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Palak Tofu (Spinach Tofu Curry)

Palak tofu is an easy spinach curry that's not only healthy and nutritious, but absolutely delicious too! This beautiful and vibrant dish is full of flavor and a garlic lover's dream!
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It’s easy being green when it tastes this good! Palak tofu transforms a mountain of spinach into an impossibly silky, luscious green gravy that dazzles with garlic and spice. Instead of trying to hide vegetables from picky eaters, celebrate them at the center of the plate. This bold approach has been converting haters for centuries, simply by making the healthy choice the delicious one, too.

As a time-honored dish, passed down through the generations, no two recipes are exactly alike. This one comes from Plant-Based India by Dr. Sheil Shukla, presenting a lighter, brighter take to the classic stew. From that strong foundation, it’s a snap to make palak tofu your own signature dish, tailor made to your tastes.

Why This Is The Best Palak Tofu Recipe Ever

  • Superfoods galore: Spinach is one of the most potent unsung heroes in the superfood world, packing in vital vitamins and minerals beneficial for skin, hair, bone health, and so much more. Spices themselves make it easy to digest and absorb all that goodness, making the most of those critical nutrients.
  • Balanced, complete protein: Tofu is the original lean protein, contains all nine essential amino acids while being low in fat and having zero cholesterol. Nothing else compares for a well-balanced meal!
  • Quick and easy: Think you don’t have time to make Indian food from scratch on a weeknight? Think again. Fresh, vibrant palak tofu comes together faster than you can order takeout.
Palak tofu served in a bowl with roti and topped with red onions and vegan yogurt.

What Is Palak Tofu?

Palak simply means “leafy greens” in Hindi, which could include mustard greens, spinach, fenugreek, kale, collard greens, and more. In keeping with tradition, try a blend of different greens to take advantage of what’s in season, on sale, or most readily available.

Mustard greens were the original featured ingredient, coming from a time of abundant harvests and limited means for preservation. Cooking down massive quantities into soups, stews, and gravies was the best way to use up the bounty all in one go.

Saag is sometimes used interchangeably on menus, but it more specifically means “spinach.” Thus, all saag is palak, but not all palak is saag.

Dairy-based paneer cheese is the conventional inclusion, but vegan palak paneer utilizes tofu for a seamless swap. Coated in savory spices for a golden spinach, the results are far better than your average tofu curry.

Essential Ingredients

Ingredients for palak tofu measured in individually bowls on a light background.
  • Coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds: Whole spices contain intense flavor, unlocked by toasting them to release their volatile oils. This is what separates a good green curry from a truly great one.
  • Garlic: Eight cloves of garlic may seem like a lot on paper, but trust me, it’s nowhere near the upper limit. This dish should have a strong garlicky punch, which does mellow considerably while cooking.
  • Green chiliHari mirch is the Hindi word for “green chili,” referring to a small, slender pepper with moderate heat. Jalapeños are good alternatives, though they’re less spicy so you may want to use twice the amount.
  • Spinach: Fresh is best to lock in that bright green color, but frozen spinach can work in a pinch. In that case, use 5 to 6 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained.
  • Tofu: Extra-firm tofu is the ideal texture to replicate paneer, which is a type of Indian cottage cheese. Drain and press it for 30 to 60 minutes for the best results.
  • Turmeric: This sunny yellow powder is unmistakable from a mile away. It’s best known as an excellent source of curcumin, which has been cited as having many health benefits, particularly as an anti-inflammatory compound. Be careful not to serve it in white bowls, or wear a white shirt while cooking, because it can stain.
  • Garam masala: There’s no single spice blend for garam masala, just like any other sort of curry powder. It typically consists of coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg, imparting a warm, bright, and floral flavor that highly aromatic, but not overwhelmingly hot.

How to Make This Easy Palak Tofu Recipe

You won’t believe how easy it is to make this restaurant-style dish in your own home. See the step-by-step photos below for guidance. For exact times and temperatures, reference the printable recipe card at the bottom.

1. In a wide pan over medium heat, heat the oil and add the coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds and heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Onions sauteeing in a large skillet.

2. 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.

Onions and seasonings cooking in a large skillet.

3. Add the garlic, ginger, and green chili, and stir until very fragrant for a couple of minutes. Add 1 cup water, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.

4. 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 cool quickly.

5. Blend until smooth. This gravy can be chunkier or smoother according to your own preference. Set aside.

Tofu cooking in a large skillet with steam coming off.

6. 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.

Palak tofu in spinach curry sauce in pan.

7. Pour the spinach gravy into the pan with the tofu. Bring to a brief simmer over medium heat, then remove from the heat. Stir in the garam masala and lime juice and adjust the salt to taste.

What Can You Serve With Palak Tofu?

Palak tofu served in a bowl with roti and topped with red onions and vegan yogurt.

It would be a crime to let a single drop of that flavorful green gravy go to waste. Soak it all in with one of the following side suggestions:

If you don’t have a classic Indian bread to enjoy with this dish, you can use fresh pita bread or another crusty bread (like sourdough or this this spelt bread) for dipping.

