes from local and global Indian restaurants and homes. So, we are making an interesting comparison: palak paneer vs paneer butter masala. Furthermore, both these Indian curry dishes are celebrated for their rich history of pleasing the crowds (especially vegetarians) with a punch of flavor and depth of taste.
But for some of us, differentiating between the two paneer recipes in Indian cooking can be quite confusing. And that’s where these comparison points fit in. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be confidently differentiating between the two and eating the best curry for you.
While both are paneer dishes (find everything about low-fat vs full-fat paneer), their gravies and veggies that go along with paneer in them vary. Read ahead and find out everything about these gravies from Indian cuisines.
1. An Introduction To Palak Paneer & Paneer Butter Masala Curries
So, before we delve into a full-on comparison between palak paneer and paneer butter masala, it is good to know what these Indian curries exactly are. While both are different and unique, the paneer recipes also have some similarities.
Palak paneer is especially popular in North India. It is a rich and luxurious spinach-based cream sauce (or gravy) with fried paneer as a source of protein. The sauce is perfectly spiced and seasoned with punchy spices that add a lot of depth to the spinach sauce.
However, paneer butter masala is a sweet and mild Indian dish. It is everything its name suggests. It is thick, buttery, creamy, mildly spicy, and decadent. The paneer cubes (maybe fried or raw) act as the perfect complement for this indulgent sauce base.
So after understanding a bit about each of these curries, we can dive deep into the nitty-gritty that makes them each different and unique. Find them via these comparison points:
2. Palak Paneer vs Paneer Butter Masala: Look & Texture
Of course, they both look quite different, but their creamy texture is also quite distinct from each other. One look at the curries, and you’ll be able to identify which is which in a jiffy.
Starting with palak paneer: it is green in color owing to the spinach leaves sauce used as a base. Now, since this green color gravy is devoid of tons of butter and oodles of heavy cream, it is also lighter and slightly coarser (or drier) in texture as compared to paneer butter masala.
Moving on to paneer butter masala: it is slightly yellow to bright orange or fiery red in color, depending on the recipe. But it is far from green. Owing to the fact that cashew paste or almond paste along with tomato puree, cream, and butter from the base of this curry, it is safe to say that it is far creamier than palak paneer.
You can eat them with naan, rotis, or plain or jeera rice. Similarly, once we understand texture, we can also differentiate between other dishes like, in this case, paneer butter masala vs kadai paneer.
3. Palak Paneer vs Paneer Butter Masala: Nutritional Facts
The spice mix and the curry paste that we prepare for each of these curries are quite different from each other. As a result, you can easily differentiate one from the other, even in a blind taste test.
Palak paneer tastes a bit herbal, spiced with fresh Indian spices and a hint of creaminess. It can also sometimes taste a bit bitter. So, why does my palak paneer taste bitter? Well, spinach is naturally bitter due to the presence of oxalic acid.
You may offset this bitterness by using fresh and baby spinach (as it has less oxalic acid) or by adding a dash of fresh cream to your sauce.
Paneer butter masala is simply mouthwatering with a slightly sweet, tangy, and spicy taste married with the richness, creaminess, and butteriness of fats present in the gravy. It is simply luxe.
So, both these curries have a depth of flavor, but each of their flavors is quite unique and distinct.
4. Palak Paneer vs Paneer Butter Masala: Ingredients & Preparation
Both are prepared with their own spice mix and sauce base. Here is a short recipe card of these paneer recipes to apprise you of both palak paneer and paneer butter masala recipes.
Palak paneer ingredients include spinach, paneer or Indian cottage cheese or homemade paneer, green chilies, onions, ginger, garlic, salt, cashew cream (optional for creaminess), garam masala, Kasuri methi, cumin seeds, cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric.
To prepare palak paneer, cook baby spinach leaves (after boiling in hot water and blanching in cold water) in a pan on medium heat before turning it into a smooth paste along with onions, garlic, and green chilies. Fry paneer pieces until golden brown. And then fry spinach sauce and paneer all together for a luscious gravy base.
Paneer butter masala ingredients include paneer, cream, butter, ginger, garlic, cardamoms, cloves, onion paste (optional), cashews, coriander powder, red chili powder, garam masala, bay leaf, onion, tomatoes, Kasuri methi, and turmeric.
To make paneer butter masala, fry the spices and veggies separately from paneer cubes on medium heat. Blend the veggies for a decadent tomato puree or smooth paste. Now add paneer pieces and season the gravy with Kasuri methi and salt while keeping it on medium heat only.
5. Palak Paneer vs Paneer Butter Masala: Nutritional Facts
In this section, we’ll list the basic nutritional values that we derive from both these dishes. But many often wonder why palak paneer is not good for health. Spinach might be the culprit. Many have pointed out that due to high levels of oxalate in spinach, calcium absorption seems to become a difficult task for our body.
And, of course, paneer butter masala has its own high calorie and fat content as it has heavy cream, butter, and oil, all at once. So, we must consume these Indian cuisines only occasionally for prime health.
But can pregnant women eat paneer? Unless you’re lactose intolerant, you can definitely eat paneer if pregnant.
Palak Paneer Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories 450-500, Fats 30-35 grams, Carbs 10-12 grams, Proteins 12-16 grams.
Paneer Butter Masala Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories 500-600, Fats 33-40 grams, Carbs 12-14 grams, Proteins 12-16 grams.