Lower in calories and saturated fat, this healthier palak tofu still packs plenty of spice and flavor!
Whenever Bry and I go out for Indian food, our go-to is always the saag paneer. Generally speaking, saag paneer is an Indian vegetarian curry made from leafy greens, tomatoes, cream, and paneer (a type of soft cheese). While delicious and deceptively healthy thanks to the spinach, saag paneer is often loaded with saturated fat and high in calories. And when you only eat it maybe once a month that isn’t a big deal, after all it’s important to enjoy the foods you love. However, in order to enjoy this dish more than just every once and awhile I decided I would take on the challenge of making a healthier (and easier) version for home.
While I won’t pretend to be an expert in Indian cuisine (I’m far from it), I’ve been told that the two main differences between palak paneer and saag paneer is that the former is made only from spinach and contains very little cream, whereas the latter can be a combination of green leafy vegetables and contains a heavy amount of cream. Seeing as this recipe doesn’t include any cream, I figured it was more appropriate to call it “palak” rather than “saag.”
Okay, so how is this recipe healthier? As mentioned above, I nixed the cream and substituted with unsweetened almond milk. However, the next time I make it, I will likely use coconut milk (the kind that comes in a carton near the almond milk, not the canned) as it would provide a richer flavor. I upped the spinach amount, used whole wheat flour to help thicken the curry, and reduced the amount of oil used. The most noticeable difference is using tofu rather than paneer. Tofu is much lower in fat and is easier to find for a standard weeknight dinner. However, if you want to add a bit of indulgence back into the recipe, using paneer instead of tofu would be fine.
I know I haven’t been posting nutrition facts lately, but I couldn’t help myself with this one! For ¼ of the recipe (including the rice): 360 calories, 1 gram saturated fat, 46 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, and 18 grams protein.
As with any dish you cook, be sure to be tasting as you go to adjust how salty and spicy you want it.
So here’s a toast to a spinach-filled meal!
Healthy Palak TofuPrint Recipe
- 3 tsp canola or coconut oil, divided
- 1 package extra firm tofu
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 3 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- Salt, to taste
- 1 14-oz package frozen spinach
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk (the kind that comes in a carton, not canned coconut milk)
- 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
- 1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice
Bring 2 cups of water in a small pot to a boil. Add 1 cup of basmati rice, reduce heat to a simmer, then cover. Allow to simmer 45-60 minutes, or until soft and fluffy.
While rice cooks, drain water from tofu and wrap tofu block in a paper towel. Press down to squeeze excess water out. While tofu is pressing, place 1 tsp canola oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Cut tofu into large cubes and place in heated pan. Brown on all sides, about 5-10 minutes. Remove tofu from pan and remove pan from heat.
Place tomatoes, garlic, and ginger in blender and blend on high to puree. Stir in onion powder, garam masala, cumin, cayenne, and pinch of salt.
Place skillet back on the stove. Pour remaining 2 tsp of canola oil in pan and heat over medium-high heat. While oil is heating up, place almond or coconut milk in a bowl and whisk in whole wheat flour. Set aside.
Once oil is hot, pour tomato mixture into pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook until tomato mixture has reduced by nearly half (about 5-7 minutes).
Add frozen spinach and another pinch of salt to the tomato mixture and simmer on medium-low for 5 minutes. Pour about ¾ of mixture into blender and blend on high until well-combined. Pour blended spinach and tomato mixture back into pan and cook another 5 minutes, or until thickened.
Pour in flour and milk mixture. Increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, another 5-10 minutes or until thickened.
Carefully stir in browned tofu cubes and add additional salt or cayenne pepper to taste. Cook another 3-4 minutes until tofu is warmed through then serve.
Recipe adapted from Picky Eater Blog