Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer

Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer: Everything You Need To Know

There is no lack of choice regarding paneer gravies in Indian cuisine. And, if you have ever wondered how two of the most famous ones, Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer, fare against each other, this article is for you. 

Read on as we discuss everything you need to know about these scrumptious Indian curries that use paneer as the primary protein source.  

Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer: The Similarities

While they may not look alike, you will find quite a few similarities when comparing Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer. 

The most obvious one: they both feature Indian cottage cheese: paneer cubes. You can use homemade paneer, which is quite tender, or the store-bought variety, which requires pre-soaking in hot water for 15 minutes or so. The hot water softens the Indian cottage cheese, which is then ready to be cooked. 

Next, a lot of the same ingredients feature in both these gravies. Yes, there are some differences, which we will discuss later on, but many spices and gravy base ingredients are the same.

For example, both curries use tomato in their base.

You also have to add fenugreek leaves, garam masala (whole and ground), bay leaves, and heavy cream to these dishes. In both recipes, heavy cream is traditionally used as a topper and not in the recipe itself. 

Palak paneer

However, you can also make Palak Paneer with a cream base. Find out more about palak paneer curry vs cream base here. 

Despite having spinach, the texture of Palak Paneer vs Paneer Makhani is not much different. You must blend ingredients like tomatoes and spinach to make a smooth paste, giving both curries a silky and creamy texture. Although, some versions of the Palak Paneer recipe do not blend the tomato and onion gravy, making it a little more coarse in texture than a Paneer Makhani.  

Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer: The Differences

Paneer Makhani and Palak Paneer are fan-favorite curries at Indian restaurants worldwide. However, they are much different.

Paneer Makhani is made in unsalted butter instead of oil, as the name suggests – Makhani means buttery. Conversely, Palak Paneer is a delicious way to add spinach to your meal. 

Here are some other differences that stand out when you compare Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer.


Both recipes are prepared in different ways. For Palak Paneer, you must blanch baby spinach leaves for 1-2 minutes and dunk them in cold water. You can also use frozen spinach, but fresh spinach will always produce a superior taste. When using frozen spinach, make sure you allow it to thaw.

Spinach pureed in a blender with cashews (optional), ginger, garlic, and green chilis. This puree is then cooked in sautéed onion, tomatoes, and whole garam masala. Once the gravy has cooked down on medium heat, you can add fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi) and ground garam masala. Lastly, fold in the paneer cubes and add a splash of cream at the end.

Here is a quick video recipe to make homemade restaurant-style Palak Paneer.

Do not confuse palak paneer vs saag paneer, which is made with many leafy greens like mustard greens and fresh fenugreek leaves, not just spinach (palak). 

Paneer Makhani is prepared in unsalted butter, which is used for frying the spices and sautéing the tomato puree. Once the gravy has cooked down, the since level is adjusted using red chili powder. Then, add a cup of water and allow the curry to simmer on medium heat until it changes consistency slowly. Finally, Paneer cubes are added to the finished gravy, Kasuri methi, and a dollop of fresh cream. 

Make Paneer Makhani at home following this easy recipe. 


This one’s pretty obvious. Both the curries differ drastically in color. Palak Paneer is bright green because of the addition of spinach puree (blanched or otherwise). Some people complain that their Palak Paneer loses its vibrancy as the cook progresses, but that is usually due to overcooking the vegetable, which also contributes to the often bitter taste in the gravy. 

In contrast, Paneer Makhani is more of a golden-orange curry due to adding tomato puree and red chili powder. The color of the curry changes based on how much chili you add. 


While both curries are smooth and creamy, Palak Paneer has a more earthy taste thanks to spinach. Most of the time, its spiciness comes from green chilis, either blended with spinach or slit and used in the gravy base. 

Paneer Makhani has a rich buttery taste, which is enhanced with the use of thickeners like cashew paste. The curry is tangier with a subtle spice as it has a tomato base. In this way, a Paneer Makhani is closer to a tikka masala, which also relies on a tomato and cream base with a far richer and tangy flavor. 

Find out more about paneer makhani vs paneer tikka masala here. 


Like we said in the beginning, despite several similar ingredients, there are some changes, and we are not just talking about spinach in Palak Paneer. 

The Palak Paneer gravy has chopped onions fried till golden brown with ginger, garlic, and garam masala. Chopped tomatoes are added afterward. However, there is no use of onions in Paneer Makhani. You will still find it listed in ingredients in many recipes, but traditionally a Paneer Makhani gravy is only made with pureed tomatoes. This makes the curry ultra-smooth.

Paneer makhani

Moreover, Paneer Makhani is cooked in unsalted butter, which gives this Indian dish its signature taste, whereas you can use ghee or oil for Palak Paneer. 

Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer: A Brief History 

Both Palak Paneer and Paneer Makhani originated from northern India and are famous in Punjabi Indian cuisine. Both these delicious dishes are staples in north Indian restaurants and homes alike. 

Palak means spinach, and paneer translates to cheese. So, Palak Paneer refers to chinks of cheese simmered in spinach gravy, made rich in quintessential Indian spices like the garam masala.

On the other hand, Paneer Makhani’s invention was made in the 1950s in a Delhi-based restaurant called Moti Mahal. If legend is to be believed, then Paneer Makhani actually started as the famous ol’ butter chicken, which later transitioned into this meatless version that uses paneer as the main ingredient. 

Paneer Makhani vs Palak Paneer: Serving Suggestions 

These Indian Paneer curries can be served with basmati or jeera rice and naan, roti, or paratha. Since they have smooth runny consistency, they can be served up in numerous ways with various side dishes. 

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