My inspiration for this recipe is the Indian dish Saag Paneer. Classically, Saag Paneer is a silky curry spinach dish, studded with blocks of luxurious homemade paneer cheese cubes. Instead of dairy, I use coconut milk which is one of the smoothest and most decadent of the plant milks. In place of the paneer, I use firm tofu, which has a mild flavor similar to the homemade Indian cheese.
I remember trying Saag Paneer as a young vegetarian in the early 90s in Berkeley, Ca. I was immediately smitten by the dish's texture and mild flavored cheese combined with the lightly spiced curry gravy. I've dreamt about this dish and highly romanticized its glory. Over the years I have reworked this Vegan Saag Paneer recipe to fit plant-based tastes.
This Vegan Saag Paneer recipe is easy to execute and will not disappoint. The delicate flavor of the baby spinach shines because of mild spicing. This allows the flavor components to compliment each other. Serve this brilliantly green hued vegan version with some rice or flatbread for a hearty meal.
I endeavored to conquer the inevitable pitfall of restaurant saag paneer, when it comes out dry, overcooked and brown. This atrocity usually happens in a buffet where the dish sits, cooking for hours. It can be virtually indistinguishable as spinach and instead turns crumbly, and the color turns almost black. In my Vegan Saag Paneer recipe, the spinach lightly cooked, preserving the vibrant green that makes the dish so appetizing.
Vegan Saag Paneer or Curry Tofu and Spinach
- wok or large skillet
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tsp ginger minced
- 1 onion chopped small
- 16 ounces Extra Firm Tofu drained and cubed
- 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 4 cups baby spinach chopped fine
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
- ½ cup unsweetened almond mild
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- ¼ tsp garam masala
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 tbsp cilantro chopped
- Heat pan on medium with oil until hot and add tofu, season with a pinch of salt and do not stir or move for 5 minutes
- Move tofu to the side and add the garlic, ginger and onions and do not move for 5 minutes again and then stir or flip to combine, Keep cooking this way for an additional 10 minutes, only stirring or flipping every 2-3 minutes so that the tofu gets some beautiful golden color and the onions and garlic are fragrant and toasty.
- Add the coconut and almond milk, tomato paste, curry powder, crushed red pepper and paprika and bring to a boil then add the baby spinach.
- turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes and stir often as the spinach wilts and becomes one with the curry gravy, taste for salt, adjust if needed.