Vegan Palak Paneer with Tofu

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Enjoy gourmet restaurant-style Indian food at home with this Vegan Palak Tofu Paneer! A fragrant, creamy spinach curry made healthier with tofu instead of cheese. An easy yet impressive vegan Indian dinner!
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
5 from 155 votes

I don’t think there’s any dish that combines health and indulgence quite like this Vegan Palak Paneer with Tofu. It’s not only packed with healthy spinach and protein from tofu, but it’s also so flavorful and tasty thanks to mix of Indian spices. How bad does that sound?

What is Palak Paneer and is it vegan?

Palak paneer is a popular north Indian dish typically made with a spiced yet mild curry or gravy with spinach (palak) and cubes of soft Indian cheese (paneer). The sauce often contains a bit of heavy cream as well. It’s typically served with white basmati rice or an Indian flatbread, such as roti, or naan. It’s flavorful, aromatic, and a good way to eat a lot of spinach.

But, it’s not vegan (hi cheese, hi heavy cream).

vegan palak paneer with tofu in a silver grey serving bowlHow to Make Vegan Palak Paneer

To replicate the texture of paneer, veganized Indian recipes often rely on tofu, as I do in my Restaurant-Style Malai Kofta. Similarly, in this vegan Palak Paneer recipe, I swap out the paneer for tofu, but I give you two different options for how to make the tofu (more on that in the next section).

And the spinach gravy is just as creamy as the traditional, but it’s thickened with cashews, not milk or cream. You won’t miss the dairy, I promise!

This vegan palak paneer tastes indulgent but is actually very healthy. You’re eating a ton of spinach, there’s a minimal amount of oil, and it’s made with wholesome ingredients. If you do want to add a bit more decadence, feel free to add some full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream into the spinach gravy when you add the tofu.

Watch! How to veganize Palak Paneer

VEGAN PALAK PANEER | incredible Indian recipe
VEGAN PALAK PANEER | incredible Indian recipe

Two ways to prepare the tofu

When I first tested this recipe, I tried it with baked tofu, primarily because I love crispy baked tofu. It was delicious and very flavorful (I tossed the tofu with spices), but as Max remarked, it didn’t taste/feel that much like paneer, which is the soft, slightly chewy Indian cheese typically used in this dish.

vegan palak paneer with crispy baked tofu on top

So, I retested this recipe, using boiled tofu instead. To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for this method because I figured boiling tofu would be quite sad. But I was wrong! I love being wrong when the result equals delicious food!

Boiling the tofu keeps the tofu soft but brings a chewiness to the tofu, akin to the texture of paneer. Think of it as chewy-yet-soft tofu. And if you generously salt your boiling water, it adds even more chewiness to the tofu!

vegan palak tofu in bowl (boiled tofu)

I think both versions of this Vegan Palak Paneer are delicious, which is why I provide both tofu methods in the recipe. Here’s how to decide which version you want to make.

Use the Boiled Tofu Method if:

  • You want a more authentic-tasting palak paneer where the tofu really mimics the texture of the paneer

  • You want a shorter prep and cook time for the tofu (you don’t need to press the tofu and it takes just 2 minutes to boil)

  • You want to minimize the amount of oil in your cooking (the baked tofu is coated in a bit of oil)

Use the Baked Tofu Method if:

  • You prefer your tofu to be crispy

  • You want two different, distinct textures in this dish (creamy spinach curry + crispy tofu)

  • You want to add extra flavor (the tofu is coated in spices and then baked)

How to press tofu

If you opt for the baked tofu method, you will need to press the tofu to remove all the excess water; otherwise, it won’t crisp up in the oven. Place the tofu on a cutting board lined with paper towels; place more paper towels on top of the tofu and weight them down with a heavy cookbook or a heavy skillet filled with a few cans of beans. Let sit for 20-30 minutes to remove excess water.

baked tofu palak paneer in a bowl with rice and other fixings

Ingredient Spotlight: Spinach (aka Palak)

Palak paneer is typically made with fresh mature spinach. That said, if you can’t find regular spinach, you can substitute baby spinach (though it is more expensive) or frozen spinach. If you use frozen spinach, you don’t need to blanch it because it’s already been blanched or boiled, but you will want to thaw it.

First, wash the spinach thoroughly. Spinach is quite dirty and sandy, so it’s important to rinse it a few times. Otherwise, you’re likely to bite down on some sand, which is never a pleasant experience.

