Paneer Bhurji is a popular Indian restaurant dish made with the Indian cheese, paneer. For this vegan Tofu Paneer Bhurji, tofu and a secret ingredient replace the creamy cheese, and the result is just as delicious. Add bell peppers and tomatoes for more flavor and healthfulness.
A bhurji, in India’s culinary lexicon, is a messy scramble of any sort. There’s anda bhurji, or egg bhurji, a spiced-up version of scrambled eggs that blazed a path from India’s street food stalls to become a popular breakfast staple in every home kitchen. And then there’s paneer bhurji, a popular restaurant dish made with the creamy Indian cottage cheese paneer, that’s spicier, more lavish, and — dare I say it — more delicious.
In recent weeks, I was hit by a deep craving for Paneer Bhurji. Maybe it was the neat slabs of paneer I saw in the refrigerator at the Indian grocery store that did it, or maybe it is this stubborn cold weather that refuses to shake off (it’s snowing here in DC today), making me crave warm, spicy, rich food. Either way, I wanted nothing more the other night than to scoop up some Paneer Bhurji with a puffy naan and stuff my face.
There was nothing to stop me. In my refrigerator were some firm tofu, green peppers and red onions — perfect ingredients for a marvelous vegan Paneer Bhurji. And a healthy one, because while paneer is packed with fat and cholesterol, tofu isn’t. But there was one thing. While the tofu would make a perfect stand-in for the paneer, texture-wise, it would not have that very important richness that the cheese would bring to the dish. And that’s when it hit me: cashew cream, an ingredient I have often used as a cream substitute in Indian dishes. A little bit would go a long way in making my Tofu Paneer Bhurji taste as luxurious as the original dish.
So Tofu Paneer Bhurji it was that night, and it was quite perfect. In fact, it didn’t last around here for more than a few minutes. Which is not to say that I ate it all up. Erm…let’s not get into that now, ok?
Tofu Paneer Bhurji
- 1 14- oz pack firm tofu. Place the tofu in a colander and cover with a paper napkin. Place a heavy weight on top and leave it alone for 15 minutes to drain out any excess water from the tofu. Don't worry if the tofu crumbles a bit-- you are going to crumble it anyway.
- 12 cashew nuts, soaked in 1/2 cup of water for 30 minutes, then blitzed into a smooth paste
- 1 medium red onion, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, minced
- 1 tsp garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 tsp ginger, grated
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and saute until they start to brown.
- Add the garlic and ginger. Saute for a minute, then add the green peppers, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and paprika. Stir to mix and add the tomato puree.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato puree is thick and a few shades darker.
- Crumble the tofu and add it to the saucepan. Stir well to mix,
- Cook the mixture on medium heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the cashew cream and salt to taste. Turn off heat.
- Stir in the coriander leaves and lemon juice. Serve hot with naan.
More Indian paneer recipes without the cheese: