A recipe for a vegan Kadai Tofu “Paneer” that’s lipsmackingly delicious and nutritious. Cubes of tofu are dunked in a creamy tomato sauce, sucking in all of the spice and flavor. A vegan and gluten-free recipe that’s ready in under 30 minutes.
As alluring as Indian restaurant food can be to someone who loves the medley of vibrant flavor, spice and some healthfulness, it is not always vegan friendly. And a major culprit is paneer, which often gets dunked into flavorful vegan sauces.
Paneer is an Indian cheese that looks a lot like tofu but has a flavor and mouthfeel that’s creamier, like cottage cheese. But tofu makes a good enough substitute in most Indian dishes calling for paneer, especially when there’s a flavorful sauce that it can soak up, and I’ve often used it recipes like my Palak Tofu “Paneer” and Chili Tofu “Paneer”.
When substituting paneer, use extra-firm tofu, with as much water pressed out of it as possible, but of late I’ve really been loving this high-protein tofu at Trader Joe’s that’s very firm and holds its shape beautifully in saucy dishes. That’s what I used in my Kadai Tofu “Paneer.”
A “kadai” is an Indian wok, and when you see a dish labeled with this prefix, you can be sure it’s a stir-fry or saute of vegetables or meat sauteed in a wok with spices, not unlike the balti cuisine of England. You should make this recipe in a wok, although if you don’t have one, a large saucepan would work too.
Make these Indian recipes with tofu next:
This is an incredibly simple dish: all you need to do is saute tomatoes, add a few onions or shallots with ginger and spices, and then finish it off with the tofu cubes. It took me under 30 minutes to make, and the best part is, you really don’t need anything special to serve it with. Rice or roti or naan all work, or you can even serve it with a good bread, like a sourdough.
The recipe for the “kadai” spice mix makes enough to last you at least for two uses, so you can make some and store the rest in an airtight jar for another use.
I can also certify this is a kid-friendly and kid-approved recipe. Jay couldn’t have enough of it, and he especially loved the tofu cubes, which was quite something because in the past getting tofu down his gullet has been a challenge.
If you try this recipe, be sure to let me know how it turned out for you.
- 1 15-oz block high protein tofu or extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (if using extra-firm tofu, press out all the water you can by swaddling the tofu block in paper towels and placing it in a colander with a weight on top. Leave it for at least an hour to drain out most of the water from the tofu.
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp coriander or cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1 inch piece ginger, grated or julienned
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 heaping tsp garam masala powder
- 1/4 cup raw cashews (blended with 1/2 cup water to make cashew cream)
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 dry red chili pepper
- 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
In a skillet, dry-roast the spice mix ingredients: the coriander seeds, dry chili pepper, cumin seeds and fennel seeds, until a couple of shades darker and fragrant. Remove to a spice grinder or blender and process to a coarse powder. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok or a large saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and when they start to turn color, add the tomatoes. Saute the tomatoes until they are fully mashed and pulpy.
Add the ginger, shallots and coriander leaves along with the coriander powder and garam masala powder and continue to saute for another five minutes. Add in the tofu cubes and 1 tbsp of the prepared spice mix and mix well.
Add the cashew cream and stir to mix. Check for salt. Let the sauce come to a boil, then turn off the heat. If you want a saucier sauce, add more water or vegetable stock to get it to the consistency you like.
For a nut-free version, use 1/2 cup of canned coconut milk instead of cashew cream, but this will slightly change flavor.