Palak “paneer”

April 19, 2016

I really love Indian food – there are so many dishes that are already automatically vegan friendly or can be easily veganized. I’m thinking mushroom shashlik, aloo gobi, chana masala… the list goes on. You can also very easily make a “meaty” dish by simply using tofu or the new vegan Quorn pieces in your favorite curry base, whether that be tikka masala or perhaps a spicy vindaloo if you like it hot, as I do!


When I go out for a curry, I usually get a few different veg dishes to share, and one of them is always palak (also called saag) – either saag masala or saag aloo (with potatoes). There’s something so satisfying and sumptuous about this dish. When I was a vegetarian we would also quite often get saag paneer – which consists of spinach cooked with cubes of firm Indian cheese curds. What I have discovered recently is that tofu actually lends itself quite well to this dish instead of paneer – so much so that you’d be hard pressed to really notice a difference.

There are various ways to make a palak dish – as I’m sure you’ll have discovered from trying it at different curry houses. For me, I prefer the saag to be blended so that you really get all the flavors fully incorporated into each bite. Doing it this way also helps fully coat whatever you put into the dish (whether that be potatoes or tofu).


This is a fairly simple recipe to make, but does require quite a few different Indian spices. However, all of the below will be readily available at your local supermarket.


For the spinach:

  • 630g frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp oil (vegetable or rapeseed)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, minced
  • 1 green or red chili, diced
  • 2 tsp tikka masala
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp salt or to taste
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/3 cup plain (unsweetened) soy yogurt
  • 1/3 cup water (as needed)
For the tofu:
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1 tbsp oil (vegetable or rapeseed)
  • 1 tsp madras powder (or choose a mild curry if too hot!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Drain and press the tofu to get most of the water out and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Add the curry powder and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
  2. To cook the tofu, add the oil to a pan over medium heat and add the tofu cubes, tossing once in awhile so the tofu cooks evenly. Cook until the edges start to brown – around 7-8 minutes.
  3. For the spinach, heat the oil in pan over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Fry for around one minute until they start to sizzle and release their fragrance. Add the onion and continue to fry until translucent – around 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the ginger, chili and garlic to the pan and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add all the spices with a splash of water to loosen it up, cook for 1-2 minutes until everything is coated. Then add the spinach and heat through for another minute or two.
  5. Place the cooked veggies in a blender or food processor. Add the lemon and yogurt and blend until you get a thick, creamy consistency. If it’s too thick or not blending evenly, add a little water bit by bit until you get the right consistency.
  6. Add the spinach mixture to the pan with tofu and toss everything together and warm through for around 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately with rice, fresh coriander and chilies.
  7. Enjoy!



  • Product review: vegan Quorn chicken pieces – The Vegan Twist September 30, 2016 at 9:27 am

    […] Lucky for me, I had some homemade curry sauce in the freezer, so I add the Quorn chicken to the sauce and simmered for 20 minutes with mushrooms. I then added some peas and coriander and served with brown rice and saag masala. […]