This vegan palak paneer combines the rich earthy flavors of fenugreek and garam masala with the bright and colorful taste of the spinach and cilantro. Fresh tofu and coconut milk replace the traditional dairy ingredients. Serve with basmati rice and vegan naan or flatbread.
Add the lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast, and salt to a bowl. Stir to combine. This should form a thin paste.
Cube the tofu and add it to the mixing bowl with the paste. Gently fold to combine, being careful not to break up the tofu.
Using a slotted spoon, place the tofu cubes on a lined baking sheet. Try to avoid getting any extra liquid on the baking sheet, as this could cause the tofu blocks to stick and crumble after they are baked.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. When you remove the cubes they should be lightly crisped on the outside, but still spongy and paneer-like on the inside. Let rest until you are ready to add the tofu to the palak.
For the Palak Sauce
Add all of the palak ingredients to a high-speed blend (for a smoother sauce) or a food processor (for a chunkier sauce). Leave aside a tablespoon or two of the coconut milk to use later as a garnish. Blend until combined.
Pour the sauce mixture into a sautee pan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Add the paneer tofu and simmer another 5 minutes.
Drizzle coconut cream over the top and serve with basmati rice and a side of vegan naan or flatbread.
For the Basmati Rice
Add two cups of dry basmati rice to a fine-mesh sieve and rinse with cold water until the excess starch is removed (this will keep the rice from getting sticky while it cooks).
Add the rinsed rice with 5 cups of water and 5 to 10 cardamom pods (optional) to a medium pot. **Do not stir the rice while it is cooking.** Just give it a quick swish at the beginning and leave it alone until the rice is fully cooked. When the rice seems done, you can check to see if there is still water at the bottom of the pot by sliding a fork between the perimeter of the pot and the rice, and gently pushing the rice back. If there is no more water and the rice is soft, it's ready to eat.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer covered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked. Fluff with a fork and let rest covered until ready to serve. (remove cardamom pods before serving.)
For an even more flavorful paneer, mix the tofu with the paste and let rest up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
If you want fluffy rice, be sure to rinse it before cooking and don't mess with it while it's simmering.
If your water boils off too fast (before the rice is done, you can add ¼ cup warm water to the pot and continue simmering).
If you don't have fenugreek, just double the amount of cilantro.
If you don't have garam masala, you can make your own. Recipes for garam masala differ, but they usually include a variation of coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper. Use what you have in your pantry to make about 3 tablespoons.
Coconut milk in a can will often form a hard mass at the top. Just break it up with a fork and stir to combine with the liquid.
Cardomom pods are optional. They give the rice a subtle aromatic flavor.