Hands down, my #1 favorite Indian dish is Saag, with or without the paneer (scrumptious Indian cheese). I decided it was time to learn how to make it, so to the interwebs I went. Since the Paneer version includes cheese and the saag part is made creamy with cream or yogurt, I looked into vegan versions for ideas on reducing the dairy.
I found a plethora of recipes and settled on my two favorites and then merged them and added a few additional changes to make it my own. I liked the tofu paneer, masala spice and “cream” addition from veryveganish.com. Similarly, I loved the use of blending kale and spinach, minced aromatics and use of additional spices with this recipe from noteatingoutinny.com.
When all was said and done, I ended up going a vegetarian route because I used ghee for the cooking fat and goat yogurt to make the saag creamy. Also, the tofu paneer was pretty tasty, but I think this is one dish where I’ll use the real thing next time…cause cheese (my weakness). – (UPDATE: After 2 days, I ate the last bowl of this and the tofu did start to take on a more “cheese” like quality. So, go either way. You’ll love love love it!!).
My husband deemed the results “good restaurant quality” and proceeded to eat 3 bowls even though he “wasn’t hungry”. I consider that a success.
One last note before we begin, this recipe is easy, but time consuming. I don’t recommend making this after a long day at work or when you have kids screaming, “Feed me now!” Make it for a Sunday, slow cook situation where you can give it time and love. It is definitely worth it. Also, you may want to make a double batch. This one all but disappeared while I was writing up this post, and there are only 2 of us. 😉
Servings: 4 | Prep & cook time: 2.5hr | Difficulty: Moderate
Calories: 327 | Protein: 20 g | Fat: 18 g | Fiber: 9 | Carbs: 22 g
- 1 14oz (395 g) firm tofu
- 1 giant bunch of kale (1 lb)
- 1 giant bunch of spinach (1 lb)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp shallot
- 1/4 cup onion
- 1 roma tomato, diced
- 2 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp ghee (or olive/vegetable oil)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp masala
- 1/2 tsp cumin seed (roasted and ground fresh – or ground and ready to go)
- 1/2 tsp coriander seed (roasted and ground fresh – or ground)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
- 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1 cup goat yogurt (or greek yogurt or substitute heavy cream or non-dairy milk)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 pinch saffron threads (optional, but worth it)
I began with the tofu. Preheat the oven to 400. Drain and dice tofu into chunks and place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake until golden brown (about 20 min).
While the tofu baking, remove the large stems from the kale and place in a big bowl. Toss with the olive oil and a little salt.
I also took this opportunity to cook my basmati rice. I put 2 cups homemade veggie stock into a small sauce pan with a pinch of saffron. Brought it to a boil and then turned the heat to low to simmer, added 1 cup of rice and covered. Rice will simmer for about 15 – 20 min until tender and liquid is absorbed. Then turn off the heat and let it chill on the stove.
Once the tofu comes out of the oven, turn the oven up to 450. Move tofu to a plate or bowl and place kale on the roasting pan (keep the same foil and parchment there to save on cleanup time). Put kale in oven and roast for about 3 – 5 min until just wilted.
When kale is done baking, remove from oven and transfer to a large pot. Fill with water, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for about 15 – 20 min and then add the fresh spinach to the pot and boil another 5 min.
While all the greens are boiling, place cumin and coriander seed in a small pan over med low heat until toasted (3 -5 min). When you just start to smell them, you know they are done toasting. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind into a fine power. The coriander seed shells will remain in tact, but thats ok.
Next, mince up the garlic, onion, shallot, dice the tomato and grate the ginger. In another large pot (pro tip – convince another family member it’s their turn to do dishes tonight), add 1 tbsp of ghee and set over med heat until it melts. Once it melts, add the onion and shallot and let cook til translucent (about 8 min).
Your greens should be done by this point. Drain them, reserving a cup or so of cooking water. Transfer to a blender or food processor and quick pulse with the water until they become a soupy paste. (You may have to do this in batches).
Next add the garlic, ginger and tomato, to the pan with the onions and shallot, followed by the last tbsp of ghee, dried coriander, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, masala and cayenne. Let this cook for another 5 min or so.
Add the greens to the pot and salt and pepper. Next add the goat yogurt and tofu. (substitute non-dairy yogurt to make it vegan). Continue to stir, taste and salt and pepper until you like the flavor. Simmer the dish for another 20 min or so, stirring occasionally.
Serve warm over the rice and/or with some naan. So very very good!!
Much love and Namaste,