This palak corn recipe is the perfect mid-week meal – made in just over 20 minutes, super tasty AND healthy. It is such a great recipe to have in your cooking repertoire for those days when you need to make something quick and tasty but haven’t been grocery shopping recently! You use frozen spinach and tinned or frozen sweetcorn cooked with Indian spices and that heavenly trio of onion, garlic and ginger. The smokiness comes from quickly dry-frying the sweetcorn which adds a depth of flavour and interest to this amazingly tasty, speedy dish!
We had the most amazing Indian restaurant near us when we lived in Singapore and they used to make a sensational dish with smoky burnt sweetcorn in a spinach sauce. It was so good that even years later after we had long since left Singapore, we still talk about that dish. So, finally, I decided to have a go at trying to recreate it. This is the delicious result. The mixture of earthy spinach with the smoky charred sweetcorn is a taste sensation!
Naturally, being the busy (and lazy) person that I am, I didn’t want a recipe that took a long time to make or a trip to the supermarket if at all possible! So, this recipe uses ingredients that most people probably already keep in their kitchens – frozen spinach and tinned sweetcorn (as well as the spices and seasonings that I always keep on hand!).
Why You Will Love This Recipe
This great vegan palak corn recipe is:
- Quick – it can be on the table in less than half an hour!
- Convenient – using freezer and pantry ingredients that you can always keep in your kitchen, you can make this meal whenever you fancy it!
- Healthy – spinach and sweetcorn – packed with nutrients, Popeye would be proud!
- Light – healthier than many recipes for palak corn since it is a lighter version without the heavy cream and butter.
- Vegan & Vegetarian – also dairy-free and gluten-free but you won’t miss any of it!
- So tasty!!!
Palak Corn Origins
After doing a little research, I discovered that this dish is not as I thought, a variation of the saag paneer (or palak paneer) that we used to know in the UK Indian restaurants but it is in fact a classic Punjabi dish called Palak Corn (also known as Makai Palak in Hindi - makai meaning corn and palak meaning spinach).
The authentic palak corn is lightly spiced and creamy, often including heavy cream or a cashew paste in the recipe. However, my version is a lighter offering that makes it more punchy in flavour because it doesn’t have the heavy creaminess that can dull the taste. The spinach provides a velvety texture to the sauce in any case so I don’t feel it needs the creaminess.
As we all know, dark leafy greens are the ultimate health foods as they are packed with nutrients. Being one such green leafy vegetable, the spinach in this dish is full of iron as well as fibre, vitamins A, C, E and K and so many other antioxidants (See this Healthline article for more information).
Did you know also that frozen spinach is quickly frozen very soon after picking so it retains its nutrients really well and may indeed have more nutrients in it than fresh spinach that could have been sitting around in farms, delivery trucks and supermarket shelves for a few days. Also, since the frozen spinach is being added straight to the pan in this dish, the water soluble nutrients are not lost in water as they are going straight into the sauce!
The sweetcorn also provides protein and fibre as well as some low glycaemic carbs. Although refined corn products are not advised as they are often low in nutrients, whole sweetcorn like this is a nutritious vegetable and is rich in many of the B vitamins and potassium. This Healthline article gives you the full lowdown on corn’s nutrition!)
- Frozen spinach – since this is designed as a quick and convenient pantry recipe, I do not use fresh spinach leaves and instead use frozen chopped spinach literally straight out of the bag. Many palak corn curry recipes call for you to use blanched spinach but I find frozen spinach just defrosts nicely into the sauce and works brilliantly! It doesn’t need to be defrosted first as it will defrost while cooking. I do try to use the best quality organic spinach if possible and try to make sure it is chopped otherwise you will have a different texture and it will be less saucy. Frozen spinach is such a great ingredient to always keep in your freezer for adding to smoothies and throwing into stews and saucy dishes for a dose of extra goodness!
