March 5, 2018
Slow Cooker Vegan Saag Paneer

slow cooker vegan saag paneer

Ugly delicious. That’s exactly what this meal is and, considering I spent most of Saturday night watching David Chang’s Netflix documentary of the same name, the description seems fitting.

This slow cooker vegan saag paneer may not be pretty, but it’s so delicious.

I love Indian food so much and even though 23 and Me assures me that most of my ancestry comes from Europe, I swear I’ve got a little bit of Indian in my blood. With as much as I make it, that’s gotta be somewhat true.


Anyways, the beauty of being an Italian/Danish gal trying to cook Indian cuisine is that I’m not beholden to any family traditions. Most of my recipes come from cookbooks and my friend Harnoor’s family that I’ve put my own spin on. This saag paneer is a healthier take than what you would find at most restaurants; it’s ghee free and the richness comes from canned coconut milk.

close up of vegan and glutenfree slow cooker tofu saag paneer

When we were living in Sacramento, I ordered Saag Paneer at least a few times a month. We had an Indian restaurant just a few blocks away from our condo and it was my favorite treat on nights I didn’t feel like cooking. Which, after an hour commute home, was most weeknights. Our order was almost the exact same every time: a vegetable biryani for BL, saag paneer for me and extra naan for both of us.

This recipe couldn’t be easier; almost as simple as ordering takeout. Saute the onion, ginger, garlic and spices until toasted and fragrant. I like my saag paneer slightly spicy, so I’m using both cayenne pepper and a thai chili pepper. Feel free to omit or cut down as needed.

Place the spinach in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. This is a lot of spinach and, that’s a good thing. As flavorful as this is, can you imagine a better way to eat a ton of spinach? Skip the pre-bagged baby spinach as you will need a few bags and that can get expensive. Instead, head to the fresh lettuce area of the grocery store and grab mature spinach leaves. Or, for a heartier version, use some mustard greens for the spinach.

vegan crockpot saag paneer using tofu paneer

Of course, this is a vegan saag paneer so we are using tofu instead of actual paneer. If you love paneer, you’ve gotta try this dairy-free version. I promise it tastes so much like paneer, you won’t notice the difference.

For extra crispy tofu, I am using the same trick I always do- coat in cornstarch and then lightly fry until golden. The cornstarch adds a crispy layer and prevents the tofu from becoming soggy as it cooks in the saag sauce. I know some of you don’t like cornstarch, so you can skip this step if you’d like, though I’d still recommend lightly frying it to give it texture before adding to the sauce.

It’s a very rainy day in St. Louis and I’m so glad that I’ve got this saag paneer simmering in my slow-cooker for dinner this evening. What are your favorite slow cooker recipes? Anything you want to see more of?

If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking!

vegan crockpot saag paneer using tofu paneer

Slow Cooker Vegan Saag Paneer

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: main, dinner
  • Cuisine: Indian, Glutenfree, vegan, vegetarian


Slow Cooker Vegan Saag Paneer! If you like saag paneer or palak paneer, you will love this vegan version using tofu instead of paneer. Made effortless in the slow cooker for healthy weeknight dinners. Gluten-free.

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: main, dinner
  • Cuisine: Indian, Glutenfree, vegan, vegetarian
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: main, dinner
  • Cuisine: Indian, Glutenfree, vegan, vegetarian


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 thai chili, seeded and chopped
  • 2 pounds frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 (14 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14 ounce) package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • rice and naan, for serving


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add in the garlic, ginger, spices and thai chili and cook another 1-2 minutes until spices are toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and place in the base of a food processor.
  3. Add the spinach leaves to the food processor and pulse to chop the spinach.  You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your food processor; I do it in two batches.
  4. Place the chopped spinach and spice mixture to the base of a slow cooker along with the coconut milk, tomato sauce and salt. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
  5. 30-60 minutes before serving; dice the tofu and toss with the cornstarch until coated. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Add the tofu to the spinach mixture and cook. Season to taste, as needed, and serve with rice and naan.


  • Serving Size: 1/6 recipe with 1/2 cup rice
  • Calories: 290
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Sodium: 266 mg
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Saturated Fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 36 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 12 g

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slow cooker vegan saag paneer

If you like this recipe, you’ll love these other healthy slow cooker dinners:

Slow Cooker Vegan Chana Masala. Chickpeas cooked in a fragrant, spiced tomato sauce. Make in the morning for dinner at night! Vegan and Gluten-Free |
Slow Cooker Vegan Chana Masala
Slow Cooker Butter Chickpeas and Tofu! Packed with protein, vegan and gluten free. A healthier take on everyone's favorite Indian dish. This is such a simple dish; the perfect make-ahead healthy weeknight dinner. |
Slow Cooker Butter Chickpeas
Slow Cooker Chickpea Tangine! You've gotta try this amazing vegan crock-pot meal. Packed with flavor, protein and fiber. Vegan + Gluten-Free. |
Slow Cooker Vegan Chickpea Tangine
Slow Cooker Red Curry! Lots of vegetables & chickpeas cooked in a coconut-red curry sauce. Throw everything in the slow cooker and it's ready for dinner when you get home from work! #Vegan & #Glutenfree
Slow Cooker Vegan Red Curry

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

  1. This was so good! It tasted restaurant quality, and the tofu worked really well in place of the paneer. I used a chili and cayenne and I was happy with the spiciness. Definitely ugly delicious!

  2. Can’t wait to give this a try. I live in St. Louis too. Where did you get the Thai chili? Also, have you ever tried this with the lower fat coconut milk?

    • Hi Holly, I found the thai chili at Dierbergs. I haven’t tried with lower fat coconut milk, but it should work the same, just a little less rich.

  3. Made this for dinner and it was both fun to make and delicious. Also I appreciate the tips about pressing tofu. I had never heard of that before and it made all of the difference! And the cornstarch to add crispiness… all these years I never made tofu as perfect as I did tonight! Will be using that technique from now on.

  4. Another winner from Alex! I followed her recipe exactly. I have a small food processor and had to chop the spinach in multiple batches. Couldn’t find the pepper at the grocery store, so I used a teaspoon of siracha hot chili sauce. Served over rice cauliflower to cut the calories.

  5. Hi,

    I’m planning to make this, it sounds fab.

    Do you know if it csn be frozen safely? Think i heard that spinach isn’t meant to be frozen after its cooked??



    • Hi Jen- yes, you can refreeze spinach after it’s cooked though the water content may make the texture more runny after you cook it again the second time. I’ve frozen this meal several times and it’s delicious! Just needs to simmer again to thicken.

  6. This was delicious. I added cooked frozen peas and melted ghee into the rice which I’ve seen in a lot of Indian restaurant rice. I was worried the tofu wouldn’t have the same toughness as Paneer but it proved otherwise. Everyone in my family enjoyed it!

  7. This looks lovely! Do you think it would work with frozen spinach? I like to use this as it’s cheaper (and obviously less perishable) than the fresh stuff, and seems to work in lots of recipes.

    • Oh, I don’t see why not!? You might have to adjust for seasoning (I always think frozen spinach is a tad bland) and I’d thaw it and then squeeze as much water out as possible before cooking. Other than that- it should work! If you make it, will you come let me know how it turned out?

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