Most days I get that belly-itch for flavor-rich Indian food. Everything from fried street food to a creamy curry gravy dish. This time, I’m whipping up a spiced-up palak “paneer” dish turned vegan, made with tofu.
Palak paneer is a dish originating from India. The “palak” translates to spinach and “paneer” is mild-in-flavor cottage cheese.
To make this epic dish plant-based, we’re simply switching out the paneer or cheese with extra-firm tofu. This dish will still take advantage of all of the spices, including garam masala, coriander, crushed garlic, cumin, and ground chili/cayenne powder.
How Does Palak “Paneer” Taste Like?
If you’re a big fan of spinach, you’ll appreciate this dish. The main flavor profile in this recipe is the frozen spinach, which is spiced and pureed.
Similar to cottage cheese, paneer’s flavor isn’t distinct but has a bit of umami to it. Because of this, there won’t be much we will have to with the tofu. I seasoned mine with nutritional yeast to bring forth a “cheesy” flavor, along with salt. That’s it.
More Indian Recipes :
- Palak paneer can be served with roti, naan, boiled/steamed rice, and even a side of sliced, raw onions for a bit of a flavor kick.
- The palak, or spinach, may be blended to the texture you prefer. I like the spinach to have some texture to it, so I only blend it enough to reach that point. If you want the spinach to be more creamy and gravy-like, add some water to the blender and blended the spinach for longer.
- If you’re not into spicy dishes, you can omit the green chilies. On the other hand, if love spicy dishes – feel free to add more chilies.
How To Thaw Frozen Spinach
Frozen spinach is just as delicious and nutritious as its fresh counterpart. If I am thinking about using the frozen last minute, I just zap it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. It’s okay if the frozen spinach is still cold to the touch – we just need it to thaw and soften.
If you have the time, you can also thaw spinach in the refrigerator – it’ll take about two days or so. Or, place the package of frozen spinach on a countertop for a few hours.
Why Use Frozen Spinach?
I use frozen instead of fresh spinach for a couple of reasons:
- It allows us to skip a few cooking steps (blanching fresh spinach).
- Additionally, frozen spinach is typically cheaper than fresh spinach and can be stored in the freezer for months (no need to worry about wilted, expired greens)
Both fresh spinach frozen tofu are great options for palak paneer – choose what is best for you and your family.
What Is The Difference Between Palak and Saag Paneer
Palak paneer and saag paneer are very similar, but they aren’t exactly the same. Palak means spinach.
On the other hand, saag is a mix of greens, which can include spinach.
How To Store
This dairy-free palak “paneer’ can be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to 2-3 days. Or, stored frozen.
Or, microwave the frozen tofu palak “paneer” for a few minutes until warm.
You’re going to love this dish – it’s packed with plant-based fiber, protein, and flavor. It’s a delicious way to add veggies to your meals.
Vegan Palak “Paneer” With Tofu
- 16 ounces super firm/ extra-firm tofu excess water drained + pat dry
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 10 ounces frozen spinach
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 small red onion chopped
- 2 inches ginger chopped
- 1 bulb garlic crushed
- 1-2 green chilies/jalapeno chopped (optional for mild)
- 2 Roma tomato roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon chili/cayenne powder (optional for mild)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- Salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons coconut milk
- Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes. Pat-dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. Evenly distribute and mix nutritional yeast and salt to the tofu.
- Blend the thawed spinach and 1 cup of water until it's a paste. For a thicker paste, add less water, for a thinner paste, add more water. Set aside.
- Add oil to a non-stick pan or wok over medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and cook until it begins to crackle. Then, add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chiles. Fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, red chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric, and salt to taste. Mix well.
- Next, add the spinach paste and coconut milk – stir ingredients together. Lower heat and cook at medium-low with a lid for five minutes
- Optional: pour the palak mixture back into the blender for a much smoother, consistent texture.
- Add the cooked "paneer" tofu with the palak and mix well. Serve.
Did you try out this Palak Paneer recipe?