Let me take a moment to wish a belated happy Mothers’ Day to all you moms and kids. I was very lucky this year to be able to spend the day with my own mother, which happens very rarely even though we live only a few hours apart. The older I get, the more grateful I am to have been raised by this generous, good-hearted woman who never met a person–or a vegetable–she didn’t like.
Which is a not-so-smooth way to segue into a recipe that contains one of my favorite vegetables. Years ago, I discovered Palak Paneer at the Indian restaurant in Columbia, S.C., and it quickly became one of my favorite dishes. Well, it was a very short-lived favorite because I became vegan just after I’d discovered it and almost wished I had never even tasted it. Over the years, I’ve tried to make a tofu version that’s just as good as what I remember, but all my attempts seem to fall flat. Without the ghee (clarified butter) and other dairy products (including the homemade paneer cheese), my spinach dish just never quite lives up to the palak paneer of my memories.
I’d love to say that this is the version that finally succeeds in surpassing the dairy version, but I’d be lying. Though it’s very good in its own right, delicious and richly spiced, this rendition still lacks the creaminess that probably can be accomplished only through the generous use of margarine. So I’ll keep working on the formula, but I think that this healthier recipe is a tasty replacement in the meantime.
Palak Tofu (Tofu in Curried Spinach Sauce)
- 1 package firm tofu (about 1 pound)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste (or 1 tsp. chopped ginger)
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (or garam masala)
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach (1 pre-washed bag)
- 3 tablespoons soy yogurt
- generous pinch ground fenugreek (optional)
- salt to taste
- Cut the tofu into cubes about 1/2-1 inch in size. Spray or brush a non-stick skillet lightly with oil and heat it on medium-high. Add the tofu in a single layer, and cook it, turning often, until it is lightly golden on all sides. Remove it from the skillet and set aside.
- Add the onions to the skillet and cook until golden. Add the garlic and ginger paste and cook for another minute. Add the tomato, curry powder, coriander, cumin, and turmeric and cook until tomatoes begin to break down.
- Add the spinach, stir well, and cover. Cook until the spinach is completely wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend until almost smooth. Pour it back into the skillet, add the yogurt and fenugreek and salt to taste. Add the tofu to the skillet, and cook on low for about 15 minutes. Serve over rice or with Indian flatbread.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 2
Since D. and I ate the whole recipe, I’m saying that this makes 2 servings, though if you are not piggy like we are and include side dishes, this may serve 4. Based on 2 servings, this provides: 274 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat; (36% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 81mg Sodium; 8g Fiber.
randomthoughtsMarch 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm
I just became vegan & just found your site! This was my first attempt at cooking tofu (for the family even). All I can say is THANK YOU! I love Palak Paneer and am delighted to have this craving completely satisfied in a healthy, low-fat, vegan way. I wish I had made double so I'd have some for work tomorrow but it's all gone. I can't wait to try more of your recipes. Everything looks so yummy!
ChristyApril 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm
Thanks so much for creating this recipe. It is definitely one of my favorites, and I make it pretty often. I’ve subbed a can of diced tomatoes, rotel tomatoes, chick peas instead of tofu….the basic recipe is always awesome. The spices are just right. It also comes together really quickly. It’s safe bet that anytime I have some spinach in the fridge that needs to be used up, I’m making this dish. I’ve also made it with frozen spinach which is pretty good…not as good as fresh, but not bad.
AllisonMay 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm
Awesome, awesome, awesome! I made this for lunch today– it’s perfect! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Amelia BurkeJune 9, 2010 at 4:24 pm
I made a modified version of this for my little sister without blending the veggies (no food processor!) and served it over brown rice and she loved it! Thanks so much for allowing us to be a part of your cooking adventures!
RellaJanuary 31, 2011 at 4:31 pm
I also love palak paneer but am not able to eat a lot of dairy. I’ve experimented with a recipe on my own using tofu, and I find that I can get the creaminess with a cup or 2 of coconut milk, depending on how much I am making.
RickiMay 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm
That looks wonderful, Susan. I love anything with Indian spices and the spinach just makes this that much better. Can’t wait to try it. 🙂
stephanieMay 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm
I love Indian food . . . this was an amazing version of the traditional dish. made it tonight, and it was a great success! thank you!!!
MandyMay 17, 2011 at 10:48 am
Yum. sounds fab. I came across this way to make tofu taste like paneer a while ago. Haven’t tried it yet! http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2008/05/mattar-tofu-paneer.html
HelenMay 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm
This was great – thank you! Guilty admission: I used extra oil to fry the onions. I also halved the recipe, and it worked out really well – enough for smallish two portions. In any wase, it was absolutely delicious!
JennyJuly 13, 2011 at 5:28 am
Just made this for dinner yesterday! Actually, I made it in the morning so that it would be ready for me when I got home from work… I have to say, when I tried it immediately after cooking it, I don’t know why but I didn’t like it at all. The spices didn’t seem strong enough, somehow, even though I added a little bit extra to the listed amounts. I also fried my onions in butter and thought it would add extra flavour… (I’m actually not a butter fan, but why I’m using it now is a long story.) However, when I ate the dish for dinner, it was marvelous! I don’t know if I did something wrong initially that required my version to develop the flavours over the course of several hours as it sat, but… all’s well that ends well! It was delicious. Thanks for another great recipe!
selenaMay 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm
i made a similar version for breakfast the other day off the cuff & it’s delicious, healthy & nutritious! i also added some chickpeas for more protein and a different texture (i pan roasted them for awhile until they were golden after browning the tofu). one of my favorite things to eat!
KMay 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm
Do you think Coconut Milk would make it creamier without the use of margarine?
Susan VoisinMay 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm
If you mean the kind in the can, that would definitely be creamier. The kind in the carton would probably be less creamy but would taste good.
LeahMay 31, 2013 at 9:07 am
Hey! I can’t wait to make this. I actually visit Columbia a few times a year, and was curious if you remember the name of the restaurant you went to? I’m going next week and would LOOOOVVVVEEEE to go try this from the source!