Cheese is replaced with tofu in this impressive but easy Indian-inspired vegan meal. For this Tofu Palak Paneer, spiced pan-fried tofu cubes are tossed in a creamy spinach curry, and then served over rice. Ready in about 30 minutes!

Looking for more delicious vegan Indian-inspired recipes? Check out my Lentil Curry, Vegan Butter Chicken, Easy Red Lentil Dahl, and Vegan Tikka Masala.

close up on golden tofu cubes tossed in a batch of vegan palak paneer in a black bowl.

Tofu Palak Paneer is a rich and aromatic Indian-inspired dish that combines pan-fried tofu with a luxurious and easy vegan spinach curry. With protein from the tofu and plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber from the spinach, palak paneer with tofu is as healthy as it is delicious!

What is palak paneer?

Palak paneer is a popular Indian dish made with an aromatic and well-spiced spinach curry or gravy (palak) and pieces of Indian cheese (paneer). It has warm and vibrant flavors and plenty of richness from the cheese.

While vegetarian, this dish is traditionally not vegan-friendly because of the heavy cream in the gravy and cheese being a main component. My version, however, swaps these for simple vegan substitutions, like golden fried tofu cubes instead of cheese and vegan cream instead of heavy cream. 

The result? A protein-rich, creamy, and flavor-packed Indian-inspired dinner!

How to make tofu palak paneer

Find the complete recipe with measurements in the recipe card below.

Add the pressed tofu cubes to a large bowl and sprinkle the nutritional yeast, garam masala, and salt over top. Toss to coat.

seasoned tofu cubes in a large metal bowl.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the tofu and fry in a single layer until the pieces are golden brown on all sides. Transfer them to a plate and set aside.

Tip: Do not move the tofu around when you first add it to the pan! Instead, leave it alone for a few minutes so a crust can form. This makes it way easier to flip without ripping.

frying seasoned tofu cubes in a large metal skillet.

Next, boil some water in a large pot and add the spinach. Cook until the spinach leaves wilt, then drain the water. 

Transfer the blanched spinach to a blender or food processor and blend until it’s as smooth as you like (I like it with some texture, but you can blend it until it’s completely smooth if you’d like). Set aside.

blended spinach in a food processor.

Heat more oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, serrano pepper, and cumin seeds until soft and fragrant. Next, stir in the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and salt.

Tip: Stir the aromatics and spices frequently while they’re simmering in the hot oil, or else they might burn.

a seasoned mix of sauteed aromatics in a large metal skillet.

Pour the spinach sauce into the pan with the onion mixture. Stir in the cream, then let the sauce simmer.

To finish, add the fried tofu paneer to the pan and toss to coat. Serve the spinach tofu curry over rice with chopped cilantro on top and vegan naan on the side. Enjoy!

golden tofu cubes on top of a batch of vegan palak paneer in a large skillet.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between palak paneer and saag paneer?

Palak paneer and saag paneer are almost the same dish, as they’re both made with paneer (Indian cheese) and a leafy green curry. The main difference is the types of greens used in the curry. Palak is the Hindi word for spinach, while saag refers to mixed greens, like mustard greens, kale, fenugreek leaves, spinach, etc.

What should you serve with vegan palak paneer?

You can really take this dish to the next level by serving each scoop over cooked basmati rice or brown rice and garnishing each bowl with fresh chopped herbs, like cilantro or parsley, a dollop of mango chutney, and a spritz of lemon juice or lime juice.

I wouldn’t say that vegan spinach curry is spicy, but a dollop of vegan raita or plain vegan yogurt on top can help temper any spicy or bold flavors. Lastly, include a few pieces of Indian flatbread on the side, like roti or my Homemade Vegan Naan, to scoop up every bite!

Can I bake the tofu instead?

Yes! Instead of pan-frying, you can bake or air fry the tofu cubes instead.

Do you have to blanch the spinach?

