Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Saag Paneer made with Tofu

Saag Paneer has always been a favorite of mine. I used to order it when we went out and made it at home. Back in the day I also used to make my own paneer. I have not made this dish since we became vegan. Today I decided it was time to make tofu version of my dish. For those of you that are Indian obviously my dish isn’t authentic. But I like the addition of the chewy sun dried tomatoes. I call this my Italian American version of saag and here is what I did:

Saag Paneer made with Tofu
Serves 3

Tofu Ingredients:

1 ½ tablespoons fresh ginger, finely ground
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 jalapeno, stem removed and minced (remove the seeds and ribs if you don’t like heat)
1 lime, zested and juiced
¼ teaspoon turmeric
14 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into ½ to ¾ inch cubes

Cashew cream:

¼ cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
water necessary to make a thick cream-like consistency

Brown Rice:

1 cup brown basmati rice
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods, smacked with the side
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon oil
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Sauce ingredients:

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so allicin can develop)
¼ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala or curry powder, or to taste
10 ounces frozen spinach (chopped not leaf)
6 sun-dried tomatoes, julienned (you can use peeled chopped tomatoes which would be more authentic)

Optional Garnish Ingredients:

A few fresh chopped cherry tomatoes (approx ¼ cup)
Lime wedges


Combine the tofu ingredients (except the tofu) in your blender or food processor and process until it makes a paste. Combine the paste and tofu cubes in a well sealed container and toss to coat. Place tofu in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours but longer would be fine. Periodically turn the container over so all the tofu can absorb the flavors of the paste.

To make the cashew cream combine the raw cashews and lemon juice in your blender and process. Add as much water as is necessary to make a thick “cream-like” sauce. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the brown rice dissolve the turmeric in the oil with the pepper. The oil is used to dissolve the turmeric and make it more bioavailable. Piperine in the black pepper also increases the absorption of the turmeric. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and cook covered until the rice is done, approximately 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a ¼ or ½ sheet plan with parchment and place the drained tofu in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes. Allow the tofu to cool until it releases easily from the pan and turn the cubes over and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until it reaches a texture you like.  My husband likes a very firm tofu so that is reflected in my cooking time you can cook it less to more closely mimick paneer.

In a saucepan water sauté the onion and garlic until tender. Move the aromatics, garam masala to your blender and puree. Return the mixture to the saucepan and add the defrosted box of spinach and sun dried tomatoes and cook over low heat for 15 minutes to blend the flavors. You may need to add a little water to thin the sauce.

When you are ready to serve place the baked tofu in the sauce and stir to combine. I serve this in bowl with the rice on the bottom, topped with the sauce. I like to place the cashew cream in the top of the spinach sauce so that you can still see it prominently in the dish. Sometimes I will add a few chopped raw tomatoes to the top of the dish for color and a lime wedge for those that want it.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 481.58
Calories From Fat (26%) - 125.92

Total Fat 15.06g
Saturated Fat - 1.9g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium-  331.39mg
Potassium - 826.24mg
Total Carbohydrates - 69.67g
Fiber - 10.78g
Sugar - 4.37g
Protein - 24.58g


This really hit the spot tonight. Definitely different from what we get at the restaurants around here. But that is loaded with fat we don’t want. For those that haven’t had saag before it is a mild spinach dish and this version is also mild. I think it would also be good with red pepper flakes but that isn’t how I have seen it made in the past.

Each serving of this dish contains approximately 11,500IU of vitamin A, 480mg of calcium, 8mg of iron, 170mcg of folate, 520mcg of vitamin K, 505mg of phosphorus, 270mg of magnesium, and 30mcg of selenium. A nice nutrition punch if I do say so myself. I also like that it has more than 10g or fiber and 24g of protein.

As those of you know that have been reading a long time my best friend in college was from Madras. I learned a lot about Indian food from her family. It was the first cuisine I learned to cook after Italian. It has remained a favorite of mine for 30 years. Wow, it is hard to believe it has been that long. Time sure flies when you are having fun. ;-)

Unrelated note:

Tomorrow my hubby is taking the day off so I will be busy with him most of the day. Of course I will make dinner and will get that posted. But I will be mobile most of day so I may not be as chatty in my responses.