Next, blanch the spinach in boiling water and then immediately submerge it in an ice bath until it has cooled down. The blanching serves a few roles. It softens the spinach, so your sauce is smooth and creamy and doesn’t have raw bits. It also removes the bitter flavor of spinach (mature spinach is quite bitter in contrast to mild baby spinach). And blanching, as opposed to just boiling, also helps retain the spinach’s vibrant green color.

I’ve seen recipes that don’t call for blanching/boiling the spinach, and honestly, it confuses me. I tried just sautéing the spinach once and it tasted *so* bitter that I had to add several spoons of sugar to calm down the bitterness (and I’m not even someone who’s that sensitive to bitter food…I love me some radicchio)!

After blanching, squeeze out as much water as you can from the spinach. I usually let it dry out a bit on a paper towel or clean kitchen towel while I do any other prep work.

Then, make the spinach sauce. Add the blanched spinach to a blender with raw soaked cashews, garlic, ginger, serrano peppers, tomatoes, water, and salt. Yes, this is an incredibly healthy sauce! Blend until creamy and completely smooth. If you’re using a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, you can go easy on the prep work and not do too much chopping, as the blender will do it all for you.

After you cook the aromatics, pour the spinach sauce into the pan and let it cook for about 5 minutes. This helps slightly thicken up the curry, allows the flavors to meld together, and mellows out the somewhat intense grassy flavor of spinach.

Close up shot of finished dish

Tips for making this weeknight-friendly

Work efficiently and multitask! While your cashews are soaking, start on everything else: prep, cut, and cook your tofu; clean and then blanch spinach; chop up the aromatics for the masala and spinach sauce.

To save extra time, as noted above, stick with the boiled tofu method. It doesn’t require you to press the tofu for 20-30 minutes and the boiling takes just 2 minutes. Plus, you can use the same saucepan to boil the tofu and blanch the spinach (fewer dishes to wash!).

If you have a powerful blender, such as a Vitamix, you won’t have as much chopping to do for the spinach sauce because the Vitamix will pulverize all the ingredients for you.

By following these steps and working quickly, you can make this meal in 45 minutes. If you work more slowly or take a break to have an evening glass of wine (always a good thing), it’ll take about an hour.

overhead shot of finished dish

Serving Suggestions

I like to finish this vegan palak paneer with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice—which helps brighten up the cooked spinach flavors—and a garnish of chopped cilantro. If I have coconut yogurt at home, I like to little add just a few spoons of that into the finished dish for a nice tangy balance.

And as mentioned above, if you want to make this dish more indulgent, add a few splashes of full-fat coconut milk or a scoop of coconut cream to the spinach gravy when you add the tofu.

To make this dish a full meal, serve over a bed of white basmati rice (or brown rice) or serve with an Indian flatbread such as paratha, roti, or naan (keep in mind that most store-bought naan breads are not vegan).

baked tofu resting on top of spinach curry

If you give this recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!

Vegan Palak Paneer with Tofu

5 from 155 votes
Enjoy gourmet restaurant-style Indian food at home with this Vegan Palak Tofu Paneer! A fragrant, creamy spinach curry made healthier with tofu instead of cheese. An easy yet impressive vegan Indian dinner!
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Diet Vegan
Keyword: gluten-free, tofu
Serving size: 4



  • 1 (14-ounce or 16-ounce / 400-454g) block of extra firm tofu

For the Baked Tofu Method

  • 4 teaspoons neutral-flavored oil, such as grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

Spinach Sauce*

  • 8-10 ounces (225-285g) spinach, washed well and tough stems removed
  • ½ cup (70g) raw cashews, soaked in boiling water for 1 hour (if your blender isn’t high-powered, I recommend soaking in cool water overnight or for 8 hours)
  • 1 ¼ (300 mL) cups water
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
  • 1.5 inch (~3.5 cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, stem removed (remove seeds and membranes for a mild heat)
  • 2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, or oil of choice
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ tablespoon fenugreek leaves, also known as kasoori methi (optional)

For Finishing

  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice or lime juice
  • Chopped cilantro
  • White rice or Indian flatbread such as roti, naan, or paratha