- Tinned or frozen sweetcorn – Rather than having to bother with cutting sweet corn kernels off the cob and boiling them up, I prefer tinned or frozen sweetcorn instead of fresh corn. For tinned, or canned, sweetcorn, you need to drain it first. For frozen sweetcorn, you can just put it into a colander or sieve and swish it under the hot tap to get the ice off before throwing it into the pan. This just makes it slightly quicker for getting rid of the excess moisture so that it can dry fry and get those delicious charred smoky flavours.
- Onion, garlic and ginger – the flavour combo that starts off nearly all of my cooking! Any type of onion will do but I like to use red onions for their lovely colour. Fresh garlic and ginger can be minced, chopped finely or just grated with a microplane. I also sometimes keep my ginger in the freezer, peeled and ready to grate straight from frozen (it’s much easier to grate this way!).
- Spices - ground turmeric, ground cumin, garam masala powder, salt & pepper – these spices are essential for giving the flavour to the sauce. At a push, you could use curry powder instead but it will have a different flavour profile. If you want to use the whole spices instead, then that's fine, just grind them first in a pestle and mortar. It will have a better flavour but for convenience, I stick to the ground spices.
- Vegetable stock – just standard vegetable stock powder and boiling water is fine for this recipe. Sometimes you need to be careful with vegetable stock powder as it can have gluten in it or lactose. I use the Marigold vegan bouillon which has a lovely flavour and is both gluten-free and vegan.
Note, I do not make this a hot spicy dish because I feed it to my children but if you wanted to add a little heat, you could chop up some green chillies and add them with the onion and garlic or even throw in a little red chili powder with the other spices.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full list of ingredients and their quantities.
How To Make This Recipe
There are only a few steps for making this quick palak corn recipe. It is super easy!
- Dry fry the sweetcorn in a frying pan. For this, you don’t need to put any oil into the pan, just heat it up over a medium heat and add the sweetcorn. Now, if it is a little wet, the water will bubble and evaporate and then you will have the corn charring over the heat in the pan. It will take maybe 3-5 minutes. Stir often so that it doesn’t burn but you want to get them nicely blackened or at least a dark brown. You’ll find some start to pop out of the pan and then you know it’s ready! Once they’re ready, just empty them into a bowl and set aside.
- Next, add the spices to the frying pan and quickly fry (again without any oil) for 30 seconds just to remove any bitterness. This needs to be very quick as the pan will already be very hot from the sweetcorn so the spices may burn easily. Remove them from the pan into the bowl of sweetcorn.
- Then, add the oil to the pan and the onion, garlic, and ginger. Stir over the medium heat for 2 minutes until the onions are browned. Be careful not to burn the garlic as it burns very easily, so keep stirring!
- Finally add the vegetable stock, frozen spinach and the sweetcorn and spices back into the pan and stir together. Simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally to break down the spinach into the sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes until the spinach is soft and there is hardly any liquid left. If it gets too dry, just add a touch more water until you get to the consistency you want. I like it quite saucy so that it mixes well with the rice!
This is a summary only. Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this page for full instructions.
- The delicious smoky flavour in this dish comes from dry frying the sweetcorn first so please don’t skip this stage! It is very easy to do and you will love the depth of flavour it imparts. I like to do this in a cast iron pan so that it “catches” a little and chars but it will still get some deep brown, slightly burnt bits with a non-stick pan too.
- Since we don’t want to actually fully burn the sweetcorn and certainly don’t want to burn the spices, you need to work quite quickly and stay right there with the pan at all times during the dry frying. In between frying, don’t leave the pan on the heat as the remnants of the spices and corn will burn and give a bitter flavour. If you feel it might be catching a little too much and burning at any time, just add a splash of water to bring the temperature down and stop it burning. You can always cook off the water so it doesn’t cause any problems to do this!
I like to serve this smoky palak corn with rice alongside some dahl (for protein) or another curry (like this mung bean curry or pumpkin and green bean curry). I treat it like a tasty side dish.