Yes, blanching the spinach is a very important step when making the spinach sauce. It not only softens the spinach leaves but also removes the natural bitter flavor. The spinach curry will likely taste very bitter if you sauté the leaves in a hot oiled pan instead.

close up on golden tofu cubes tossed in a batch of vegan palak paneer in a black bowl.
close up on golden tofu cubes tossed in a batch of vegan palak paneer in a black bowl.
5 stars (7 ratings)

Tofu Palak Paneer

Cheese is replaced with tofu in this impressive but easy Indian-inspired vegan meal. For this Tofu Palak Paneer, spiced pan-fried tofu cubes are tossed in a creamy spinach curry, and then served over rice. Ready in about 30 minutes!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Tofu pressing time: 30 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 
 

Tofu Paneer

  • 14.5 ounce block firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Spinach Sauce

  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 serrano pepper seeds and stem removed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegan cream or coconut milk, cashew cream

For Serving, optional

Instructions 

Make the tofu paneer

  • Press the tofu: Wrap the block of tofu in paper towels. Place a plate or pan on top of the wrapped tofu, and put a couple of heavy books on top of that. Let the tofu press for 30 minutes, or up to an hour.
  • Cut the tofu into cubes and place in a large bowl. Add the nutritional yeast, garam masala and salt and gently mix until coated.
  • Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the tofu in a single layer. Let the tofu brown on all sides, it should be a nice golden color all over. I use a fork to gently flip each piece over. TIP: When you place the layer of tofu in the pan, don't touch or move it at all for a few minutes, so a crust can form, making it easier to flip without ripping.
  • Transfer the golden tofu cubes to a plate and set aside while you make the sauce.

Make the spinach sauce

  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the spinach and cook for about 1 minute, until the spinach wilts. If it doesn't all fit at once, add half, then once it wilts, add the rest.
  • Drain the spinach in a colander. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend for about 10 seconds, then scrape the side and blend for 10 more seconds. I like to leave some texture, but you can blend it smoother if you want. Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet with the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Next, add the garlic, ginger, serrano pepper and cumin seeds and sauté for 30 seconds. Now add the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt. Stir to coat the onions in the spices.
  • Pour the blended spinach into the pan and stir well. Stir in the cream and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tofu paneer to the sauce, and serve with basmati rice, naan and perhaps chopped cilantro.

Notes

  1. Leftovers will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. It can also be frozen.
  2. For the cream, you can use a store bought unsweetened and unflavored vegan creamer, or canned coconut milk or my favorite – cashew cream. In a pinch, you can even use an unsweetened plant milk like soy, almond or oat milk.
  3. The nutrition information is an estimate only and does not include rice or naan.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 4 servings | Calories: 222kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1045mg | Potassium: 542mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 6719IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 235mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Main
Cuisine: Indian-inspired
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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Comments

  1. Love, love, love this! I have been looking for a Palak Paneer recipe and this recipe is outstanding. We just finished having this for dinner and it is absolutely wonderful. Thank you, Nora! Best news is that I have leftover sauce enough for another meal — judt need to make more rice.

  2. Nora strikes again! A true culinary genius! This is an incredible (and incredibly simple) dish that will be featured in our home many times in the future.

  3. I made this a few days ago and it was amazing! Even my meat eating husband who hates tofu loved it! Will definitely be making this again. Thank you for the great recipe! I couldn’t even find paneer cheese, so this is a much more accessible version to make anyways.

    1. I am so thrilled you loved the recipe, and that it was a hit with your husband! Thanks for sharing your fabulous review and feedback!

  4. Oh wow Nora. Thank you so much for this recipe. It is amazing. I put in a squeeze or two of lemon and some zest in at the end and wow, just wow. Another fabulous recipe! Thank you! 🤩🙏😊

    1. You are welcome! It has quickly become a favorite of mine! I’m so glad that you loved the recipe! Thank you for your awesome review and feedback! Happy cooking!

  5. Yummmm!! I found myself sitting with an entire Costco sized tub of spinach in my fridge and knowing I had to use it immediately cuz the expiration date was today, this was the perfect recipe!! My husband and I both loved it so much! Looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

    1. Hi Carrie. How great you were able to put that spinach to good use, and fantastic that you loved the recipe! Thanks for taking time to share your fabulous review! Enjoy those leftovers!

  6. this was DELICIOUS. I made your naan recipe along with it and my partner & sister (who came over for dinner) were highly impressed. thank you!

  7. We loved this! The tofu alone was amazing.
    Ended up making a few changes: air fried the tofu and used aquafaba in place of the oil.
    Forgot the blend the spinach…
    Used 1/2 tsp salt in sauce which even for us salt lovers was perfect.
    Outstanding dish.

  8. Do you think this would also work with a less spicy pepper, or can that be omitted? My toddler loves indian inspired dishes so wanted to try this, but serrano would be too spicy for the little guy. Thank you!

    1. Hi Marissa. You can leave the pepper out for less spice, or use a less spicy type of pepper. Enjoy!

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