Indian food has always been my favorite and this dairy free palak paneer might be my favorite dish yet! Marinated tofu cubes become an easy substitute for paneer and are submerged in a delicious spinach and coconut sauce. Say hello to your favorite new weeknight meal that will put takeout to shame!
Who said the healthiest recipes had to be salad? Seriously?
Because, you guys, we are heading into the home stretch of winter! And I know you are struggling to keep up with those New Year’s resolutions that you cannot bear to have another plate of cold vegetables. Let’s be real, the saddest thing to be ever said about a meal is it is another plate of cold vegetables.
Except I am a total freak and love me a good crudite platter. No? Whatever, more cold veggies for me!
I do not think I have been shy about affirming my love of Indian food on this blog. Or of Trader Joe’s. And probably my favorite meal of theirs has to be the frozen Palak Paneer. Now, normally, I am not one for frozen dinners. But I have a serious love affair with this dish. It is spicy. It is creamy. And it is ready to go with carbs in under 3 minutes. However, like all frozen dinners, this isn’t exactly the healthiest option. But MAN is it good. And, as the improviser I am, I knew I had to recreate this baby so satisfy my deep deep love of palak paneer whenever I wanted.
I packed this dish full of healthy ingredients! Let’s check out those ingredients, shall we? Turmeric! Spinach! Tofu! Coconut milk! It has all of the goods! Not only that but, even with all of that green, YOU GUYS, this curry is, so, so good! Because I know that some of you can get a bit skeptical with all that green in there. Seriously though, it’s got to be in my top ten dishes of all time. I collect spices like it is no one’s business, and this dish has seriously got it all. It’s spicy, fragrant, and warming all while still feeling light.
Which means you can cram yourself full of naan still and not want to
So let’s talk about this paneer cheese we have going on in the dairy FREE palak paneer. Actually this is much more of a marinated cheesy tofu. But this substitute is anything but cheesy (see what I did there!). I finagled this about mostly because I was too lazy to try and find good paneer in Philly. You probably either have to 1) make it yourself or 2) go to a south Asian grocery story. And since I am a lazy millennial without a desire to trek to Virginia in search of good paneer, I crafted a version that is pretty darn good!
If you’re not a tofu person, feel free to substitute paneer with 6 oz cubed feta, halloumi, or paneer. I won’t tell anyone.
Did I mention this “paneer” is vegan? Yeah I’m 2/2 on this one!
This gets better as it sits in the fridge. And trust me, the leftovers of this baby do not disappoint! I wrapped the curry in some roti for lunch like a burrito and OH EM GEE. I die. It was seriously so good. So yeah, allow your Friday self to high five your Sunday meal prepping self. It will not disappoint you.
Yields 4 bowls
4 hrPrep Time
40 minCook Time
4 hr, 40 Total Time
- 1 14 ounce block of tofu, drained and pressed
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons water
- 32 ounces frozen spinach (or 2 bags), defrosted and drained (see notes for fresh spinach)
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (can use ghee for a more "authentic" flavor)
- 1 serrano pepper, seeds removed and diced (can use a jalepeño)
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced finely
- 1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (can use whole cumin seeds)
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
- small pinch ground cardamon
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
- handful chopped cilantro or green onion, for serving
- rice/naan, for serving
press the tofu using a tofu press,. You can also press it between two plates or cutting boards and cover it with a heavy book or two. Leave it for at least 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is drained out of the tofu. Drain the excess liquid, pat the tofu dry, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place them in the bottom of a flat, airtight container. Whisk together the lemon juice, water, salt, and nutritional yeast and gently toss tofu to coat. At minimum, allow to marinate on the countertop for 20 minutes or place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (but the longer, the better)
When the tofu is marinated, preheat your oven to 425° F. Place a sheet of parchment paper or a Slip Mat on a baking sheet, and spread the tofu in a even layer on top. Bake the tofu for 20 minutes, or until the cubes are golden brown, flipping them halfway through.
Heat the coconut oil or ghee in a high walled pan over medium-high heat. Add the pepper and onion. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onion is very tender and soft and browning slightly. Add the ginger and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, until the garlic is very fragrant. Add the salt, garam masala, cumin, coriander, cardamon, red pepper flakes, and lime juice, along with the defrosted frozen spinach. Stir and cook everything for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is flavorful and thick. If desired (but again, recommended), use an immersion blender or blender to blend everything together until it is pasty but still has some texture. Return to the pot and a dd the coconut milk and 1/2 cup - 1 cup water until the puree has the texture of a thick sauce.
Return to the pot and stir in the tofu paneer. Season everything to taste with additional salt. Serve the palak paneer over cooked rice and with naan or roti and top with cilantro or onions if desired. The palak paneer will get better as it sits, so feel free to make it the night before serving. It will also freeze extremely well in glass containers for up to 2 months.
If using fresh spinach, use 10 cups of spinach. When adding the fresh spinach, add by the handful and allow it to wilt.