You could also serve this palak corn as a lunch dish, with some Indian flatbread (I’m thinking naan, roti, paratha, or chapatti) and a dollop of vegan yoghurt and perhaps a squeeze of lemon juice. Delicious!
- If you want to serve this palak corn on its own and you feel like you want a little more protein, you could add some air fried (or roasted) tofu cubes to this dish. It will mimic the texture of the paneer cheese in a saag paneer and add a dose of protein and an interesting additional texture.
- Alternatively, you could add some cooked brown lentils to make it like a saag dahl!
- To bulk it up a little, you could add some chopped potatoes, like a saag aloo.
- Finally, if you want to make it creamy like the restaurant-style palak-corn, you could stir in some coconut milk or cream at the end. Or, the more authentic way of adding vegan creaminess, would be to add some cashew cream. However, that then makes this less of a quick recipe (unless you happen to have some cashew cream in the fridge!) and it makes it a heavier dish altogether. It would still be really good though!
Making Ahead & Storage
As with most Indian spiced dishes, this palak corn just gets better with a night or two in the fridge! The flavours mingle and intensify with time. So, although it is fabulous as a quick spur of the moment dish, it’s also great to make ahead and leave in the fridge to re-heat when you need it.
It will happily keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Re-heat gently in a pan until it gets hot (fully defrost first if frozen).
This palak corn recipe is vegan but not all palak corn dishes are. They often contain heavy cream or a butter tadka or it may be cooked in ghee, all of which are not vegan. This palak corn recipe, however, is dairy-free and deliciously vegan!
Yes, usually palak corn is a vegetarian dish, consisting mainly of spinach, corn and spices.
Yes, make it ahead if you like. It will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer. Re-heat gently in a pan until hot.
I like to serve palak corn as an Indian side dish, served with other Indian curries or dahl and rice. You could also serve it with Indian flatbreads and vegan yoghurt for a delicious lunch.
📖 Recipe 📖
Smoky Indian Spiced Spinach and Sweetcorn (Vegan Palak Corn)
- 120 g frozen or tinned sweetcorn, drained
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, (or any flavourless oil)
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 inch piece ginger, finely grated
- 120 g frozen spinach
- 250 ml vegetable stock
- Dry fry the sweetcorn in a frying pan without any oil over a medium-high heat, stirring often, until browned (about 3-5 minutes). Then remove and set aside. (You’ll know it’s ready when the sweetcorn starts to jump out of the pan!)120 g frozen or tinned sweetcorn
- Dry fry the spices in the same pan for 30 seconds until fragrant. Then remove and set aside.1 teaspoon garam masala, ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon salt
- Add the oil to the frying pan and then add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Fry for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are browned.1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, 1 onion, 4 garlic cloves, 1 inch piece ginger
- Finally, add the frozen spinach and vegetable stock and the previously cooked spices and sweetcorn, and stir well. Put a lid on, turn the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to break down the spinach into the sauce. Once the spinach has fully defrosted (after about 5 minutes) take the lid off, turn the heat to low and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Cook down until the spinach is cooked and soft and there is hardly any liquid left. If it gets too dry, just add a little more water to make it more saucy.120 g frozen spinach, 250 ml vegetable stock
- Serve with curry and rice or with a dollop of vegan yoghurt and an Indian flat bread.
- When dry-frying the sweetcorn and spices, make sure they don’t burn by stirring frequently and working quickly to remove them from the pan as soon as they are cooked. Add a little water if anything looks like it is burning to bring the temperature down quickly and stop the burning.
- You can bulk this up by adding potatoes, tofu or brown lentils.
- You can make the sauce more creamy by stirring in coconut cream or cashew cream at the end of the cooking time.
- Keep in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Re-heat gently in a pan.
- Serve palak corn as an Indian side dish, served with other Indian curries or dahl and rice. You could also serve it with Indian flatbreads and vegan yoghurt for a delicious lunch.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
If you like this vegan palak corn recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free main course recipes too:
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Sounds delicious,will definitely have a go.
Camilla Sanderson says
Great! Let me know how it goes for you! X