Palak tofu, also known as Saag Tofu, is a vegan version of the popular classic Indian dish, palak paneer. This flavorful vegan and gluten-free curry combines fresh spinach (palak) with tofu and a blend of aromatic spices. 

Palak/Saag Tofu curry in a bowl with rice, and side of red onions and cucumber.
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I recently made Palak Paneer, but I wanted to share a recipe for my vegan friends.  So I made Palak Tofu this time.  Guess what? My husband did not even realize that it was tofu and not paneer.  

Being vegan, I know you don’t miss paneer in any way, but I was pretty impressed with how similar their taste was.

I love these one-pot recipes, which can be prepared in minutes rather than hours.  This recipe takes less than 30 minutes from start to end, so it is absolutely one on my list for quick weekday dinners.

You can try this same curry with sweet corn or chickpeas instead of tofu, which is a great variation to this recipe. I made this Indian tofu recipe with spinach, but you can also vary by adding half spinach and half mustard greens or kale or chard to make saag tofu.

I have a variety of Saag recipes if you want to try variations – Saag Aloo & Saag Paneer with mustard greens.

Watch How to Make Vegan Palak Tofu

Ingredients 

  • Tofu: Use extra firm tofu for this recipe just like in tofu tikka masala.
  • Cashews: a creamy, buttery nut that adds richness and flavor to the dish. 
  • Ghee or Oil: Ghee is a type of clarified butter commonly used in Indian cooking, but you can substitute it with any neutral-flavored oil like canola or vegetable oil.
  • Cumin seeds: adds earthy and warm notes to the dish.
  • Green Chili Pepper: adds heat to the curry. I use serrano or thai chili pepper. Adjust to taste.  
  • Garlic and Ginger: It is okay to add chopped ginger and garlic to the curry as we are going to blend to a puree later.
  • Onion: gives the dish a sweet and spicy taste and is also the base for the curry. I prefer to use yellow onions when making this curry. Chop the onions, but it is okay if they are not finely chopped.
  • Tomato: adds a tangy and slightly sweet flavor to the dish.
  • Spinach (Palak): The star ingredient of this dish. I like to use baby spinach. If using regular spinach, then I suggest to blanch it in boiling water for 2 minutes.
  • Coconut Milk: gives the dish a rich, creamy texture and balances the heat. 
  • Spices: Use basic spices such as turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder, salt, and garam masala.
Ingredients you'll need to make spinach tofu

Health Benefits

Palak tofu is an excellent dish that includes plant-based protein and other essential nutrients. Tofu is rich in iron, calcium, and protein. Spinach is full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Here are some of the ways that palak tofu is good for your health:

High in Protein: Tofu is a great source of plant-based protein, making it a perfect option for vegetarians and vegans.

Packed with Nutrients: Spinach contains vitamins C, A, K, and folate, as well as iron, calcium, and antioxidants. Spinach is rich in dietary fiber, which helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Spinach is full of vitamin A, essential for healthy eyes.

Suitable for the Digestive System: The fiber in spinach helps digestion and keeps you from getting backed up.

Low in Carbs: This curry has just 9 grams of net carbs per serving. So it is great if you love low-carb Indian food.

How to Make Palak Tofu?

Let’s start with some prep to make palak tofu.

  • Pat dry the extra firm tofu and cut it into cubes. It is okay to just pat dry with paper towels. You can also press the tofu to remove extra moisture.
  • Soak the cashews in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain the water. This helps to soften the cashews, so we can blend them into a smooth paste.

Stovetop Method

Note: This is a one-pot method where I use baby spinach and don’t blanch it separately. If you prefer, or if you are using regular spinach, then boil a large pot of water. Add the spinach and blanch for 2 minutes. Right away, transfer the spinach to an ice bath. This helps to retain the bright green color.

  • Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add the oil and cumin seeds and let them splutter for about 30 seconds. 
  • Then add the aromatics such as green chili, ginger, and garlic. Saute for 30 seconds to a minute till the raw smell is gone.
  • Then add the chopped onions. Cook until the onions are golden in color.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and spices. Cover and cook till the tomatoes soften for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and mix well.
  • Add the spinach and water. Mix well and cook down the spinach for 2-3 minutes. You can cover it with a lid to help the spinach wilt quickly. Remove the lid and stir well. Turn off the heat. Make sure not to overcook here. We just want the spinach to wilt and mix with the aromatics.
  • Transfer the mixture to the blender, add cashews, and blitz on medium speed to make a coarse puree. 
blend spinach, onion, and tomato gravy with cashews
  • Heat the same pan on low heat. Pour the spinach mixture into the pan and stir it. The puree might splatter, so you can cover it with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Then remove the lid. 
  • If you like your curry to be extra creamy, add in the coconut milk now. We are also using cashews so the curry will be creamy already.
  • Add in the tofu and gently stir.
  • Cook on medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes so the tofu softens and soaks in the curry flavors.  
Tofu Palak Paneer with spinach, onion, and tomato gravy in a pan

Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve palak tofu hot with naan or rice.

A healthy and flavorful Palak Tofu recipe with steamed rice

Instant Pot Method

  • Start the instant pot in sauté mode. Add oil and cumin seeds. 
  • Add green chili pepper, ginger, garlic, and onions when cumin seeds splutter. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes until onions are golden.
  • Stir in the tomato, spices and saute for another 2 minutes. 
Vegan Palak Tofu Instant Pot Step 1
  • Add water and deglaze the pot. Add in the spinach. Give a stir. Press cancel and close the instant pot lid with the vent in the sealing position. Set on manual or pressure cook mode for 2 minutes.
  • Once the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then manually release the pressure. 
  • Add the cashews to the instant pot. Blend the spinach and other ingredients in the pot to a creamy texture using an immersion blender. (You can also transfer to a countertop blender to blend the spinach)
  • If using, add the coconut milk and stir it. 
  • Add in the tofu and gently stir. Cook on saute mode for 2-3 minutes so the tofu softens and soaks in the curry flavors.  
  • Transfer to a serving bowl.
Vegan Palak Tofu Instant Pot Steps 2

Spinach Tofu curry is ready to be enjoyed with your favorite bread, such as naan, roti, or paratha. Don’t forget to let me know how you like it.

Vegan palak paneer with tofu served in a bowl with rice.

Pro-tips

  • Use extra firm tofu for best results.
  • Soak cashews in hot water for 15 minutes to soften them before blending.
  • Use baby spinach for a more tender texture.
  • Adjust the amount of green chili pepper and red chili powder to your taste.

Variations

  • Use a variety of greens: You can use fresh kale, mustard greens, or leafy greens.
  • Frozen spinach: You can use frozen instead of fresh spinach. If making palak tofu on the stovetop, thaw the spinach on the counter for some time, so it cooks quickly. You can use frozen spinach directly if cooking in the instant pot.
  • Make it with paneer: You can substitute paneer for tofu if you prefer a dairy-based version of the dish.
  • Don’t have tofu: Tofu can be replaced with chickpeas or veggies like mushrooms, sweet corn, or green peas.
  • Make it nut-free: As we are adding coconut milk at the end, it is okay to skip cashews if you want to make this dish nut-free.

How to Serve?

Palak tofu is a versatile dish that goes well with naan, roti, rice, or quinoa.

Serve with a salad or roasted vegetables on the side to make a complete meal. 

How to Store?

Leftover palak tofu can be kept in the fridge for 3 or 4 days in an airtight container. You can also freeze it for 2-3 months. When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

To reheat the curry, put it in a pan, heat it on medium-low, and stir it occasionally until it is warm all through. You can also reheat it in the microwave.

If the sauce gets too thick, add a little coconut milk or water to thin it out.

Vegan Palak Tofu in a green curry with cashew cream and spices in a bowl

Common Questions

What can I use as a substitute for cashews in the recipe? 

If you have a nut allergy or do not have cashews, you can substitute them with blanched almonds or sunflower seeds.
It is also okay to skip cashews in this recipe, as we are adding coconut milk which will also give the curry a creamy texture.

Can I freeze leftover palak tofu for later? 

Yes, you can freeze palak tofu for 2-3 months. Then, transfer the cooled curry to a freezer-safe container and label it with the date. When ready to reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and reheat in a pan over low heat, stirring occasionally until heated through.

Can I use frozen spinach for this recipe? 

Yes, you can use frozen spinach in this recipe. If making palak tofu on the stovetop, thaw the spinach on the counter for some time, so it cooks quickly.
You can use frozen spinach directly if cooking in the instant pot.

