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 30 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr 15 mins
5 from 196 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 196 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
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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336 comments on Vegan Palak Paneer with Tofu

  1. Michelle S.

    5 stars
    Delicious! I used the boiled tofu and really like the way it mimics the soft cheese.
    Serrano pepper gives it a good “bite” of heat. A complicated recipe but well worth it.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Michelle, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  2. Eline

    5 stars
    This is one of my favorite recipes in the world. I keep coming back to it over and over and over again. Absolutely delicious. (I make the boiled tofu version)

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Eline!

  3. Nicole Madsen

    5 stars
    Awesome recipe! I omitted the cayenne pepper and Serrano to make this meal toddler friendly. Our 3 year old ate up everything! Then I added in a whole fresh Serrano chili to the remaining for our meals, and we both loved it and finished everything. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      You’re very welcome for sharing, we are delighted to hear the recipe was a hit with your family! :)

  4. Thuan Ly

    5 stars
    This is awesome!!! Clear video and simple but detailed directions.

  5. marion

    5 stars
    Oh my o my oh my ! The spincah sauce is absolutely stunning and the smell of the tofu was divine ! don’t omit the nutritional yeast if you make this recipe !
    I replaced the cashew cream with coconut milk and it was absolutely fabulous, served with flatbread. I surely will be doing this again as you can make the different steps at different times ! thank you so much

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

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

  6. Mary Ellen Millbranth

    5 stars
    Though a little bit of work, this was truly excellent. Next time I will use frozen spinach and that will definitely make preparation easier. While I am not Indian, I lived in Kathmandu for some years, went to high school in India, and have eaten at countless Indian restaurants since then so I’ve eaten a good amount of authentic palak paneer in my time as it is one of my favorite dishes and though I’ve made it at home before, it has never rivaled restaurant versions. I thought this, however, was just as tasty as any I have had. I used fresh spinach and the boiling method and the tofu made a very convincing paneer. I have a Vitamix, so was able to skip soaking the cashews and it made short work of the sauce. I did use the bay leaf and the kasoori methi (fenugreek), and believe the latter is crucial to that authentic flavor. This is a keeper for sure. Thanks.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Mary Ellen! So glad to hear this vegan palak paneer rivals the authentic Indian cuisine you’ve tried!

  7. Bridget DiStefano

    5 stars
    We have had this one on REPEAT for almost 2 years now. It is so creamy, indulgent, and delicious. So quick and easy, with simple ingredients too! Win for all.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

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

  8. Sam Hughes

    5 stars
    Well, I messed up and added coriander seeds instead of cumin seeds, which I dont recommend. They added an unpleasant crunch but the flavor is excellent! I boiled the Tofu, but added tamari to the water as well, and it added a layer of flavor that went really well with the whole thing. Great recipe! Thanks for posting!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      So happy to hear you love the recipe, Sam! :)

  9. E

    5 stars
    I do not understand. How can something that is so simple to make be the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten? This recipe is mind blowing.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      E, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  10. Alyson

    5 stars
    Delicious! Beautiful colour and so tasty. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Alyson, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  11. Elizabeth

    5 stars
    My nine year old and I loved this recipe. I’ve been wanting to make it for awhile, but whenever I got fresh spinach, I kept using it for other things, and the idea of getting out a whole other pot just to blanch fresh spinach I think kept me from making this. I finally decided that for me and my kitchen, frozen spinach is the way to go. I didn’t want this to be too spicy, and I don’t usually keep fresh hot peppers on hand, so I cheated and used crushed red pepper. The baked tofu is delicious; I made it as written with the nooch, and my kid said it was really good. I don’t have a Vitamix, so I used my food processor. I find it’s more powerful than my blender. Oh, and just putting it out there, we’re not vegan, and I still love your videos and recipes, and I’ve made several. Thank you for putting these wonderful recipes out there and helping everyone eat more veggies, vegan or not.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth! We’re glad to help provide tasty plant based recipes to you and your family! :)

  12. Stephan

    5 stars
    Wonderful recipe. Easy to prepare and the softness of the tofu makes it taste almost like the “original”. Reduced the salt content to 1/4 tsp but left everything else unchanged. Since going vegan indian and eastern cuisines have become my favorite ones. Love the channel. Keep up the good work!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Stephan!

