I’m a big fan of Indian food and now that I’ve been eating vegan, I find I can pretty easily turn many of the dishes vegan by making a couple substitutions.

Most of the dairy products can be substituted for a coconut or nut milk. Most meats can be substituted using tofu and palak paneer is a great dish for that. For me, the cubes of paneer cheese have always tasted somewhat like tofu. It’s not the perfect substitute, but after the tofu has been soaked in the nutritional yeast (tastes like parmesan cheese) and a lemon mixture, it takes up a lot of the cheese flavor.

The recipe I tested out was from Food52. I would say the recipe has more tomato flavor than I’m used to. If you’re unsure about how tangy you want your palak paneer, I would start off with about half the amount and maybe taste before you add more.

Otherwise, the recipe is great with rice and pieces of naan for dip.

Vegan Palak Paneer

(Serves 4)

For the tofu paneer:

  • One 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

For the palak paneer:

  • 10 ounces spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 poblano or serrano chili, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 - 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cashew cream

Directions

  1. Cut tofu into 3/4-inch cubes and place on paper towels between two weighted sheet pans. Leave for at least 4 hours.
  2. Combine the lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast and salt in a bowl. Add in the tofu and mix until tofu is coated. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
  3. Place marinated tofu on a sheet pan with parchment paper. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-25 minutes, flipping the tofu in between.
  4. Prepare the palak by cooking the onions over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add in the ginger, garlic and chili. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add in the garam masala, cumin, salt and corriander. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the spices are fragrant.
  6. Meanwhile, in a blender puree spinach with about 1/3 cup of water until desired consistency.
  7. Turn heat on the spice mixture up to high. Add tomatoes, lime juice, chili flakes and cashew cream. Then add in the spinach mixture and tofu cubes. Mix until combined. Bring mixture to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Serve over rice and/or with naan bread.