This vegan spinach curry is a delicious and healthy twist on the classic Indian dish, palak paneer. It’s made with extra firm tofu instead of paneer cheese and is dairy-free and vegan. This curry is also a great way to get your portion of greens!
All you need for this recipe is a block of extra firm tofu, some spinach, and a few spices. The result is a hearty and satisfying curry that you’ll want to make again and again. So, what are you waiting for? Give this recipe a try tonight!
💕 Why You’re Going to Love This Recipe
- This recipe is a fantastic way to get a mega dose of iron-rich spinach in your diet
- The use of tofu instead of cheese makes this dish dairy-free, high in plant protein, and considerably lower in saturated fat
- The cook time is remarkably short for a curry, so it is a great speedy dinner recipe
- This dish pairs brilliantly with a wide range of dishes including grains, breads, and vegetables. My recommendation would be to serve alongside several other dishes such as gluten free naan, some wild rice or brown basmati rice, and some spiced and roasted vegetables to make an exciting spread of flavour combinations, perfect for hosting a healthy curry night!
🍃 What is Palak Paneer?
Palak Paneer is an Indian dish traditionally made from puréed spinach (Palak) and a type of Indian cottage cheese (Paneer). A blend of aromatic spices turns the spinach into a delicious and flavourful gravy that can be enjoyed as either a main meal or side dish.
The first time I tried Palak Paneer was at a friend’s wedding. The catering was extraordinarily good; we were served a buffet selection of numerous Indian dishes, one of which was Palak Paneer!
I confess, I was very glad the service was bottomless as I would not have wanted to share this delicious dish with the rest of the table otherwise!
It took me the entire meal to realise I was popping my bodyweight in huge cubes of cheese coated in a mouth-watering spicy sauce, but it was worth every bite! I have no regrets.
So, I’m sure you’re wondering how to make Palak Paneer vegan if it’s made from cheese? The answer is tofu! Which is why I have called this dish, Palak Paneer-ly (as in, nearly, get it?).
By using extra firm tofu, you can mimic the same trademark white cubes, but with no dairy. And the spinach curry sauce recipe is so healthy and packed with flavour, you won’t even miss the cheese.
The best thing about this recipe is it is prepared in hardly any time at all, here’s how you do it:
Prepare Your Spinach
- First things first you need to blanch your washed spinach in boiling water for a couple of minutes. At this stage you just want the spinach to wilt rather than cook. Alternatively, you could steam the spinach until wilted, however, note that boiling the spinach removes more oxalic acid which is what gives spinach its slightly bitter taste.
- When it comes to spinach, you think you have bought enough, and then as soon as it touches the littlest bit of heat it disintegrates into nothing! Therefore, to make spinach curry, you’re going to need quite a lot of the stuff! I used 400g in the below recipe which is just short of one of those extra-large bags of unwashed spinach you can buy in the supermarket. 400g works out a good serving size for around 4-6 people.
- Once blanched, rinse your spinach with cold water to stop the cooking process and retain the vibrant green colour, then leave to drain. It’s not necessary to fully remove the excess water from the blanched spinach, a small squeeze will do.
Make Your Curry Paste Base
In a blender, add the blanched spinach, fresh ginger, chilli and garlic cloves and blend to a smooth paste.
For reference, I was able to easily fit all 400g of blanched spinach, as well as the ginger, chilli and garlic to my tall nutri-bullet cup which is 680ml / 24oz.
Prepare the Rest of Your Ingredients
Because the cooking time is quite short, you want to make sure that you have all your other ingredients prepared, ready, and waiting to be used.
Make sure you have prepared the following in advance of any cooking:
- Finely chop the onion and tomato and set aside.
- Assemble all of the spices you will be adding into a small container.
- Set aside 30g of creamed coconut block or 120ml tinned or jarred full fat coconut milk. If using creamed coconut block and it is set, I suggest chopping the coconut block into small pieces so that it melts more quickly in the curry sauce.
Cooking the Vegan Spinach Curry
To a pot, heat a little coconut oil and cook all the prepared ingredients in the following order:
- On a medium to high heat fry the spice mix for a few seconds.
- Next fry the onion, stirring well until the onions turn translucent.
- Once the spices start to stick to the onion you can add the tomato. Fry until the tomatoes start to turn mushy. Be sure to continue stirring to avoid burning.
- Next, add the spinach purée and cook for 5 minutes stirring continuously. At this stage you can add a little extra water if necessary. The consistency will be like thick soup.