More Instant Pot Curries You’ll Enjoy

4.87 from 29 votes

Vegan Palak Tofu

Palak tofu, also known as Saag Tofu, is a vegan version of the popular classic Indian dish, palak paneer. This flavorful vegan and gluten-free curry combines fresh spinach (palak) with tofu and a blend of aromatic spices. 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 8 ounces Tofu , extra firm, pat dry with paper towels and cut into cubes
  • 10 Cashews
  • 2 tablespoon Vegan Butter or Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds (Jeera)
  • 1 Green Chili Pepper, adjust to taste
  • 5 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1″ inch Ginger, chopped
  • 1 cup Onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Tomato, chopped
  • 10 ounces Spinach (Palak), I used baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup Water, reduce to 1/4 cup for instant pot method
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Milk , optional

Spices

Instructions 

  • Pat dry tofu with paper towels and cut it into cubes. 
  • Soak cashews in hot water for 15 minutes. Then drain the water. 

Stovetop Method

  • Heat a large pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the oil, cumin seeds and let them splutter aout 30 seconds.
  • Add chopped green chili, ginger and garlic. Saute for 30 seconds to a minute till the raw smell is gone.
  • Then add the chopped onions. Cook the onion for 3-4 minutes until onions are golden in color.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, spices and stir them in. Cover and cook till the tomatoes soften for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and mix well.
  • Add the spinach and water. Mix well and cook down the spinach for 2-3 minutes. You can cover with a lid which can help the spinach to wilt quickly. Remove lid and stir well. Turn off heat.
  • Transfer the mixture to the blender, add cashews and blitz on medium speed to make a coarse puree. 
  • Heat the same pan on low heat. Pour the spinach mixture into the pan and give it a stir. Cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Then remove lid.  
  • If using, add the coconut milk and stir it in.
  • Add in the tofu and gently stir. Cook on medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes so the tofu softens and soaks in the flavors of the curry. 
  • Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve palak tofu hot with naan or rice.

Instant Pot Method

  • Start the instant pot in sauté mode. Add oil and cumin seeds.
  • When cumin seeds start to splutter, add green chili pepper, ginger, garlic, and onions. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes until onions are golden.
  • Stir in the tomato, spices and saute for another 2 minutes. 
  • Add water and deglaze the pot. Add in the spinach and cashews. Give a stir. Press cancel and close the instant pot lid with the vent in the sealing position. Set on manual or pressure cook mode for 2 minutes.
  • Once the instant pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then manually release the pressure. 
  • Blend the spinach and other ingredients in the pot to a creamy texture using an immersion blender. (You can also transfer to a countertop blender to blend the spinach)
  • If using, add the coconut milk and give it a stir.
  • Add in the tofu and gently stir. Cook on saute mode for 2-3 minutes so the tofu softens and soaks in the flavors of the curry. 
  • Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve palak tofu hot with naan or rice.

Video

Notes

Spinach: This one-pot method works well with baby spinach. If you prefer, you can blanch the spinach, especially when using regular large spinach leaves. 
Frozen spinach: You can use frozen instead of fresh spinach. If making palak tofu on the stovetop, thaw the spinach on the counter for some time, so it cooks quickly. You can use frozen spinach directly if cooking in the instant pot.
Make it nut-free: As we are adding coconut milk at the end, it is okay to skip cashews if you want to make this dish nut-free.

Nutrition

Calories: 213kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 9gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 690mgPotassium: 612mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 6958IUVitamin C: 30mgCalcium: 169mgIron: 4mg

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: North Indian
Diet: Gluten-free, Low Carb, Vegan
Tried this recipe?Mention @pipingpotcurry or tag #pipingpotcurry!

About Meeta

I strongly believe that each one of us has a chef inside us, we just need to explore the ingredients and create great food. My passion is to share easy, healthy, and wholesome recipes made using Instant Pot & Air Fryer, that are well tested, so you can cook with confidence.

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4.87 from 29 votes (20 ratings without comment)

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28 Comments

  1. Excellent recipe. We’re trying to eat more vegan/vegetarian, and this was perfect. Had it with roasted veggies on the side and naan. Nice summer dish.

      1. Hi Aparna – yes, sure. This saag is great to freeze. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, heat and add tofu or paneer to it.

  2. This was so delicious! I used a frozen spinach/kale blend but didn’t have enough, so augmented with frozen okra and peas after pureeing–packed with veggies and so tasty with the warm spices! Using tofu and instead of paneer is a brilliant sub!