What Are Some Variations For Palak Paneer With Tofu?

  • If you prefer a creamier version of the green gravy, you can stir in some cashew cream. Simply blend equal amounts of soaked cashews with water until smooth and add to taste.
  • Alternately, use full-fat coconut milk as a nut-free option.
  • Ghee, also known as clarified butter, is sometimes used as the cooking fat, or added as a garnish for extra richness. You could drizzle some melted vegan butter on top to replicate that experience.
  • To cut out the soy, try adding cooked chickpeas instead of tofu, transforming it into a dish known as pālak chhole.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will tofu palak paneer keep in the fridge?

Stored in an airtight container, it should keep for up to one week. In fact, the leftovers even get better over time, as the spices continue to mingle and meld.

Can I make this recipe oil-free?

Yes! Simply omit the oil and toast the spices in a dry pan. For the tofu, make sure it’s a nonstick pan and add a splash of water if it has trouble releasing.

Can I use ground spices instead of whole?

You can, but it might be less flavorful. Make sure your spices are very fresh and consider adding more to taste at the end.

How can I make my own garam masala from scratch?

In a small dish, add:
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
½ teaspoon each ground cumin and black pepper
¼ teaspoon each ground cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg 
Mix until well combined.

Palak tofu served in a bowl with roti and topped with red onions and vegan yogurt.

About The Book

Plant-Based India: Nourishing Recipes Rooted in Tradition by Sheil Shukla presents over 100 Indian recipes in brilliant color, with stunning photos to inspire and entice. Find the secrets to all your favorites and learn about entirely new dishes to expand your culinary repertoire, all with completely vegan ingredients. Start here to nourish an adventurous spirit and hungry mind with a real feast for the senses.

Sheil Shukla is a plant-based physician, artist, and cook working in the Chicagoland area. He’s also the creator, recipe developer, and food photographer behind @plantbasedartist which has over 60,000 followers on Instagram. You can find more info and recipes on his website, SheilShukla.com.

More Vegan Indian Recipes You’ll Love

Palak Tofu (Spinach Tofu Curry)

Author: Dr. Sheil Shukla
5 from 10 votes
This palak (spinach)-based gravy with tofu is both hearty and refreshing. This beautiful dish with its vibrant color, is full of spinach and is a garlic lover’s dream. Tofu replicates paneer in this savory curry but you can try adding chickpeas instead of tofu, to make a dish known as Palak Chole. Serve with Roti, Paratha, or plain rice.
Palak tofu served in a bowl with roti and topped with red onions and vegan yogurt.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

Spinach Gravy

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 Indian green chili, Thai chillies or Serrano pepper work too; use ½ Serrano for 1 green chili, minced, plus more to taste
  • 3 cups spinach, packed, roughly chopped (about 5 ounces)

Tumeric Tofu

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 14-ounce block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed for 30 to 60 minutes and cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Juice of ½ lime, about 2 teaspoons, or to taste

Instructions

  • 1. 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.
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. Add the garlic, ginger, and green chili, and stir until very fragrant, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup water, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.
  • 4. 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 cool quickly.
  • 5. Blend until smooth. This gravy can be chunkier or smoother according to your own preference. Set aside.
  • 6. 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.
  • 7. 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.

Notes

Variation – For a creamier version, soak ⅓ cup of cashews in hot water for 30 minutes, drain, then blend with ⅓ cup of water until smooth. Add to the gravy in step 7 before simmering.
Adjust spice level – Prefer it more mild? When preparing the green chili, remove and discard the seeds and inner white parts. This is where the majority of the heat comes from.

Nutrition

Calories: 167kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 730mg | Potassium: 455mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 2119IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 3mg
Course dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Indian
Keyword palak tofu, spinach tofu curry, vegan curry with tofu, vegan palak paneer

Recipe from Plant-Based India: Nourishing Recipes Rooted in Tradition © Dr. Sheil Shukla, 2022. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available everywhere books are sold. Article written with support by Hannah Kaminsky and edited by Rachel Lessenden.

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Recipe Rating




10 comments
  1. 5 stars
    This vegan palak tofu has become one of my favorite recipes to make after my little one goes to bed! Pour some wine, get cooking, and it’s delicious as a spicy and flavorful late-night meal.

  2. 5 stars
    Simple, healthy and delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    What a unique and delicious recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    I LOVE this recipe! So good 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    Yummy looks so so good!

  6. 5 stars
    this yummy tofu dish turned out spectacular! so tasty!

  7. 5 stars
    I don’t think I’ve ever loved spinach more, this recipe is absolutely fantastic and a great way to get greens in! So yummy!

  8. 5 stars
    So flavorful and nourishing , thanks for this recipe !

  9. 5 stars
    I made this palak curry for dinner yesterday, and it was soo good! I can’t believe such simple ingredients can deliver so much flavor! thanks for the recipe!

  10. 5 stars
    this tofu curry is something special! perfect for a tasty and nutritious weeknight meal. loved it!