Tag Archive for indian food

Butter Paneer {Vegan option}

It’s the end of January, and let’s be real; comfort food is on the menu 24/7. 

For breakfast most days I have warm maple oatmeal, and lunches are often rice bowls with tofu and veggies, or a hearty soup. I am craving warming, comforting foods pretty hardcore these days. 

Vegan Butter Tofu

And that includes food that’s spicy. Ginger, garlic, chili; as well as cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin are all warming spices that make you feel cosy. Like a hug for your insides. 


So a great deal of what I’ve been craving lately are things like laksa, curries, dosas. Warm, comforting, and satisfying. 

Just before Christmas, I had a work lunch with a bunch of my colleagues and we ended up meeting at an Indian restaurant. It was perfect: fluffy white basmati rice and pillowy warm naan bread, along with generous spoonfuls of warm, spicy curry. 

I love Aloo Gobi (which is potatoes and cauliflower), and I’m also a huge fan of chana masala (chickpea curry), but at this particular lunch, I couldn’t get enough of the Butter Paneer. It’s basically the vegetarian version of butter chicken; the sauce is spicy, but also rich and creamy. 

Indian Food

Traditionally, this sauce is made with tons of butter and whipping cream, but coconut milk makes a great vegan whipping cream substitute. 

So I played around with cashews and coconut cream, and came up with a nice, satisfying vegan version of the sauce. Paneer is an Indian cheese, but you can easily sub it out for tofu to get a very similar effect. 

Serve this over basmati rice with a side of naan bread. You’ll want the bread to sop up every last drop of this warming and satisfying sauce. 

Butter Paneer

Butter Paneer


  • 2 tbsp vegan butter substitute
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1″ thumb of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 bird’s eye or Thai red chili, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 can tomato sauce (156 ml)
  • 1 can coconut milk (400 ml) 
  • 1/4 cup cashews 
  • 200 g (half a package) of either paneer or tofu, cut into 3/4″ cubes


  1. Place the cashews in your blender container, and cover with 1/2 cup of water. Set aside to soak. 
  2. In a large, heavy pot, heat the vegan butter and olive oil over medium-high heat until melted together. Add the ginger, garlic, chilies and cumin and coriander and stir well. Allow to cook in the oils for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn (especially garlic, it burns quickly). 
  3. Add the tomato paste and stir well together, allow to cook down for about 5 minutes, until it is starting to caramelize. 
  4. Place the masala (spice & tomato mixture) along with the can of coconut milk in the blender with the cashews that have been soaking, and blend well on high for at least a minute, until smooth. You can run it through a sieve if you are concerned about particulate. 
  5. Pour the sauce back into the pan, and bring it up to just under a boil, and the sauce thickens. Add the cubed tofu or paneer, and stir, allowing them to heat up in the sauce. When everything is heated through, serve atop a bed of basmati rice, garnished with chopped cilantro if you like. 

How to Make Paneer

I love cooking other culture’s food. Truthfully, as Canadians, we don’t really have a distinct food culture. It’s starting to emerge–but it’s a slow process, as we are a young county. In the mean time, I cook other culture’s foods, and because I don’t really identify with any one culture, I claim them all.

One of the things I love the most about Indian cooking is how vegan- and vegetarian-friendly it is. It’s also great for people with food allergies, as it’s easy to get things that are gluten-, egg- and dairy-free. Chickpea flour is used often, for example, and coconut milk in the place of dairy.

how to make paneerIndian cooking tends to also use lots of vegetables, whole grains (rice at most meals), and it’s often made with inexpensive ingredients. Spice, obviously, is a huge part of Indian cooking, and those distinctive flavours of garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and curry, that transform the simplest of ingredients into something really special.

One thing I often order in Indian restaurants is paneer. It’s a kind of freshly-made cheese, that has a tofu-like consistency. It’s a great meat substitute in many vegetarian dishes. My favourite is saag paneer, made with spinach.

I was afraid to attempt it, but I have a new cookbook, Daksha’s Gourmet Kitchen, that walks through the process step-by-step, and it was surprisingly easy how to make paneer from scratch.

daksha's gourmet kitchenPaneer


  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (you can also use vinegar)


  1. In a large pot, bring the milk to a boil. Turn down the heat so that the milk doesn’t boil over. The milk should still be boiling–with bubbles breaking the surface, though.
  2. Add the lemon juice and stir well. You should start to notice the curds seperating from the whey almost right away. If the milk is not separating, add a little more lemon juice. Continue stirring until the milk is completely separated, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare to strain. I use a large bowl with a strainer inside, and line the strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or 1 jaycloth.
  5. Pour the milk into the strainer, being careful to make sure to catch all the curds in your cheesecloth. You can keep the whey for stocks if you like, or you can just discard it.
  6. Gather up the curds into the cheesecloth and make a ball out of it. Squeeze it gently to remove more of the whey.
  7. Form the paneer into a circle or a rectangle. I placed mine in the sieve inside the bowl, and then I put a heavy can of tomatoes on top of it to weigh it down and squeeze out the additional water. I left it like this overnight in the fridge.
  8. Unwrap the paneer from the cheesecloth, and discard the cheesecloth. Store finished paneer in a air-tight container in the fridge.



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