First things first: I’m giving myself a little extra grace with the photos on this one because palak paneer is just not a dish that wants to look pretty.
If you’re not totally clear on what palak paneer is, here you go… It’s an Indian dish of cubes of paneer cheese (think larger pieces of the solid bits in cottage cheese…so good) and a creamy spinach sauce with bold Indian spices. It’s probably my favorite Indian dish.
With the lactose intolerance I’ve been dealing with over the past several months though, I’ve been missing this meal. Coming up with a dairy-free substitute was a must!
Swapping out the heavy cream in the sauce for canned coconut milk was easy enough–I use coconut milk in curries and plenty of other recipes already. The main problem was finding a proper substitute for the paneer. I settled on using cubed tofu because the texture is similar and it still adds some protein to the dish. I think some Indian restaurants occasionally use tofu for it anyway.
If you can tolerate dairy, I wholeheartedly recommend using paneer cheese if you can get your hands on some because it’s just delicious. I used to make my own when I’d make this dish. Here’s a great method if you feel like trying that out.
This vegan palak paneer takes less than an hour to prepare, so I think it’s a win for any night of the week. It’s a great “comfort food” meal with just the right amount of bold flavor, and I’ll probably be making it even more often as cooler weather settles in around here.
For serving, I typically go with jasmine rice since that’s what I always have in my pantry. To keep things a little more traditional, go with basmati rice and naan bread. I buy frozen naan from Trader Joe’s on occasion, which is delicious, but you’ll need to keep in mind that it does contain dairy ingredients.
Even if you’re not very familiar with Indian food, I hope you’ll consider experimenting with a recipe like this. The spices can take a little time to get used to, but I think you’ll find that there are probably only one or two in this recipe that you might not have in your pantry already.
If you try these Vegan Palak Paneer at home, I’d love to hear what you think! Share pictures with me on social media by tagging @thesavvyplate on Instagram or Twitter or by mentioning my page The Savvy Plate on Facebook!
Vegan Palak Paneer
A vegan version of the Indian dish palak paneer, this comfort food features tofu cubes and a creamy spinach sauce with bold spices.
- 8 oz fresh spinach
- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 onion diced
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 2 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 13.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk
- 14 oz tofu cut into 1-inch cubes
- cooked rice
- naan bread
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (If you don't mind getting two pots dirty, you can work on step 3 while you wait.) Add spinach and cook for 30 seconds to wilt it. Remove and drain.
Add spinach to a blender with canned tomatoes. Blend until almost smooth.
Melt coconut oil in a pot, then add diced onion and cook on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Add spices and salt, and stir to coat the onions. Cook for another minute.
Add spinach puree and coconut milk to the pot with the onions and spices, and cook for 20 minutes.
Stir in cubed tofu, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Serve with rice or naan.