It’s often an arduous battle to pick your favorite curry dish featuring saag when choosing between chana saag vs paneer saag. However, these dishes are packed full of nutrients and whip up quickly: perfect for busy weeknights, especially since you can sneak in various leafy greens in your meal. What could be better?
Before deciding which saag-featuring Indian dish should be on your menu, here are nine things you need to know.
Let’s get to it!
#1 Chana Saag vs Paneer Saag: Saag Can Mean a Variety of Leafy Greens
Saag is not automatically equivalent to spinach. Saag can mean a variety of leafy green vegetables, from mustard leaves to fenugreek leaves to collard greens. Yes, you can add spinach leaves to a saag, but you can also incorporate any of the above-mentioned green vegetables or their combination.
A lot of times, when a recipe has the name “saag” in it, it usually only features spinach. While there is nothing wrong with the practice, you must know that saag can mean other leafy green vegetables too; spinach is the most popular and usually the most convenient.
#2 Both Dishes Use Similar Ingredients
When it comes to chana saag vs saag paneer, most ingredients, short of the protein source, are the same.
These curries use leafy greens (often baby spinach), red or yellow onions, tomatoes, chili powder, garam masala, and cumin seeds. The recipes call for the gravies to be cooked before the protein source. Then, paneer cubes or chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are added to the mix to be simmered for a while on medium heat. More often than not, both the curries are topped with a spoonful of heavy cream to add richness to the gravy.
As for paneer, you can replace it with other types of cheese like queso fresco, but there will be some changes in the texture and flavor. To find out more, read this article on paneer vs queso fresco.
While some recipes of chana saag use yogurt, you can make this a vegan chickpea curry by eliminating it and other dairy products like butter or ghee. Coconut milk is often a suitable replacement to add creaminess and sweetness to the curry.
#3 Chana Saag and Paneer Saag Can Be Served The Same Way
Saag paneer and chana saag curry can both be served with various side dishes. While Chana Saag pairs well with steamed basmati rice or jeera rice, it can also be eaten with roti, naan, or parathas. In the same way, paneer saag can also be eaten with white rice or Indian flat bread.
#4 Both Dishes are Nutrient Dense and Packed With Protein
Since both these curries are meatless, they use paneer and chickpeas to pack in the protein. According to Carb Manager, one serving (142 g) of Paneer Saag has 6g of protein, and one serving (100 g) of chana saag has 4.4 g of protein. Apart from that, leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamins. In addition, usually, one serving of these curries has 2-3 cloves of garlic, an inch piece of ginger, and other beneficial spices.
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are also high in dietary fiber, making them beneficial for digestion and adding to the chana saag nutrition benefits. In comparison, the calcium content in paneer is excellent for your teeth and bones.
To learn more about these protein sources, read this chana vs paneer article.
#5 Saag Paneer Usually Has More Fat Than Chana Saag
Fat content can be subjective to how you cook these Indian curries. However, saag paneer is usually fattier than chana saag which is a much healthier option.
You must be wondering, but what about all those leafy greens? Well, paneer saag indeed has a lot of healthy green vegetables. The actual problem is cubed paneer or cottage cheese. And, in a truly, go-big-or-go-home fashion, most recipes for paneer saag will also require you to cook the gravy in ghee or butter, taking the fat content even higher.
The good news is that you can still enjoy saag paneer by making some intelligent, healthier swaps at home. For example, skip the butter or cream on top; you can even replace paneer for tofu. However, there is no harm in treating yourself in moderation if you wish.
#6 You Can Prepare Chana Saag in Under 30 Minutes
While restaurant-style paneer saag recipes will have you frying the cubed cheese and pureeing the greens, chana saag is free of all that hassle. Granted, making paneer saag at home is still pretty simple, but it does not hold a candle to the quick-and-easy, ready under 30-minute convenience of chana saag.
Here is a quick recipe for making scrumptious chana saag in an instant.
Be mindful that if you are not using canned chickpeas, you must have the dried beans soaked, boiled, and ready for use when making chana saag.
You can also easily cook paneer saag at home, following this recipe.
#7 Paneer Saag Recipes Usually Require Blanching The Greens
When making chana saag vs paneer saag, you traditionally fold in the greens at the end to keep their vibrancy intact. Overcooking spinach and other leafy vegetables can cause them to lose color and become bitter. However, preparing the greens to be added to the paneer saag is slightly different.
When making paneer saag, you usually blanch the greens and dunk them into cold water to keep the color. Then, the spinach and other leafy vegetables (if added) are pureed, usually with green chili. Since paneer saag uses a puree in its gravy which is often cooked in butter, it yields a much creamier sauce than chana saag.
Find more about how to keep your saag paneer vibrant in color here.
#8 Both Recipes Have Roots in Northern India
When you compare chana saag vs paneer saag origins, you will find that both these recipes have roots in the Indian subcontinent, especially in the northern region. Saag has long been served with rice and roti in Punjab, northern parts of India, and Pakistan. It can be cooked with variations and adding ingredients like paneer and chana, which we discuss in this article.
Another popular vegetarian dish made with saag is aloo saag. Please find out how it compares to paneer saag in this article about aloo saag vs saag paneer.
#9 Is chana saag healthy?
With an abundance of leafy greens and chickpeas, chana saag is a super healthy meal that includes dietary fiber, protein, iron, and vitamins. You can have this curry on its own or pair it with brown rice or whole wheat bread for an ultra-nutritious meal.