It’s no secret we are obsessed with this shahi paneer recipe from Show me the Curry. This stuff is magical. Don’t get me wrong, some of the magic comes from the paneer, but most of the magic comes from the sauce. It’s a rich and flavorful tomato-cashew gravy. Shahi means royal, and is this sauce ever royal. So I’m just gonna roll with it and call my vegan adaptation Vegan Tofu Royale.
While we do eat dairy, we don’t eat it daily and we don’t generally keep dairy milk in the fridge. After wasting leftover milk a few times, I started using light coconut milk in place of milk. It tasted even better, which inspired me to try this paneer dish 100% sans-dairy.
Vegan Tofu Royale
1 pound extra firm tofu*, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¾ cup raw cashews
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 small onions, finely diced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 serrano pepper, finely chopped (remove seeds and membranes for mild heat)
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Place cubed tofu in a medium bowl with 1 tablespoon of canola oil and the lemon juice. Toss to combine, until coated. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet prepared with a Silpat mat or parchment paper. Sprinkle generously with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden.
In a small sauce pan, combine cashews and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and set aside.
Using the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, sauté the onions over medium-high heat until they begin to dry out. Add the garlic, ginger, and serrano pepper and cook 2-3 more minutes.
Add tomato sauce and stir well. Cook, stirring frequently, until the oil begins to separate. While the tomato sauce is cooking, put the coconut milk and cashews in the blender. Vent the blender lid and place a towel over the top. Blend until the cashews are completely smooth.
Once the tomato mixture is ready, add spices and mix well. Pour in the cashew mixture and stir. Before adding the water, you can use it to get the remaining cashew cream from the sides of the blender. Just place the water in the blender, cover tightly with the lid and shake.
Finally, add the water, sugar, and about a teaspoon of salt to the pan. Stir while bringing the mixture to a boil. Add the baked tofu and stir to combine. Salt as needed to achieve the perfect balance of salty-sweet.
Makes 6 servings (one scant cup each). Serve over about a cup of rice with a generous side of peas.
*If your tofu is packed in water, press it. Don’t know how? Get directions here. We usually opt for high protein tofu in the vacuum-sealed, clear plastic packaging without water.
Note: If you enjoy dairy and are heading over to make the original recipe with paneer, might I suggest using ghee in place of the 2 tablespoons of oil you use to cook the sauce? You won’t regret it.