  • Soak the cashews in boiling water. If you’re using a Vitamix-style blender, 20-30 minutes is enough time. Otherwise, soak at least 1 hour. Then drain.
  • Prepare tofu - baking method only. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Drain the tofu and press it (“how to press tofu” instructions are in the blog post). Chop the tofu into cubes.
    1. In a bowl, gently toss the tofu cubes with the 4 tsp oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and 1 TBSP nutritional yeast (if using).
    2. Bake on the prepared tray for 20-25 minutes, or until crispy and browned.
  • Prepare tofu - boiling method only. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drain the tofu and pat with paper towels to remove excess water. Chop the tofu into cubes.
    Add the cubed tofu to the boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Use a strainer to remove the tofu from the water and drain immediately. Set aside.
  • Blanch the spinach. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (use the same pot if you boiled the tofu). Meanwhile prepare an ice bath (a large bowl of ice water). Submerge the spinach leaves in the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes, or until wilted yet still bright green. Immediately transfer to the ice bath to stop cooking. Once the water is cool, squeeze out as much water as you can. Transfer spinach to a clean dish towel to dry out while you prepare any remaining ingredients.
  • Make the spinach sauce. Add the blanched spinach to your blender with the soaked and drained cashews and all remaining Spinach Sauce ingredients. Puree until totally smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • Make the masala. Heat a large deep pan over medium heat with the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the cumin seeds and fry for 1 minute, or until a bit darker and very fragrant, tossing frequently. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until golden. Add the turmeric, coriander, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, a black pepper to taste, and bay leaf (if using). Cook for 30 seconds, stirring the spices into the onions.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low. Pour in the Spinach Sauce and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the sauce appears to be drying out.
  • Stir in the garam masala and, if using, crush the fenugreek leaves into the gravy. If using boiled tofu, add that now Stir gently to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and squeeze a little lemon or lime juice on top. If using baked tofu, serve it on top of the spinach curry at the end.
  • Add cilantro to garnish and serve with white rice or Indian flatbread.


*If you have a powerful blender like a Vitamix, you can soak the cashews in boiling water just 20-30 minutes. You can also do very little chopping of the ginger, pepper, and tomatoes and let the blender do most of the work.

Calories: 268kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 1042mg | Potassium: 826mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 5791IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 129mg | Iron: 5mg

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271 comments on Vegan Palak Paneer with Tofu

  1. Trish

    5 stars
    This was delicious! We boiled the tofu and let it sit and firm up while we made the rest of the recipe. It came together surprisingly quickly and my ten year old, I, and my husband all enjoyed it. We didn’t experience the tofu getting “chewy” but it was still so good!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Trish. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  2. Randee

    Do you think it would hold up well to make the saag sauce ahead of time and just bag it or freeze it for a yurt trip dinner? I don’t think we will have a blender up there but I’d love to make this dish for everyone!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Randee, yes definitely! Just add to airtight containers and defrost from frozen overnight in a cooler/the fridge. We hope it works out well for you!

  3. Stephanie D.

    5 stars
    Absolutely fantastic! This is the first meal that I tried to replicate from something I love. I feel so accomplished trying to make something out of my comfort zone. It was easy to make and so tasty. Thank you for all your amazing recipes!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Stephanie! We’re so happy you enjoyed it, thanks for following and trying the recipes!

  4. Sonja

    5 stars
    Just made this for my partner and me. We absolutely LOVED it! I cooked it a little longer than recommended to give the rice time to cook (and to cook out more of the raw tomato flavor; not my fave) so the color suffered, but the flavors were top notch. My partner said it’s one of his favorite things I’ve ever made. Thank you for another amazing recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Sonja!

  5. Michelle Tomaszewski

    For those with cashew allergies, can you substitute coconut milk in the sauce?

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Michelle, you can substitute the coconut milk with thinned out plain cashew cream! Here’s a blog post detailing how to make cashew cream: Enjoy!

  6. Molly

    5 stars
    So I’ve now made this recipe 3 times. Twice boiling the tofu and once following the baking instructions but using my air fryer. Both ways are truly fantastic and this recipe is A+. I’ve used frozen spinach every time I’ve made this and I did not blanch it. The color might suffer a little bit (it can go a little army green) but I don’t think the taste is affected at all. This might be different if you are using fresh mature spinach, but if you’re going the frozen route you can skip the blanch. Really do try to get your hands on that fenugreek! I got my local Nepali market to order it special for me.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Molly!

  7. CJZ

    The tofu was cold so the water stopped boiling as soon as I added it to the salted water. I added 2 minutes when it started boiling again. Is this correct?

  8. Maria-Jade

    5 stars
    My toddler and I both loved this!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Maria-Jade. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  9. Laura

    This looks amazing! I can’t find Serrano peppers where I live (in France). Is there something I can use instead? I’m guessing the Serrano is pretty key!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you! What kind of green chili peppers do you have availble? Serrano peppers are a medium-hot green chili pepper. Jalapeños can be used, though they’re less spicy.

