Palak Tofu is a vegan version of the popular Indian dish, Palak Paneer. Featuring pan-fried cubes of tofu swimming in a vibrant and flavorful spinach gravy and served with a side of rice, naan, or roti, it’s a nourishing comfort food meal you’ll love!
This vegan palak tofu is a delicious, comforting way to eat your greens! High in protein, fiber, and iron, and naturally gluten-free, it’s healthy and nutritious, but tastes indulgent. Even my 10 year old daughter loves this recipe!
If you’ve never tried Indian food or are unsure about it, this is a great recipe to start with!
This homemade, restaurant-worthy dish comes from the new book, Plant-Based India, by Dr. Sheil Shukla, which features over 100 flavorful vegan Indian recipes, each one with a stunning full page color photo.
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Spinach ~ Use fresh spinach! For convenience, I like to use the bags of spinach that are pre-washed. If you have loose spinach leaves, be sure to wash it really well to remove any dirt or grit and dry it thoroughly (a salad spinner comes in very handy for this job!).
Garlic ~ This palak tofu recipe calls for a lot of garlic. Both spinach and tofu are bland on their own, so big, bold flavors are necessary. It’s not overwhelming, it’s perfect. Trust me.
Use fresh garlic! Do not sub for garlic powder – it’s just not the same. Jarred minced garlic can be used in a pinch.
Ginger ~ Again, fresh is best. It just tastes better!
Chili pepper~ I used a jalapeño because that’s what I had. You could also use a serrano. Remove the ribs and seeds if you want a more mild heat.
Cumin and coriander seeds ~ These seeds are so flavorful and are definitely worth the purchase if you plan on making a decent amount of Indian recipes.
However, if you don’t have them and don’t think you will use up a whole jar, use 1 teaspoon of garam masala spice blend. Adjust amount to your taste.
Tofu ~ I like super firm tofu. It doesn’t take much time to press, usually 20 minutes or less. Firm or extra firm will need to be pressed a bit longer. Do not use silken or soft tofu, as it won’t hold up in this dish.
Use chickpeas if you want a soy-free version.
Extras ~ Most recipes for palak paneer that I see contain diced fresh tomatoes, so feel free to add one diced tomato to the spinach curry when simmering before blending, if you like.
You can also add some cashew cream or coconut cream or milk right before serving to make the sauce creamier.
How to make the recipe
For exact ingredient measurements and step-by-step instructions, scroll down to the recipe card.
Sauté the aromatics in oil until fragrant (1). Add the spinach and water (2) and simmer until wilted (3). Transfer to a blender, add ice to retain that bright green color, and purée until smooth (4).
Pan-fry the tofu until browned on all sides (5). Pour in the spinach gravy (6). Add the garam masala (7) and lime juice, and stir well.
To make this vegan palak tofu in to a full meal, serve it with a side of basmati rice or India flatbread, like naan or roti.
Storage and freezing
Fridge: Store leftovers of this palak tofu in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Store any sides like rice, roti, or naan, separately.
Freezer: You can also freeze this recipe. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or zip top plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Reheat: If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge. Gently reheat in a microwave or in a pot or skillet on the stove top until warm.
Pro tips and tricks
~ Use super firm or extra firm tofu for best texture and don’t forget to press the tofu!
~ Use fresh garlic and ginger for most aromatic flavors.
~ If you don’t have coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds, use the garam masala spice blend instead. Adjust to taste.
~ Don’t skip the ice! It will help the spinach keep it’s bright green color!
~ Finish with a squeeze of lime to balance the flavors. Lemon juice will also work.
~ To make this recipe soy-free, use a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas instead of the tofu.
~ For a creamier version, soak ⅓ cup (50 g) cashews in hot water for 30 minutes, drain, then blend with ⅓ cup (80 ml) water until smooth. Add to the gravy after blending.
Plant-Based India cookbook
This vegan palak tofu recipe comes from the new cookbook, Plant-Based India by Dr. Sheil Shukla.
It’s a gorgeous book with full page color photos for every recipe. There are over 100 vegan recipes featuring fresh, healthy produce capturing the fragrant and exquisite flavors of India.
You’ll find recipes for shak (spiced vegetable dishes), dal (legume stews), rotli (flatbreads), bhat (rice dishes), and more! From light and fresh to hearty comfort food, these recipes will nourish you and keep you coming back for more.
Get your copy of Plant-Based India today!
Palak paneer is a popular vegetarian Indian curry dish featuring paneer (Indian cottage cheese) in a spinach sauce or gravy.
Palak Tofu is a vegan version of palak paneer using cubes of tofu as a substitute for the paneer.
Although palak and saag paneer are similar dishes, the difference is in the type of greens used. Palak is made with spinach only, while saag is typically made using a combination of spinach and mustard greens, but may contain any combination of leafy greens.
Spinach can sometimes taste bitter. The lime juice added at the end of this Palak Tofu recipe helps to balance the flavors. Adjust the amount to your taste. You can also stir in a dollop of cashew cream or a drizzle of coconut milk, which offers a slight sweetness and will mellow out the bitter flavor of the spinach.
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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Palak Tofu (Vegan Palak Paneer)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 yellow onion diced (about 2 cups/300 g)
- ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 8 cloves garlic minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 green chili minced (plus more to taste)
- 3 cups packed, roughly chopped spinach (about 5 ounces/140 g)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 block (14 oz/400 g) extra-firm tofu drained and pressed for 30 to 60 minutes and cut into ¾-inch (2 cm) cubes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- juice of ½ lime (about 2 teaspoon) or to taste
- Heat the oil in a wide pan or braising pan over medium heat. Add the coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds and heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the onion and salt, and stir occasionally until softened and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat between medium-low and medium to prevent the onions from browning too quickly.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and green chili, and stir until very fragrant, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup (240 ml) water, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.
- Add the spinach, stir, cover, and continue to cook until it has just started to wilt, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl or blender, and stir in 4 to 6 ice cubes to cook quickly.
- Blend until smooth. This gravy can be chunkier or smoother according to your own preference. Set aside.
- To prepare the tofu, heat the oil in a large, wide nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the tofu and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until the tofu is lightly browned on most sides, about 10 minutes. stir in the turmeric until the tofu pieces are evenly coated.
- Pour the spinach gravy into the pan. Bring to a brief simmer over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Stir in the garam masala and lime juice and adjust the salt to taste.
Nutrition values are calculated using online calculators and are estimates only. Please verify using your own data.