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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Vegan Palak Paneer (Palak Tofu)

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Palak Tofu, or vegan palak paneer, switches out tofu for cheese but has all of the delicious fragrant flavor of a traditional palak paneer recipe! It’s a healthy but indulgent dish that is super easy to make and ready in just 40 minutes!

vegan palak paneer served with tomatoes and rice in a white bowl

I’ve been wanting to make a plant-based, vegan palak paneer for a while now, but I’ve never felt like any recipe I’ve made is good enough to replace the original. This one might be the winner though! I honestly think this is the best vegan saag paneer dish out there!

Latest Recipe Video!

What is Palak Paneer?

Palak Paneer is a classic North Indian dish. Walk into any Indian restaurant, and you’re almost guaranteed to see “Palak Paneer” or “Saag Paneer” on the menu.

It is traditionally a rich stew made with heavy cream, butter or ghee, paneer cheese (which is a type of cheese used in Indian cooking), spinach, and tons of warm spices like cumin, turmeric, and coriander. Which makes it delicious and indulgent, but not really vegan-friendly!

This palak tofu dish is full of spices, creamy and rich, but thanks to the light coconut milk, coconut oil for cooking, and tofu in place of paneer, it’s 100% vegan and only about 200 calories for 1/4 of the ENTIRE recipe. It’s a healthy vegetarian Indian recipe! You can also easily make this a gluten-free recipe with just one substitution too.

Eat it with basmati rice, brown rice, naan bread (Indian flatbread), roti, or your favorite Indian side dish. It will leave you feeling satisfied – as if you had just walked out of a fancy Indian restaurant. It’s kid friendly too! I served it to my kids (minus the cayenne) and they gobbled it up!

How to Make Vegan Palak Paneer

Recipe Ingredients and Notes

vegan palak paneer ingredients
  • Chopped Frozen Spinach: I chose frozen spinach because it’s faster for meal prep, but you can also use fresh finely chopped baby spinach leaves if you like. If you don’t have spinach, you can use any leafy greens – swiss chard or mustard greens would also work well in this vegan version of palak paneer. This recipe calls for a ton of spinach – so if you’re using fresh spinach you’ll likely need a couple of large containers of it to match the amount of frozen spinach you’d get in one package!
  • Extra Firm Tofu: You will need to press the tofu to get out all of the moisture before pan-frying it to give it that crispy exterior. I recommend using a Tofu Press if you can!
  • Tomatoes: Gives this creamy palak paneer a nice acidity.
  • Spices: Loads of spices including fresh ginger, coriander powder, ground cumin, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper (or 1 green chili / serrano pepper, cut in half), cumin seeds, garam masala, asafetida (hing) and salt make up the flavor base for this dish. You can also use a curry powder which has all of these spices to save time!
  • Coconut Oil: For tempering the spices and cooking this dish!
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cooking Spray: For pan frying the tofu
  • Whole Wheat Flour: Helps to thicken up this vegan palak paneer recipe. Use a a gluten-free flour or GF-certified oat flour for a gluten-free option.
  • Coconut Milk: I used light coconut milk to get all of the creaminess without added fat and calories. For a more indulgent option, you can use cashew cream, coconut cream, or whole milk coconut milk.

Tools and Equipment You’ll Need

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1: Dice your tofu into big cubes. Spray a large pan with olive oil cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Pan-fry the tofu cubes on each side until it is firm and slightly browned.

tofu being browned in a pan

Step 2: Take the tofu out of the pan, place in a bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, in a food processor, blend the tomatoes and ginger until they come together in a smooth puree. You can also use an immersion blender if needed.

tomatoes being pureed in a food processor

Step 3: In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce mixture with the coriander powder, turmeric, garam masala cumin powder and cayenne (if you are making it for your kids – you can leave the cayenne out here and add it in at the end just for you!). In a separate medium bowl, mix the whole wheat flour with the coconut milk and set aside.

tomatoes and spices pureed in a bowl

Step 4: Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if it cracks/pops right away, then the oil is hot enough and is ready to go. Once the cumin seed pops, add hing and remaining cumin seeds. Then add the tomato puree mixture, and let it cook for a few minutes until the tomato puree is about half in volume.

Add the spinach and salt. Let cook on low for about 10 minutes. At this point, you can either blend the entire mixture to give it a spinach gravy / spinach puree like consistency, or leave it a little chunky. Palak Paneer can be made either way.

spinach and tomato mixture cooking in a pan

Step 5: Add the coconut milk mixture, and let cook on low another 4-5 minutes until everything is combined. Add the cubed tofu and fold it gently into the creamy spinach curry mixture.

tofu and spinach cooking in a pan

Step 6: Let the dish simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat. Serve warm, with diced tomatoes, roti, whole wheat tortillas, naan or rice.

tofu and spinach cooking in a pan

What Makes This Palak Tofu Healthy?

