Indian Palak Paneer – Vegan Spinach Side Dish with Tofu and Eggplant
Wondering what to make for dinner tonight? Got Tofu? Eggplant? Frozen or Fresh Spinach? Got 15 minutes? Try this basic, easy, fast, vegan version of Spinach Indian Palak Paneer that uses tofu cubes and eggplant instead of dairy cheese. Serve with rice or potatoes.
The recipe uses extra firm tofu, as a vegan Indian paneer (cheese) substitute and replacement so it is dairy-free.
Palak is a spinach curry – this one uses frozen chopped spinach, a little tomato, onion and eggplant to make a great tasting base.
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If you don’t have any eggplant, just add another package of tofu or a can of chickpeas, because either of those will taste great too.
Or, if you are looking for other tofu supper recipe ideas, check out my post on great tofu recipes for dinner.
The comforting Indian spices in this dish make it unique and special, filling the kitchen with enticing East Indian aromas.
Please enjoy this healthy, no-cheese paneer recipe that is lactose free, iron rich, quick vegan meal for dinner.
When you eat this you will feel like you are at an East Indian restaurant, and going back to the buffet for more.
Do you need to salt eggplant before using it?
Many sources will tell you to salt and let the eggplant sweat before using to remove bitterness – but, I was in a time crunch, so I wondered: do you really need to salt eggplant?
My research has indicated salting eggplant is no longer necessary due to the way farmers breed eggplants so that they are less bitter now.
The answer is NO! You don’t need to salt your eggplant.
If you would rather spend your time doing other things than salting and waiting for an eggplant, please go ahead and do other things.
I highly recommend trying eggplant if you haven’t yet, it is incredibly easy to work with – just wash and cube it – it’s ready to go!
Don’t worry about any seeds inside, they are tiny and edible.
Cubing eggplant is as easy as cubing tofu, but wait, it is even easier, because you don’t need to press or drain eggplant.
Are you new to eggplant?
I was, and so was my family. Now, I am getting better at it and, wow, it is an awesome easy vegetable to cook with.
Just buy one from your grocery store. It should last on your counter for a while. Wash it and cut it, bake or stir fry it, So easy!!
In my cream of cauliflower soup recipe I posted a chart of vegetables with the most antioxidant power, and eggplant was second on the list – it is full of antioxidants.
So let’s try to eat eggplant more often, ok?
You can use fresh or frozen spinach!
Can we move on to the other star of this dish, frozen spinach?
Spinach is such a versatile ingredient for a vegan, I always have a few bricks of frozen spinach, and packages of frozen spinach nuggets in my freezer for when I am running low on fresh vegetables.
It takes up much less space than fresh spinach in your fridge, and packs so much nutrition and iron into the meal. I make a point of eating some dark green type vegetable daily to feel my best.
How to Make This Recipe
Chop your eggplant (or open a can of chickpeas) and tofu into 1″ cubes.
Food process and sautee your onions in a large pan or wok, with the first set of spices.
Microwave or chop your spinach.
Add the blended or diced tomatoes to the pan, stir in the tofu and eggplant.
Cook for a few minutes then add the spinach.
Now, let’s spice this dish even more.
Add the second set of spices, use heaping spoonfuls to make it more spicy, depending on your excellent taste. The recipe as it stands will make it quite mild, but we enjoyed it.
The cumin, coriander, ginger, curry powder, and garlic are soooo seriously tasty.
Serve this warm, fragrant spinach side dish!
Wouldn’t this go well with a nice East Indian chutney? For a touch of vinegar and sweetness.
Next project for me – post a chutney recipe!
We got a kick out of eating this Indian spinach side dish with french fries – oil-free oven baked potato wedges specifically – and ketchup, kind of a cultural juxtaposition.
Ketchup actually went really well with it.
The second time I made the vegan palak paneer we had it with brown basmati rice and corn on the cob. That was delicious as well.
Family friendly East-West Indian fusion combos! ?
Because of the minimal cooking time, tofu, eggplant, and spinach combine into a great recipe when you only have 20 minutes until you want to eat.
The slowest part is trying to find the spices and measure them out!
Try fresh ginger instead of powder for extra kick.
I hope you enjoy creating your own east Indian healthy oil-free buffet dish!
Please, go back for seconds! 🙂
Indian Palak Paneer (Dairy Free)
This is a mildly spiced version, with a hint of east Indian flavours. Perfect for families with kids. For more intense flavours use heaping teaspoons of the spices instead of levelled off spoons.
Sauté frozen spinach and fresh eggplant with flavourful onion, tomato, garlic and ginger.
Add tofu as a dairy-free "paneer," instead of the traditional cubes of Indian cheese.
Nutritious, flavourful and delicious!
- 10 oz frozen spinach 283 g (1 package) chopped, microwave thawed, not drained
- 1 eggplant medium size, cubed, or a 2nd package of tofu, or a can of drained chickpeas
- 16 oz extra firm tofu 450 g extra firm, unpressed, cubed same size as the eggplant
- 1 sweet onion or red onion, finely chopped or food processed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin 5 mL
- cayenne powder a dash
- 1 tsp ginger powder or 5 cm fresh ginger minced
- 2 garlic cloves, medium, minced
- 1 1/2 cup tomatoes 240 mL fresh, diced or blended
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder 5 mL
- 1 teaspoon curry powder 5 mL mild
- 1/2 teaspoon salt 5 mL and to taste
Microwave the frozen spinach 2-3 min to thaw. Do not drain. I just leave it in the package in the microwave, on a dish to catch leaks, and open it over my pan.
Wash and cube eggplant. Cube extra firm Tofu. Make both the same size cubes about 1" square.
Dice or food process onion, add to a wok or large pan, on medium heat.
Add cumin, cayenne, ginger and garlic and cook until onions are translucent.
Blend tomatoes and add just before the onions begin to stick, and stir in.
Add the cubed eggplant and tofu and stir, cook for 5 minutes on medium. No need to press the tofu.
Add thawed spinach and stir to combine.
Add coriander, curry powder and salt.
Cook for 5 minutes more on medium heat, stirring constantly until the tofu is heated all the way through, and moisture has evaporated to your liking.
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