      1. Laura

        5 stars
        Thank you for helping me troubleshoot! I was able to find green bird peppers, and it ended up being fantastic. I added two small ones and it was mildly spicy—my 10 month old baby HOUSED it, as did my 7 year old and my sometimes picky French husband (he’s my Max lol). This is such a gem of a recipe. It is deceptively healthy and a total crowd pleaser. I’m making it again right now for the 3rd time, and I have recommended it to pretty much anyone who will listen. :)

        One thing I was wondering is if blanching the spinach is just for the color. Could I go rogue and just blend it in raw? Or would frozen blanched spinach taste as fresh? Wondering if I can cut down on prep time so I can make this on a busy weeknight!

        1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

          You’re welcome! So great to hear you all loved the recipe :) Blanching spinach is not just for color when using regular/mature spinach (it has a very earthy taste and is a bit bitter). I suppose you could use raw baby spinach but we haven’t tried it. Several readers have used frozen blanched spinach with good results, so we think that would be your best bet.

          1. Laura

            Thank you for your help! I was actually using baby spinach already (because I am lazy and like when it’s pre-washed lol). If I try it raw, I’ll be sure to report back :)

          2. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

            Sounds good Laura, let us know! :)

  10. Kiran

    5 stars
    Absolutely love this Vegan Palak Paneer!! Just made this for the third time today! all of your recipes that I’ve tried are a hit with my spouse and I 😊

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Kiran!

  11. Christie Frisch

    5 stars
    Second time I’ve made this with with the boiled tofu method, and it’s an all time favorite. Addictive, rich tasting flavor and super healthy! Love the boiled tofu texture as paneer replacement, and it could t be easier. It’s magic! basically all vegetables, yet even my two-year-old asks for more. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Christie, So glad to hear you loved this recipe! Thanks for the wonderful comment :)

  12. Erin

    5 stars
    Amazing!! Such good flavor and I was astounded how much the boiled tofu tasted just like paneer. Met by high praise by the entire family! Will definitely be making again.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Erin!

  13. Kirst

    I have made this before and it was a hit and am making again tonight and it’s sooooo good! All your recipes are amazing and love the way you are teaching me to be a better cook!!!!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s so great to hear, Kirst! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  14. Legacy

    5 stars
    Excellent recipe! Even my husband enjoyed it and he is usually a “ meat and potato” dude! Thanks for this and all your great recipes and tips. Love your blog and YouTube channel!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Legacy! We’re so happy you love the blog and Youtube :)

  15. Marie

    5 stars
    I have done this recipe with baked tofu method and it turned out great. My question is how much water and how much salt do you use to boil the tofu? I am looking forward to trying the boiled tofu method next. Thanks

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Marie! A large pot full of water (maybe about 3-4 quarts) and around 1-2 tablespoons of salt. Enjoy!

  16. Kelly Floro

    5 stars
    Could not be happier with this recipe! Despite being vegan, it is as rich and decadent as traditional palak paneer that I’m used to getting at restaurants. The recipe looked fiddly to me at first glance but proved very easy to execute.

    I used powdered cumin as whole seeds are not to be found in my area. I also used powdered cayenne in place of the serrano and powdered ginger for the same reason. Finally, my boyfriend accidentally bought firm instead of extra firm tofu. Despite these changes, the dish was still really lovely. I’m sure it will be even better next time when I have all the right ingredients!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Kelly. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  17. Amanda Medina

    5 stars
    I made this last night and OMG! I knew it would be good, but it was goooood. It helped to read through the recipe first and prep as many things as I could beforehand. Overall, 5/5! Delicious and a great way to add in some greens. :-)

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Amanda!

  18. Nicole

    5 stars
    I’ve already made this twice and it is amazing! Highly recommend to make the day before you want to serve because the flavors meld to take the dish to a whole different level with time. I would also say if salt is not a concern for you, a little extra from what the recipe says also helps the flavor totally pop. Truly fantastic recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Nicole, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  19. Sine

    5 stars
    Wanted to try this recipe for so long. Today I came around to making it and it did not disappoint. It’s sooo good.
    Cheers from Copenhagen

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Great to hear! Cheers, Sine!

  20. Emily

    5 stars
    Delicious! I have made several other saag/palak paneer recipes (from other sources) in the past that turned out bland and super disappointing. So glad I tried this one! It tastes like something I would get at a restaurant. I think the secret is in layering in the seasoning in several steps. Can’t believe I made it myself! I would totally buy a printed cookbook with a collection of just the Indian recipes from Rainbow Plant Life.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Emily. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review! :)

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