My tasty Dairy Free and Vegan Palak Paneer recipe is also vegan and nightshade free!
Are you one of those people who gets in to a rut with cooking? I sure am! Even though I’m a recipe developer, I find that for dinner, I really want to just eat leftovers or spend the bare minimum time cooking. This recipe has gotten me out of a recent rut and it only takes 30 minutes active cooking time. It comes together quite easily with no fuss and delivers ultra comfort.
Back when I first started trying foods from different cultures in my late teens, Indian food was one of my faves. I grew up on a “standard Aussie diet” with not a lot of variety, although my Mum was a great cook and we were very well fed. We also enjoyed a few Aussie-fied Chinese dishes that my darling maternal grandmother loved to spoil us with on our visits, but apart from that, my diet was pretty predictable for that era.
Palak Paneer was always one of my favourite Indian dishes back then and I still want to enjoy it, but alas, dairy just doesn’t agree with me – it triggers psoriasis patches on my skin along with gluten. Late last year I developed mild psoriatic arthritis, so I’m currently experimenting with no nightshades. So, while I can’t say this Palak Paneer is authentic, it IS delicious and a close approximation suitable for people like me who have some food intolerances. I adapted this recipe to suit my tastes and requirements from recipes by Dana from Minimalist Baker and also Hetty McKinnon.
History of Palak Paneer
Palak means spinach and Paneer refers to the Indian cheese which has its roots in the Mongol Empire, but may have actually been introduced to India by the Portuguese. Palak Paneer is also known as Saag Paneer and there are many variations of this popular dish across India.
My dairy free and nightshade free Palak Paneer features a vibrant green, flavourful sauce with cubes of tasty tofu. Miso paste lends us the umami flavour that would normally be provided by the paneer cheese and also tomatoes in the sauce. Believe me, you won’t miss either of those in this sumptuous recipe. Serve with black rice or more traditional basmati rice and naan for a memorable meal. The Palak Paneer freezes perfectly with no loss of taste or texture, so it's perfect for stocking your freezer.
Ingredients to make this Vegan Palak Paneer
- Firm or extra firm tofu
- Brown/yellow onion
- Garlic cloves
- Fresh ginger
- Garam masala* and cumin seeds
- White pepper - optional
- Vegetable stock, chicken stock (not vegan) or water
- Chopped frozen spinach
- Coconut cream or full fat coconut milk
- Gluten-free white miso paste
- Lemon juice
- Cooking oil - eg. olive oil
Adapting this Palak Paneer recipe for nightshade-free and low FODMAP diets
- If you are on a strict nightshade free diet, you will need to find a garam masala mix without chilli or cayenne, or you can also make your own. Here is a recipe for garam masala you can use, omit the cayenne.
- For a low FODMAP variation, use garlic oil in place of the regular oil and omit the garlic cloves. Replace the onion with some chopped fennel (eg. half a bulb) and use asafoetida powder.
- Large saute pan or fry pan
- Chopping board, knives, wooden spoon, measuring cup and spoons
- Kitchen/paper towel, baking sheet, heavy pan to weigh down tofu
A beautiful macro shot to whet your appetite
Dairy Free Palak Paneer
- 750 g (just over 1.5 lb) firm or extra firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large brown/yellow onion
- 6 med-large garlic cloves
- 5 cm (2 inch) piece ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
- ¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon cooking salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ¾ cup vegetable stock, water or chicken stock (not vegan)
- ⅓ cup coconut cream or full fat coconut milk
- 500 grams (1 lb.) frozen chopped spinach
- 6 teaspoons gluten free white miso paste any kind
- lemon juice
- Defrost the spinach at least a few hours before making this recipe.
- Drain the tofu, then wrap in a double or triple layer of paper towel. Place on a baking sheet and then place a heavy pan on top for an hour. This will remove most of the moisture.
- Cut the tofu so that you have 4 wide, flat pieces. Heat a pan on medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the oil, then brown the tofu on both sides until golden brown. This will take around 10 minutes - keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.
- While the tofu is browning, prepare the garlic, onion and ginger. Peel and mince the garlic. Dice the onion. Peel and grate the ginger.
- Once the tofu is done, set it aside. Heat the remaining oil in the pan on medium-low heat and add the onion to sweat for 5 minutes. Then add the spices, salt and pepper and mix for a minute. Finally, add the garlic and ginger and stir for another minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In this order, add to the blender: stock, generous squeeze of lemon juice, coconut cream, spinach, miso paste, onion mixture. Blend for a few minutes until smooth.
- Chop the tofu in to bite sized pieces. Add the sauce to the pan, heat until hot and then add in the tofu. Taste the final dish and season with extra salt if needed (often this depends on how much salt is in your miso paste).
- Serve immediately. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for a month.
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