This Palak tofu is a non-dairy and nut-free take on the popular Indian dish palak paneer. However, none of that takes away from the beautiful flavors that make palak paneer so popular. It is creamy and rich yet wonderfully healthy at the same time. Also swapping out the paneer with tofu does not take away the high protein content! If you are looking for dishes to get your kids (and grown ups) to eat more greens, palak tofu is a great option. I am telling ya, this dish truly does check all the boxes 🙂
Palak tofu is the healthy(ish) alternative
Palak Paneer is primarily from the Punjab region in North Western India. It has really grown in popularity across India and the world. Its characteristic bright green color along with the goodness of spinach makes it a welcome addition to everyone’s menu. Also who does not like chunky rich paneer pieces in there? Well I do but my husband Srinath does not. He decided to go dairy and egg- free 3 years ago and that means he had to cut paneer out his diet. However it’s not just for that reason that I make this version with tofu instead. I also prefer it because it feels lighter on my body although at times I do love indulging in paneer. Also paneer might not necessarily be easily available near you especially outside India but tofu might be. So whether you are avoiding dairy or just looking for alternatives for other reasons, tofu is a great replacement for paneer here.
Palak tofu differs from saag tofu/paneer
These names are often used inter changed but there is a difference between the two. “Palak” is spinach in Hindi and a few other languages in India. Hence any dish with “palak” in the name would refer to only spinach being used in it. “Saag” generally refers to a mix of leafy greens including methi (fenugreek leaves), mustard leaves with or without spinach. There are also multiple versions of palak and saag based dishes like Channa Palak ( Spinach & chickpeas), Saag Aloo (Potatoes & greens) or even just plain saag.
Ingredients we need
I have listed the major ingredients here. The full list with the quantity is provided in the recipe card.
- 1 to 1 1/2 lbs (450 – 650 g) of baby spinach rinsed well. If you are using regular sized spinach, 1 lb should be a good amount.
- 1 lb firm to extra firm tofu diced
- 2 medium sized yellow/red onions finely chopped
- 1 tomato finely chopped
- Oat Milk (preferably extra creamy). You can also used vegan cream(make sure it is nut free if that’s what you prefer).
- Ginger-Garlic paste
- Jeera (cumin seeds)
- Jeera powder( ground cumin powder)
- Green chillis (sub with jalapeño, Serrano or Anaheim)
- Kashmiri red chili powder/ degi mirch ( A milder version of chilli powder compared to the standard Indian chilli powder).
- Kasuri Methi – this is dried fenugreek leaves. Always crush in hands before adding to a dish to release the flavors.
Making palak tofu
Bring a large saucepan/pot of water to boil. While you are waiting for the water to heat up, prep the other ingredients. Once the water is gently boiling, blanch the spinach in batches. Place some of the spinach in the saucepan and let it cook for a minute or two before scooping it out. Put the blanched spinach in a bowl of cold/ ice cold water. Repeat this with the rest of the spinach. Once the spinach has cooled down, remove from water and place in a blender. Run the blender until the spinach is completely pureed and smooth.
Heat a large frying pan or dutch oven with some ghee/oil. Add the tofu pieces and fry until lightly browned and keep aside. I chose to air fry the tofu at 400 deg F for 12 minutes instead. Once hot, add the jeera ,chopped garlic and let it brown a little. Now add the chopped onions and let it cook for 5 minutes until cooked down. Add the tomato and cook for a couple of minutes. Now we can add the ginger-garlic paste and the ground spices. Once the raw taste of the ginger-garlic paste is gone, add the spinach puree, season with salt and mix well. Let this spinach puree cook for 7-8 minutes while keeping the pan covered. This is important to ensure the spinach is well cooked and does not taste raw.
Now add in the fried tofu pieces and mix in the oat milk. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. Now top with crushed kasuri methi and turn off the heat. Top with more creamy oat milk or vegan cream and serve hot with any flat bread or rice.
I hope you give Palak Tofu a try! If you do, please tag me on Instagram with #dillandthyme and/or let me know in the comments below. Please also leave a rating since that lets me know how you are liking my recipe(s). Check below for more Indian recipes that you might enjoy.
- 1 1/2 lb Baby Spinach well rinsed
- 1 lb Firm/Extra Firm Tofu diced
- 2 Onions medium sized, finely chopped
- 1 Tomato finely chopped
- 1/2 cup Oat Milk/ Vegan Cream preferably extra creamy
- 8-10 cloves Garlic finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
- 1 tbsp Jeera(cumin seeds)
- 1 tsp Jeera Powder
- 1 tbsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 4 Green Chillis slit or chopped
- 1/2 tsp Kasuri Methi(dry fenugreek leaves)
- 3 tbsp Ghee/Oil
- Salt to taste
- Heat water in a large sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil. Add the spinach in batches and blanch for a minute or two.
- Remove and add to a bowl with cold water. Once cool, blend until in a blender until completely pureed. Keep side.
- Heat another saute pan or dutch oven to medium low heat and add 2 tbsp of ghee/oil. Once hot, add the tofu pieces and fry until gently browned all over. Keep aside.
- In the same pan, add the remaining ghee. Add the cumin seeds, chopped garlic and saute for 45 seconds. Now add the chopped onions and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ginger garlic paste, green chillis and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the cumin, chilli, turmeric powder, kasuri methi, salt and mix well.
- Add the spinach puree,water and mix well. Cover the pan and let it cook for 7-8 minutes until he spinach tastes fully cooked. Add more salt if required.
- Now add the fried tofu pieces and mix well. After a minute or so, add the oat milk/vegan cream and mix well again. Let it simmer for another 3-4 minutes. Top with more kasuri methi, julienned ginger and some vegan cream(optional) before turning off the heat.
- Serve hot with any Indian flatbread like chapati, naan, roti or with a bowl of jeera rice.