I hope all are all having a great week so far. I will talk to you tomorrow.


  1. You had me thinking of this all day...and it looks more delicious than I could have imagined. It must be so wonderfully delicious with all the spices in the rice and the s/d tomatoes must be so good in it too.

  2. Rose,

    Aw, thanks! :-) I am so glad you like the look and sound of it. I thought it turned out really well. The original version I used to make must have been a nutritional nightmare. I don't even want to know how bad it was (buries head in sand).

    How is you lentil stew coming along?


  3. Oh and I wanted to add: Yay for getting the day off with Dan tomorrow!

    (The stew is doing fine...I'll catch up w/ you on email)

  4. Rose,

    Thanks! I am looking forward to a day with the hubby to myself. We will have a good time, we always do, even if we are doing monotonous stuff. ;-)

    talk to you soon,

  5. Alicia, I ahave heard of Saag Paneer, but I have never really seen it before, and just from your picture I can tell you this is right up my alley, so to speak..lol
    I think the rice and tomatoes sealed it for me!!! I love love love basmati rice, but I cannot find brown anywhere, can I use white? I really think I might stop being afraid and try to make this, it just looks so appealing to me!!!!

  6. Brandi,

    This is definitely my Italian-American take on saag, but we like it. The flavor is mild enough that even my elderly parents like saag. I think you should give it a try.

    You can use white basmati but have you tried Amazon for the brown? We have bought organic brown basmati there before. When Amazon is running a sale they are cheaper than our local stores.

    talk to you later,

  7. YUM YUM. This definitely sounds like something I'd really enjoy - especially the Italian American version ;-)

  8. Heather,

    This is a mild flavored dish, a good introduction to Indian food. I have made the traditional version for those that had never had Indian before and they all liked it. I hope you give it a try.

    talk to you later,

  9. Well, you know that I love Indian food :) Saag paneer has always been in my top 5 Indian dishes. I saw someone write about this tofu press that really gets all of the water out of the tofu and compresses it down to a dense chewy consistency. Of course since then I've wanted the press, and the first thing I'd make would be saag 'paneer'. One of these days the tofu press will be mine! In the meantime I'd like to try your version. If you are curious about the press yourself here is a link to it on amazon, I know you also have an affinity to interesting kitchen gadgets as well.


  10. Sarah,

    You are the best! Thank you so much for the link. I will definitely check it out.


  11. Let's just say, you're fortunate I live two hours away, or I'd be knocking at your door come dinner time very frequently.

  12. SV,

    LOL, that is quite a compliment. Thanks! :-)


  13. Oh, YUM! This looks and sounds terrific! As I told you the other day, I adore Indian food but don't make it (or get to eat it anywhere) nearly enough. I'm bookmarking this baby! (It's a good thing my lifestyle gives me the best chance for a long and active life, because I'm going to need all those years and all that energy if I have any hope of making all the recipes I've bookmarked from your blog! LOL!)

    I've had my eye on an Indian cookbook called Spicy Vegan by Sudha Raina for a few years, but have never been able to find it in a bookstore or find any reviews on it. Might you or anyone here have it? I'm wondering it it's good, and if it will mesh well with a whole-foods, very low fat diet.

    I'm glad you and Dan had a nice day together! How fun that both our hubbies got a day off this week! I'm envious of your weather. We got several more inches of snow yesterday, but today is sunny and supposed to hit 60º. I owe the dogs a good long hike, we've been cooped up for a few days!

    Thanks for another great recipe, Ali! xo

  14. Lalo,

    You should try this one. Dan couldn't stop raving about it. That is always a good sign. ;-)

    I don't have that book. But I will make a note of it in my phone and look for it the next time I get to the bookstore. If I find it I will let you know what I think.

    More snow.....ugh! I am so sorry to hear spring has not sprung at your please. We dove headlong into summer overnight. But it is suppose to cool off a little today and more tomorrow.

    As always you are too kind. Thanks!



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