Vegan palak paneer is a mouth-wateringly tasty curry that's rich but also healthy, characterised by its lovely green sauce. It’s super easy to make – once you’ve blended the sauce ingredients it comes together very quickly.
We love it because it contains spinach, which is a great way to get lots of healthy vitamins into your diet. Vegan palak paneer is nice and mild, so it’s great if you’re cooking for kids too. It isn't spicy but it could be worth removing the chilli flakes if cooking for children.
Palak paneer is traditionally a vegetarian dish, made with spinach (palak) and paneer which is an Indian cheese. Paneer isn’t vegan, and sometimes the rich green spinach based sauce has dairy in it. We’ve created a vegan palak paneer by replacing the paneer with firm tofu. Tofu has a similar texture to paneer, and as a bonus much less fat! The sauce for our palak tofu has coconut milk in it rather than dairy, making it completely vegan.
Why this recipe works
- We know that this recipe is an absolute winner because we’ve made it loads of times! Friends and family have liked it so much that they’ve asked us for the recipe to make it themselves.
- Our palak tofu is one of the simplest curries to make. All you do is blend up the sauce, and pop it in a pan to cook through with the spices. It looks more complicated than that though, so you’re bound to impress!
- If you want to make cooking vegan palak paneer even more simple, measure everything out before you begin cooking. We always do this because it speeds up cooking and makes it more enjoyable.
- We use firm tofu because it’s an excellent replacement for paneer. Paneer doesn’t have a lot of flavour, and tofu and paneer have a really similar texture. Tofu is great in curries because it absorbs the flavour from the sauce. We make the tofu even better by coating it in curry powder.
🍽 Equipment needed
To make palak tofu you will need a blender to make the sauce. The blender jug should be large enough to contain all of the sauce. You’ll also need a large pan to cook the curry, and utensils for stirring and serving.
If you’re using firm rather than extra firm tofu, you can optionally also use a tofu press. The tofu press can be used to remove excess moisture from the tofu, which is important for texture and flavour.
📋 Ingredient notes
Tofu - the best type of tofu to use is extra firm, because it has the right texture. You can use firm tofu if you don’t have any extra firm. If you do use firm tofu, be sure to press it before cooking it to remove any excess liquid. This will ensure that it cooks properly. It will also mean that it has a similar texture to paneer, which is really important for a good palak tofu.
If you don’t have a tofu press, there is a DIY way to press your tofu. Wrap your tofu in kitchen paper, and then place it between two plates. Weigh the top plate down with a couple of tins. This will squeeze the moisture out of the tofu for it to be soaked up by the kitchen roll. We’d recommend getting a tofu press though because it does a better job, and without wasting kitchen paper.
Curry powder - any type of curry powder will work, so feel free to use whatever you have in the cupboard. We often use madras curry powder because we like the flavour, but any kind will work.
Spinach - 230g of spinach will look like a lot at first! Don’t wilt it down, as it will lose its substance and the taste will change. Be sure to use your spinach raw, and don’t substitute it for other greens.
Coconut milk - this vegan palak paneer recipe works well with either full fat or light coconut milk. If you don’t fancy using coconut milk, you can substitute it. Cashew cream, plant-based cream or plant-based single cream all work well.
To make cashew cream, soak 1 cup of cashews in just enough boiling water for 1 hour (or cold water for 8 hours). Once they’re soaked, whack them in the blender with the water.
Chilli flakes - this curry isn’t a spicy curry. It’s more of a rich curry with a deep and fragrant flavour, and it’s good for you, too! If you want to make your vegan palak paneer a bit spicier, feel free to add more chilli flakes.
🔪 Step-by-step instructions
These section is an overview of the instructions to go with the images. Please see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list and instructions.
1. Begin by chopping the tofu into 2cm chunks. If you’re using firm tofu, make sure that you have pressed it first. Then, in a large bowl, toss the tofu pieces in the curry powder. Make sure that all of the tofu is evenly coated.
