This curried collard greens stew with tofu is inspired by Indian saag paneer. It’s great for meal prep and quick enough for weeknight dinners alongside rice or flatbreads.
These curried collard greens with tofu are loosely based on saag paneer. The stew consists of silky braised greens and cubes of lemony tofu in a coconut broth perfumed with Indian spices. Add some basmati rice and you’ve got a cozy weeknight meal in less than an hour.
Saag paneer is a classic Indian dish that’s been described as “creamed spinach with cheese”. It’s got wilted greens (typically mustard greens or spinach) and chunks of paneer (a firm, tangy cheese). I’ve had actual saag paneer a total of one times and, admittedly, I was half a bottle of wine deep and eating my friend’s takeout leftovers from the night before. (I’m pure class, baby.)
Regardless of my state, I was blown away by the flavors. The greens were assertive with warming spices, contrasting perfectly with the tangy cheese.
The following day – and sober! – I started researching the dish online, as well as how to veganize it. This Serious Eats version used lemon-miso marinated tofu as a “vegan paneer” and a cauliflower puree instead of heavy cream. I made it and it was spectacular. But, the recipe had way too many steps and I didn’t love the sulfuric taste of boiled cauliflower in the sauce.
For my next vegan saag paneer test, I did away with the cauliflower and just used coconut milk. I also pared down the ingredient list and used collard greens for a heartier texture.
The verdict? My version is more like a distant cousin of saag paneer, but a dish I’ve been loving lately. It’s perfect for meal prep and simple enough for weeknights. It’s a light yet filling meal, and great with a side of brown basmati rice, naan, or just by itself.
How to Use Tofu as a Vegan Paneer Substitute
Again, I have little to no experience with actual paneer, but I can tell you this technique works well for this specific dish. (It’s kinda like tofu feta.)
As usual, you start by pressing tofu and cutting it into cubes. Then you marinate it with miso and lemon juice for just a few minutes, and then bake it. The result is tangy, salty, funky-tasting tofu with a cheesy vibe.
Cleaning and Cooking with Collard Greens
Collard greens are a new-to-me vegetable, something I’ve only started experimenting with in the recent past. They’re a hearty green with a mild, slightly bitter taste and firm texture (similar to lacinato kale or mature spinach).
Be sure to wash them thoroughly, since they tend to be a little sandy. And discard the fibrous stems before eating the greens. Collard greens can be massaged (like kale) and eaten raw, sautéed, or tossed into soups and pastas. As a substitute for collards in vegan saag paneer, feel free to use kale, mustard greens, or spinach.
If you like this stew, you should also check out…
- Creamy Veg Curry with Crispy Tofu and Sesame Noodles
- Red Lentil Dal-ish Soup with Cauliflower and Spinach
- Crispy Tofu Bowls with Charred Broccoli and Peanut Sauce
- Chickpea Spinach Curry
This curried collard greens stew with tofu is inspired by Indian saag paneer.
For the Tofu
- One 14-ounce block extra firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 2 teaspoons avocado, organic canola, or refined coconut oil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Stew
- 2 tablespoons avocado, organic canola, or refined coconut oil
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 bunch collard greens (about 9 large leaves), stemmed and cut into 1/3-inch strips (See Note)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- One 13-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Start by pressing the tofu: Drain the tofu and squeeze out some of the water by pressing on the block with your palms. Place the tofu on a plate then top it with another plate or cutting board and weigh it down with something heavy (like a couple of cans), to squeeze out as much water as possible. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes, periodically draining off the excess water.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, make the tofu marinade by whisking together the lemon juice, miso, oil, and black pepper.
- Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch cubes and add to the marinade. Gently toss to coat and let stand for 10 minutes, tossing once again after 5 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tofu in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, start the stew. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, and pepper flakes into the hot oil and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the greens and toss with tongs to coat in the hot oil. Cook for about 2 minutes, until they’re bright green.
- Then add the coconut milk and turmeric. Cover tightly with a lid, bring to a simmer, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the greens are softened.
- Season with lemon juice (I like this really sour so I go heavy on the lemon) and salt, and stir in the tofu. Serve with rice, if desired.
In place of collard greens, you can substitute kale, mature spinach, or mustard greens.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 330
- Fat: 26.9
- Carbohydrates: 10.5 g
- Fiber: 3.7 g
- Protein: 11 g
Keywords: saag paneer, vegan, tofu, collard greens, indian