Saag Paneer, Greatest Vegetable Dish Ever?

If you’ve ever dined at an Indian restaurant, you’ve probably had a chance to try Saag Paneer. It’s a dish that makes an appearance in the steam table at the buffet, or as part of the vegetarian Thali plate. It’s essentially a dish of lightly spiced creamed spinach with cubes of fresh cheese floating in it. The dish originated in Northern India, in the Punjab, where it is often made with mustard greens instead of spinach.

I think that it’s got it all-tons of tender spinach, a gentle mix of alluring spices, creaminess, and cubes of mildly tangy cheese. I would put it in my top ten of vegetable dishes, and I’ll stand by that!

Making it Plant Based

If you’ve ever had paneer, you may have noticed that the texture of it is pretty similar to tofu. It’s a fresh, non-melting cheese, made by adding and acid to milk so it will curdle, then draining the whey and pressing the cheese into a dense block. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost the same process used to make tofu. So using tofu in place of paneer was an easy leap to make. I started serving Tofu Saag back when I was chef at a deli in the early 90’s, and it was very popular.

Coconut Cream Stands in for Dairy

Once you have your tofu, you just need a little creaminess to make the spinach into the treat we call Saag. I only used a quarter cup of coconut cream and it’s just creamy enough. Coconut cream has the advantage of being something you can cook, without thickening or binding it. You don’t need to make a roux or add starch, it can take the heat without shattering or separating.

Serve Tofu Saag at your Next Party

Try serving this to your friends and family. They may not even notice that it’s tofu, since paneer is already so tofu-like. It’s also a great meal prep item, and keeps for three or four days in the refrigerator, tightly covered.

Tofu Saag

Keyword spinach, tofu
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 block extra firm tofu pressed
  • 2 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 inch ginger chopped
  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 1 large jalapeno seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream
  • cooked rice, chutneys


  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cube tofu, then toss with oil, lemon, turmeric and salt.
    Roast for 20 minutes, then use a metal spatula to turn the cubes and roast for 10 minutes longer.


  • In a large pan over medium-high, heat the avocado oil. Add the onions and stir until softened. Lower the heat and stir for a few minutes, then stir in the spices. When fragrant, add the jalapeno and stir until softened.
  • Add the spinach, a couple of handfuls at a time, turning it with tongs until it wilts, then adding more. When almost wilted and bright green, stir in the salt, lemon and coconut cream. Bring to a boil and cook until just softened.
  • Use a stick blender to puree, then stir in the roasted tofu. Turn to mix, then serve with rice and chutneys.