- Lower the heat and add the creamed coconut or coconut milk. If using creamed coconut, stir until this has melted.
- Add the tofu cubes and heat through for a further 3 minutes.
- You can now add the lemon juice and season with salt to your preferred taste.
✨ Tips to Reduce the Bitter Flavour of Spinach
Spinach sometimes has the reputation of being a little bitter, which may detract from the fragrance of the spices. Follow the below tips to reduce any bitterness and make sure your spinach curry is mild and mellow in flavour:
- Opt for boiling the spinach over steaming. This is because boiling will help to dissolve oxalic acid from the spinach into the cooking water. Oxalic acid is what causes the bitter taste in spinach.
- Add fat in the form of creamed coconut to offset the bitter flavour
- Choose baby leaf spinach over mature spinach, as it tends to have a milder, sweeter flavour
- Do not overcook! Overcooking the spinach will lose the beautiful vibrant green and some of the health benefits as well as make the flavour more bitter.
- Use the freshest spinach for this dish. This is not the time to be using up your old, wilting, slimy spinach leaves. Because spinach is the star of the show here, the fresher it is the better the flavour will be.
❓Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Chillies Should I Add?
When serving 4-6 people you can use 1-3 chillies. One chilli will result in a mild spice. If you can’t handle the heat, or you’re cooking for youngsters, you can omit the chillies altogether.
Can Vegan Palak Paneer Be Frozen?
Yes, this Vegan Palak Paneer can be frozen and kept for one month. Just note that when freezing tofu, the texture and taste may change a little.
How Should I Cut My Tofu Block?
Empty your extra firm tofu from the packaging and drain off any excess water. Because the tofu is extra firm it will not require any additional pressing.
I use The Tofoo Extra Firm Naked XL Organic Tofu for this recipe, which comes in a 450g pack. With this sized block you can cut your tofu perfectly into 64 cubes. To do this simply slice the block into equal quarters. Then you slice each quarter into quarters again. And then finally slice each strip into quarters again.
Can I Substitute Fresh Spinach for Frozen Spinach?
Although I haven’t tried frozen myself in this recipe, if you would like to use frozen spinach instead, you can substitute the 400g of fresh spinach for 250g of frozen spinach. Simply thaw the frozen spinach before blending to make the paste which will be cooked later.
This vegan spinach curry is a delicious and easy way to get your daily dose of greens! And the fact it is made with firm tofu makes it a great vegan alternative to traditional Palak Paneer.
Looking for more candida diet friendly vegan recipes? Find them here!
Let me know if you tried it and what you thought of the recipe. Be sure to rate and leave a comment below, and tag @anti_candida_kitchen on Instagram with the hashtag #anticandidakitchen. Happy cooking!
Amazing Vegan Spinach Curry Recipe - Palak Paneer-ly
- 450 g pack extra firm organic tofu
- 400 g baby spinach blanched
- 250 ml of the drained cooked spinach water
- large thumb fresh ginger approx 25g
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- 1-3 green chillis 1 chilli will give a very mild spice
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 cardamon pods
- 1 white onion
- 1 large tomato approx 170g
- 30 g coconut cream
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Wash 400g of spinach leaves and blanch in boiling water for a couple of minute or until the spinach has wilted completely. Drain with a bowl underneath to catch the nutrient rich cooking water. Rinse the cooked spinach with cold water to halt cooking and retain it's bright green colour.
- Add the drained spinach, ginger and garlic to a blender and blend until smooth. This should all easily fit into a large Nutribullet cup.
- Finely chop the onion and tomato and leave to the side so that it is ready when needed.
- Add the coconut oil to a cast iron pot or similar and fry all of the spices for around 30 seconds, then add the onion sautée for a couple of minutes or until translucent, finally add the tomatoe and sautée for 5 minutes or until the tomatoe has turned mushy. Ensure that you are stirring frequently so that the bottom of the pan never sticks or burns.
- Add the spinach purée and cook on high while stirring continuously for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach water and turn down to a simmer. Add the creamed coconut and allow to melt into the sauce.
- Remove the tofu from the pack draining off any excess fluid. There is no need to press. Slice the tofu evenly so that you are creating uniform cubes in a grid of 4x4. You will end up with 4 x slices of 16 cubes = 64 cubes (this applies to The Tofoo Co. Naked XL block).
- Add the tofu cubes to the curry sauce to heat through for around 3 minutes.
- Take off the heat and add salt and lemon juice altering to your taste.