Indian Spinach and Tofu CrockPot Recipe

How to make Indian Spinach and Tofu -- this is a crockpot recipe -- it tastes just like take out!
Day 234.

I can't seem to get enough Indian food lately. Palak tofu is one of my favorite things to order as a side dish when we get take-out, and although it's not my favorite, I get the little foil packets at Trader Joe's for lunch about once a month. The problem (for me!) is that both the restaurant and the Trader Joe's version is hot and spicy---much too hot and spicy for me and my sensitive tongue. And, if I go digging around on the Internet, I find that many times the spinach is simmered in ghee (clarified butter), and that can't be good for my thighs.

This dish did the trick. It has a bit of a kick, but didn't leave me gasping for air and reaching for bottle after bottle of water. I had it for lunch and dinner yesterday, and am looking forward to today's lunch.

The Ingredients.
Recipe for Indian Tofu and Spinach -- plus there's a really cool way to fry up the tofu I never knew before.
There are a lot of spices. Don't get nervous.
You can do this.

--2 boxes of frozen spinach, drained (I used one chopped, and one whole leaf)
--1 pound of extra firm tofu
--1 yellow onion, diced
--3 smashed and chopped garlic cloves
--1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
--2 inches of ginger, peeled and grated
--1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (and then more later to taste)
--1 teaspoon cumin
--1 teaspoon curry
--1 tablespoon coriander
--1/2 teaspoon chili powder
--1/2 teaspoon garam masala
--1/2 cup water

--cornstarch (to coat the tofu)
--butter (to fry the tofu)

The Directions.

Use a 3 or 4 quart crockpot.

Drain your tofu. Squeeze it in between some paper towels or a clean dish cloth if need-be to get as much of the liquid out as you can.

Cut it into 1-inch cubes and toss it with corn starch. Fry in butter until golden brown--resist the urge to flip; tofu takes a while to brown. I made some here, and there are pictures.

While the tofu is browning, squeeze out all of the moisture from the spinach and dump it into your crockpot. Dice up the onion, and mince the garlic. Add that, too. Drain your garbanzo beans, and pour them in. Add all of the spices.

Stir in 1/2 cup of water.

Add the tofu to the very top of the spinach.

Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours. This doesn't take very long to cook. Serve over white rice, and scoop up with naan, pitas, or corn tortillas.

The Verdict.

I loved this. Adam did, too. The kids each picked out a few pieces of tofu, but mostly they ate the tofu after it was fried in the butter, and ate rice with Parmesan cheese.

I will make this again. It's a very satisfying lunch, or flavorful side dish.

Other Indian food you should make and have a party and invite me:

lamb vindaloo
Indian coconut curry
vegetable curry
Indian chicken
tomato curried potatoes

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at August 21, 2008

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What they say about this article

  1. Anonymous8/21/2008

    Hi there! I love your website and I love my crockpot too! My problem is that I'm gone all day long and I feel like things end up dried out or overcooked if I follow the instructions on the time. Do you have any tips for those of us that are gone for 10 hours a day and would still love to use our crockpots?

  2. Hi Elizabeth!
    A few things might help---first, make sure that your crockpot is at least 2/3 full when you use it. that's hard because as Americans, we're accustomed to bigger is better, but with your crockpot, a snug fit around the food is the best.

    Start with "easy" recipes until you get the feel of the crockpot. Stews, taco soup, enchilada casserole, pot roast, lazy chicken--are all good ones to use until you get the feel of how quickly/evenly your crockpot cooks.

    Also, if your crockpot isn't "smart"--consider getting one that is, and turns off or to warm when the cooking time is done. Other than cooking beans or soups, most meals just don't need to be cooked for 10 hours---but you can cook it for 6 or 8, and then it will stay warm until you get home.

    let me know if you have other questions!

  3. Anonymous8/21/2008

    Wow! I love your blog, I'm so surprised I haven't found it before. I'm looking forward to trying several recipes (including this one), and I'll have to browse around for more. Thanks!