  • High in Protein: Protein helps keep you full longer, and it’s great for your bones, muscles, and metabolism. Each serving of this vegan palak paneer will give you 11 grams of plant protein!
  • Low Calorie: You get a big helping for only about 185 calories per serving. That means you can go back for seconds (or thirds) totally guilt-free!
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Spinach is a true superfood. It packs high amounts of nutrients including potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, Vitamin E, C, K, Iron and Calcium.

Recipe FAQs

Is Palak Tofu Paneer Kid-Friendly?

When serving this palak tofu recipe to kids, I recommend omitting the cayenne/serrano pepper. Without that “hot spice”, kids typically enjoy this dish. If your kids are accustomed to eating Indian cuisine, they are probably going to gobble it up. However, if your children don’t always eat Indian food, they may need some time to get used to the flavors. Give them a little bit at a time to try it with some naan bread for dipping!

What Is Hing?

Hing also goes by the name Asafoetida. It’s a very common spice used in Indian recipes, and can be found on Amazon or at most Indian grocery stores. It has a strong, sulfuric flavor, similar to garlic and onions – so a little goes a long way!

Can I use another plant based milk?

While I haven’t tried this recipe with anything except coconut milk, I’d imagine that unsweetened almond, cashew or oat milk could all work.

vegan palak paneer served with tomatoes and rice in a white bowl

Variations and Serving Suggestions

Add some acidity at the end! I like adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or lime juice right before serving this delicious palak paneer. It helps brighten the dish and pairs well with the acidity of the tomatoes.

Try some yogurt! Coconut yogurt or coconut cream as a drizzle on top of this dish adds a cooling richness that tastes great.

To make this more indulgent: Use cashew cream, full fat coconut milk or coconut cream to the spinach sauce instead of light coconut milk.

Add fresh herbs: A garnish of chopped cilantro is a classic garnish for any Indian dish!

Serve with: Basmati rice, brown rice, naan bread (Indian flatbread), whole wheat roti or whole wheat tortillas, or your favorite Indian side dish like dahl or sabji.

Top Tips For Making Vegan Palak Paneer

  • I recommend measuring out all of your spices and prepping all of your ingredients ahead of time. Once you start, the recipe moves pretty quickly and most of the time involved is in the prep!
  • Don’t forget to press your tofu to remove all the excess water!
  • Make sure you use extra firm tofu – silken or regular tofu will fall apart in this dish.
  • You can store this palak paneer with tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. I don’t recommend freezing this recipe as tofu changes texture when it goes from frozen to defrosted.
vegan palak paneer served with tomatoes and rice in a white bowl

Check Out These Other Indian Inspired Recipes!

If you have tried this Vegan Palak Paneer or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!

vegan palak paneer served with tomatoes and rice in a white bowl
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Vegan Palak Paneer (Healthy Palak Tofu)

This palak tofu recipe is full of spices, creamy and rich, but thanks to light coconut milk and tofu in place of paneer, it’s only about 200 calories for 1/4 of the ENTIRE recipe, and it's gluten-free and vegan friendly too!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, Vegan
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 183kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Dice your tofu into big cubes. Spray a large pan with olive oil cooking spray. Pan-fry the tofu on each side until it is firm and slightly browned.
  • Take the tofu out of the pan, place in a bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes and ginger until they come together in a smooth puree.
  • Combine the tomato mixture with the coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric, cumin powder and cayenne (if you are making it for your kids – you can leave the cayenne out here and add it in at the end just for you!)
  • Mix the whole wheat flour with the coconut milk and set aside.
  • Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if it cracks/pops right away it is ready. Add hing and cumin seed. After cumin seeds pop, add the tomato puree mixture, and let it cook for a few minutes until the tomato puree is about half in volume.
  • Add the spinach and salt. Let cook on low for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the coconut milk mixture, and let cook on low another 4-5 minutes until everything is combined.
  • Add the tofu and fold it gently into the spinach mixture, let simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve with diced tomatoes, roti, whole wheat tortillas, naan or rice.

Video

https://youtu.be/HIgPa51EDyY

Notes

Top Tips For Making Vegan Palak Paneer
  • I recommend measuring out all of your spices and prepping all of your ingredients ahead of time. Once you start, the recipe moves pretty quickly and most of the time involved is in the prep!
  • Don’t forget to press your tofu to remove all the excess water!
  • Make sure you use extra firm tofu – silken or regular tofu will fall apart in this dish.
  • You can store this palak paneer with tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. I don’t recommend freezing this recipe as tofu changes texture when it goes from frozen to defrosted.
Adapted from Manjula’s Kitchen

Nutrition

Calories: 183kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 472mg | Potassium: 582mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g

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