This simple, quick and healthy vegetarian kale curry recipe is perfect for busy weeknights! Kale tastes amazing in place of spinach for a palak paneer style dish full of sweet, aromatic spices and creamy coconut milk.
This recipe was originally published in 2018 and has been updated in 2022 with new photos, a video + couple of small tweaks to the recipe. Please scroll below the recipe card for more details.
2018 Christine says:
“So here’s something new that I’ve tried this summer: using kale instead of spinach in homemade curries! I’ve always been a fan of spinach based curries, whether the spinach is left whole or pureed, such as palak paneer or sag aloo. But in an effort to mix up our greens, I started swapping in kale from time to time and you know what? I love love love it.”
On Using Kale in Curry : How it Differs From Spinach
Using kale instead of spinach does yield a very different texture. I like to puree it down to small specks, but not completely liquify it, so there’s some thickness and body to it.
Now, I love palak paneer with a super silky pureed sauce, but this kale paneer has an extra layer to it which I am thoroughly enjoying.
The sweet coconut milk in this dish helps to offset the bitterness of kale but it does still taste like kale. So it’s not for the haters.
Which type of kale to use?
I’ve tried and loved this recipe with curly kale and cavolo nero (aka lacinato kale, dinosaur kale, tuscan kale, black kale). While the original version of this recipe was developed and published with curly kale as the star, I later developed a preference for cavolo nero and that’s why the 2022 photos and video now use it.
Cavolo nero is a little heartier so it’s got even more of a presence in the curry than curly kale. It doesn’t puree down as much. Curly kale purees a little smoother… still less smooth than spinach, but it’s the middle ground between the three.
By the way… if cooking with cavolo nero / lacinato kale is new to you, I have a whole guide full of recipes and tips right here!
This is a mild, kid friendly curry
This is very mild, with the emphasis on fragrant spices and not heat. While I won’t suggest that all kids would like this, it is completely child friendly as there’s not much salt or hot chili, and my toddlers have enjoyed it. This kale curry and my palak paneer for babies are the best ways I found to get a substantial amount of greens down them (before they turned against the color green for green’s sake).
How to Make the Kale Curry Sauce
The best part in all this? It’s so easy.
See your friendly cast of easy to find ingredients? They’re going to come together for you in about 30 minutes.
First you’re going to cook up some onions, garlic and ginger, before adding the tomato paste and kale. You’ll saute until all the kale is cooked before adding the coconut milk.
You’ll then puree it. If you use a deeper pan, you could use an immersion blender to puree it in the same pot for maximum ease, otherwise, into the blender we go.
(You can probably skip the pureeing if you prefer to have whole kale leaves. I’ve never tried it that way, but I am sure it’s just fine!)
Then you’ll add the paneer, and away you go.
Serving Suggestions, Ingredient Swaps and Tips from Readers
- I mentioned before how this is a very mild, fragrant but not hot, kinda curry. Please feel free to increase the spices and add chili for something with more of a kick. I have tried it with extra spice and chili added, and loved it.
- The amount of tomato paste has been debated in the comments. A couple of readers preferred it with less (2 tablespoons rather than the 4 in the recipe). The lower amount of tomato paste, when used with curly kale, was felt to replicate palak paneer more closely whereas the higher amount in the recipe makes the curry creamier and sort of makes it a hybrid between a palak paneer and a makhani sauce curry. I have personally tried it with 2 tablespoons and while I liked it, I still lean towards the original amount.
- I’ve had a few readers feed back that they used the base kale curry sauce with other ingredients – this is a great idea! Try mixed vegetables, potatoes, tofu, beans or anything else that floats your boat.
- If these options feel sad to you, and you have your heart set on cheese but can’t find paneer, try halloumi!
- If you love the taste of cilantro / fresh coriander, please feel free to throw a handful of it (stems and all) into the blender when you puree the sauce. It’s very tasty!
Kale Paneer Curry
- ½ medium onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp grated fresh ginger, or 1/2 tsp dried
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1 Tbsp garam masala
- 4 Tbsp tomato paste, you can reduce to 2 Tbsp for a less tomatoey result
- 30 g (2 Tbsp) salted butter
- 200 g (7 oz) kale, chopped. Curly kale or lacinato kale / cavolo nero both work well.
- 1 can (1 can) full fat coconut milk
- 4 Tbsp plain unsweetened yogurt
- 450 g (16 oz) paneer cheese, sliced into cubes or strips
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 chopped green chili or 1 tsp of chili powder
- 1 handful fresh chopped coriander, to add to blender and/or for topping
- In a skillet or wide saucepan, heat a little vegetable oil and lightly saute the onion until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another few minutes until everything is cooked and fragrant.
- Add the butter to the pan, followed by all of the spices, and cook until the butter is melted.
- Add the tomato paste.
- Now add about a third of the kale. Sauté until the kale is wilted, and continue adding kale in batches. The pan may get dry as you do this, so scoop in some of the coconut milk as you go to add moisture and help the kale to wilt.
- Once the kale is all cooked, add the coconut milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Now add the entire mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse until the kale is almost pureed but still has some texture. If you are using a deep saucepan an immersion blender may work if your model is powerful enough.
- Return to the pan.
- Now pan fry the paneer. Heat oil to a medium-high heat, then place the paneer in the pan. Fry on each side for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.
- Add the paneer to the kale curry.
- Squeeze the lemon juice into the curry, add the yogurt, mix through until just combined, and remove from the heat.
- Done! Serve with rice and/or naan bread.
2018 –> 2022 Version
As you can see, we made some changes.
- The photos now use cavolo nero instead of kale. This does change how the photos look because the cavolo nero is a little less pureed.
- I added lemon juice as an ingredient at the end, this is of course optional but very nice.
- I changed the method to use the entire can of coconut milk instead of encouraging you to separate the cream from the watery bits and only use the thicker cream. I did this because some batches of coconut milk have homogenisers in them which make that impossible to do, and actually it’s just fine with the whole can. It does make it thinner, as you can see in the photos. Of course, if you want to separate your coconut milk for a richer result, and can reliably do so with the brand you buy, go for it.
- The paneer is now pan fried. This is optional, but I never don’t pan fry my paneer anymore and I feel like it’s the best version of itself when it’s pan fried.
- I added some optional coriander / cilantro for topping. It’s very nice. You can even stir some into the curry before pureeing if you wish.