This vegan paneer is the creamiest version you will ever try! It's made from the leftover wheat starch water from washing flour, blended with tofu and coconut oil, and steamed to develop an amazingly cheesy texture. You can pan-fry it and add it to any of your favorite dishes, but of course I recommend this incredible Palak Paneer!
Note: This recipe makes about double the amount of paneer to curry, at least as far as I recall the ratio from most restaurants. You can of course double the curry ingredients, add extra paneer (no one is judging 😉 ) or save it for another fabulous dish. Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy!
Press the tofu overnight or for 8-12 hours to release as much water as possible. I first attempted making this with just a quick press and the cheese did not firm up all the way and was a little too mushy when browning. (Still tasted good, though!)
Drain as much excess water off your starch as possible and stir. I let mine sit in the fridge for a day or two to try to get it to really separate before using. Make sure your starch water is at room temperature before beginning, or it can make your coconut oil solidify when mixing.* I microwave it in 30-second increments, stirring each time until it's ready. Be careful not to heat it too much or the starch will clump.
*You can also leave the starch on your counter for several hours or overnight so it begins to ferment. The sourness and slight acidity will add more depth of flavor to your cheese.
Prepare a steamer and have a container ready for your cheese. I use these silicone molds which easily release. You may want to oil a glass container if using. Whatever you choose, make sure it can easily hold up at least 2 1/2-3 cups of liquid, because the mixture will rise by about 1/3 during cooking.
Add the crumbled tofu and all the ingredients through the salt to your blender or food processor and blitz. Slowly add in the melted coconut oil and continue to blend until it is fully emulsified. Finally add in the lactic acid and pulse the blender a bit more to incorporate.*
Pour the mixture into the prepared vessel and steam for 45 minutes. Allow to come to room temperature before covering and storing in the fridge. The cheese will be hardened after about 6-8 hours of resting in the fridge and will continue to harden a little more as it rests.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath for blanching the spinach. Push the spinach into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds-1 minute, then transfer to the ice batch to stop the spinach from cooking further. Once it has cooled, drain the spinach in a colander.
Melt the 2T of butter in a large sauce/sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for a few minutes, then add all the dry spices and stir until the onions are completely coated. Keep cooking for another minute or two until the onions begin to become translucent. Stir in the minced ginger, garlic, and green chilis and continue to cook for another few minutes until the chilis begin to soften. Add the tomatoes and drained spinach, and continue to cook the mixture, stirring occasionally for about another 10 minutes.
Finally stir in in a 1/4 cup of cream and the crumbled Fenugreek leaves. From here, I like to put the entire mixture into my food processor, and process just a bit so there are still a good amount of chunks but the mixture is getting creamier. Then, I take 1/2 the mixture out of the processor and pop it back into the sauté pan. Continue to blend the other half into a creamy purée and add that back into the pan when done.
Cut the paneer into chunks. (I used half for this recipe.) Heat up the one tblsp of vegan butter in a medium-sized pan. Lightly brown the paneer chunks on all sides in the butter. Transfer them to the curry, and heat them up together once more over medium heat, stirring in a couple splashes of vegan heavy cream at the end if desired before serving.