  13. Kelly

    5 stars
    This is SO good. I added a greater quantity of spices, but all the same ones. I paired it with a mango cucumber salad. Thanks for sharing this with us! You make cooking vegan so fun and flavorful, and give me food I’m proud to share with others too.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Kelly!

  14. Serena

    5 stars
    Hi Nisha! I made this recipe for dinner and it was delish!! I actually loved it more than the original palak paneer 😅 I used the baked tofu method and it’s definitely more flavourful than the paneer.
    It took me a long time to make it since I’m not very organised in the kitchen but still, totally worth it! I will make it again. Thanksss

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Serena! So great to hear you enjoyed it :)

  15. Katie

    5 stars
    This is a truly delcious recipe. Nisha, thank you not only for sharing this jewel with us, but for your impeccable instructions. I haven’t had palak paneer since going plant based, it’s one of my all time favourite dishes and kind of thought I’d never have it again… now you can make your own and I swear it’s just as good as what you’d get in a restaurant imo. Can’t wait to try many more of your recipes. ty!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Katie, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  16. Sammy

    5 stars
    Since going vegan, I really have missed this dish – which was the only one I would order at an Indian restaurant. NO MORE. Honestly, this tastes even better than at a restaurant and its so much more healthy! I honestly never believed I would be able to cook a curry like this, never mind palak, my favourite dish. Just wow Nisha. I’m learning so much about cooking from your videos and your incredible explanations in your recipes. Thank you thank you. Can I give this 10 million out of 5 stars thank you for making cooking so accessible and easy to follow . PS it also freezes so well, nothing better then being surprised by this in the freezer.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Aw, thank you for the awesome review Sammy! So great to hear you’ve been loving the recipes and videos :)

  17. Paula Moran

    5 stars
    Indian food has always been my favorite but I had no confidence to try making it on my own until I discovered Rainbow Plant Life. Now I cannot stop making these recipes and sharing with family and friends. Palak Paneer is no exception! I have tried baking and boiling the tofu by my preference hands down is using pressed super firm tofu. It perfectly mimics paneer.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Paula!

  18. Scott

    5 stars
    Yum! This dish has such a bright, crisp, and fresh taste to it. I loved it. A few observations: First, I attempted to make a half-batch (cooking for one here); and I tried to take a shortcut by using an immersion blender for a half-batch of the spinach sauce. I’m not sure I would recommend an immersion blender, as it turned out kind of chunky rather than smooth. I ended up cooking it a bit longer with the onions, which softened the sauce up a bit. Next time, I’ll use a traditional blender. Secondly, I did the baked method of tofu, and thought it turned out great. :-). Another winner. Thanks!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Scott!

  19. Judita

    5 stars
    Absolutely knocked it out of the park!! We had this with your naan recipe and what a FEAST we had, I have never eaten so much naan in one sitting before lol! So worth it… Oh I also added few habanero peppers to the spinach sauce as we like it spicy spicy, our tongues were burning and scooping this delicious palak paneer with the naans was a match made in heaven!

    Highly recommend boiling the tofu!! It became indistinguishably alike real paneer, me and my partner were absolutely over the moon!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Judita, So glad to hear you two loved this recipe!

  20. Carissa

    Your recipes rock! I am trying this one tonight. Can you do both cashews and a can of coconut milk? I don’t want to omit the cashews if they are important taste/texture wise for the dish but I also really love coconut milk and don’t want to not use coconut milk in the recipe especially since others said they used that and it was great instead of cashews. So would you recommend one method over the other? And if I do both do you think the cashews and using a can of coconut milk in place of the water when blending the spinach sauce? Or use the water and then add a can of coconut milk towards the end? Sorry long questions
    but appreciate your advice! :)

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