2. Next, fry the tofu. Heat some oil in a frying pan on medium heat, and then add the tofu to the pan. Cook the tofu until it is golden brown all over - this will take a couple of minutes on each side. Set the tofu aside.
3. Using a large blender, blend the spinach with the water. Keep adding spinach to the blender one handful at a time until you’ve blended the whole lot. You’re looking to get a smooth consistency, like a smoothie.
4. Grab a large pan and heat up a splash of oil in it. When it’s hot, chuck the onion in the pan. Cook it until it is soft and has turned translucent. Then add garlic and spices to the pan. Heat them for a couple of minutes until they are fragrant.
5. Pour the blended spinach mixture into the pan with the garlic, onion and spices.
6. Add the coconut milk, tomato puree and tofu. Give everything a good stir, add a generous helping of salt, and simmer for 10 minutes.
👩🍳 Expert tips
Variations - we don’t recommend using a different type of leaf. Spinach is the base of the sauce, and it has a distinct flavour which is important for palak tofu.
Preparation - for any recipe, not just vegan palak paneer, we recommend getting everything ready before you start cooking. Chop up your ingredients and measure out your spices. It makes life much easier!
Tofu replacements - if you’re not keen on tofu, you could make this recipe with tempeh or mock meat. It won’t replicate the texture of paneer, but it will still make a tasty curry.
Yes, definitely. It keeps well in the freezer for up to three months, just be sure that you defrost thoroughly before reheating. It’s a good idea to freeze it in individual portions, as this makes it much more manageable.
Yes, it keeps well in the fridge for two days. It’s a good idea to store the tofu separately, otherwise it will go soggy in the sauce.
We wouldn’t recommend it. We always find that when spinach defrosts it loses a lot of water and isn’t as flavourful. If you do try it and it works, please let us know!
🍛 What to serve with it
As with any curry, vegan palak paneer is best served with lots of sides! We really like it with any of these classic recipes:
🇮🇳 More Indian style recipes
If making palak tofu has got you hungry for more Indian recipes, try these:
- Vegan Butter Chicken
- Creamy Vegan Korma
- Vegetable Tikka Masala
- Vegetable Bhuna
- Karela Chana Dal
- Lentil Kofta Curry
If you're looking for even more vegan Indian recipes, check out our full guide.
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Vegan palak paneer is a fantastic, protein-rich green curry that's flavourful and healthy. It’s super easy to make and will be ready in around 30 minutes!
For the tofu:
- 400g extra-firm tofu - cut into 2cm chunks
- 2 tsp curry powder
For the sauce:
- 1 cup water
- 230g baby spinach
- 1 large onion - chopped
- 3 cloves garlic - crushed
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 3 tsp garam masala
- 3 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp curry powder
- ½ cup tomato puree
- 400ml tin coconut milk
- Salt to taste
- Put the tofu in a large bowl, add 2 teaspoons of curry powder and then give it a good stir until all of the tofu pieces are coated.
- Add a splash of oil to a frying pan, bring up to a medium heat, add the tofu and cook for a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown. Set aside.
- Put some of the spinach, along with the water into a blender and then blend. Keep adding handfuls of spinach until the mixture is smooth.
- Get a large pan over a medium heat, add a splash of oil, then add the onion and cook until translucent.
- Throw in the garlic and spices, then cook for another couple of minutes until fragrant.
- Pour in the spinach mix, coconut milk and add the tomato purée and tofu, season well with salt, then heat through for 10 minutes until it's all nice and hot.
- If using firm tofu (not extra firm), for best results we recommend using a tofu press to squeeze out excess water from the tofu. If using extra firm tofu, this isn't necessary.
- We don't recommend switching out another green leaf for the spinach. This recipe needs the spinach flavour.
- This recipe freezes well, for up to 3 months. Make sure to portion it out and defrost before reheating.
- If you don't have coconut milk, replace it with cashew cream, oat cream or single plant-based cream.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Saute, Simmer
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: vegan palak paneer, palak tofu