  4. Anonymous8/21/2008

    Thanks! I use it all the time on the weekends but I just get nervous to use it on the weekdays when I'm not there to check on the progress. I have noticed that mine cooks a little faster than they tend to say in the recipes, but maybe I just need to cook it for an hour or so less and then just let it warm until I'm home.

    Very helpful!

  5. We love Indian food too. I am so excited to have all these great crock pot meals to try out!

  6. Anonymous8/21/2008

    I'm not a big fan of cooked spinach. I like uncooked in salads but usually I don't enjoy it in cooked form. This recipe however was delicious. I highly recommend it and look forward to having it again soon...well maybe next year I guess. Thanks Steph!

  7. mmmm... I tried Indian food for the first time this past April.. yum! Thanks for the recipes.. I'll be forwarding them!

  8. Anonymous8/21/2008

    Tofu is in my top 5 favorite foods! and I eat spinach with practically every meal, so I will definitely be making this puppy.

  9. Anonymous8/21/2008

    Why do you need to coat the tofu with cornstarch before frying it in the butter?

  10. I try to avoid you think it work to cube up some raw chicken breasts and omit the tofu? Or use lamb stew pieces? Thanks!

  11. anon, the cornstarch coating helps the tofu to get a nice crispy outer layer.

    M--mmm, chicken or lamb would be great in here, and I think a light dusting of flour would work well, too if you decide to go with tofu.


  12. It looks like you have almonds in your picture. Did you add them in at some point or were they left out?

  13. Tip regarding the burn from the spicy food - milk, not water. The milk "unlocks" the capsaicin (sp?) from your tastebuds and makes it less potent. Thanks AB and Ted Allen!

  14. good eyes, Tara! I thought I wanted to put sliced almonds on the top, but forgot, and then Adam said he thought it might be weird.

  15. I love, love, love Indian food. I'm betting this would also be good with paneer, in the place of the tofu.
    I'll be trying it with tofu first, though, because I've got that in the house already.

  16. Love this blog! I tried this recipe tonight. Hubby loved it. My 3 y.o ate the beans, tofu and rice (no spinach). I'm my worst critic - so if I make it again, I'll use 2 cans of garbonzo beans and only 1 box of spinach. The spices were nice.

  17. Anonymous9/07/2008

    I am making this dish for the second time today. The only adjustment was I took 1 box of spinach out. My hubby felt it was was fine to me but hey I can be flexible. Delish!!! We love to eat out for india but time away is hard to find so in home indian food is a great option. Thanks!

  18. Anonymous9/23/2008

    I made this dish in a pan, sad to say, but only because I was using the crock for your Indian Chicken! Both turned out fantastically well, and I am now convinced I need to go buy another crockpot. Served it with some naan and Indian-style brown rice. What a dinner!

    Thanks so much for the fabulous recipes!

    Re: corn starch. We often do our tofu in an egg wash then roll it in flour. It'll give you a nice, crispy coating like cornstarch will as long as you let it brown up. You can also use corn meal in the flour to give it more texture and a really nice crunch.

  19. Anonymous10/28/2008

    I made this a few weeks ago. It was delicious! Pan frying the tofu didn't work out for me though, I think because the store was out of extra firm tofu and on top of that I don't think I dried it enough. Next time I will just plop the tofu on there without pan frying since it tasted so good anyways.

    I love indian food with naan, so I am going to try all of the ones you posted. Also, Trader Joe's sells "korma simmer sauce" that I am going to try to make in the crockpot as well. I think you just dump the sauce in there with chicken, maybe some peas or tofu.

  20. JB, yes! that Korma sauce is amazing. I've done it with frozen chicken, beef stew meat, and lamb stew meat.


  21. Anonymous11/27/2008

    Hi--I just found your blog and since I just got a Crockpot as an early Christmas present, I think I found you just in time!! Thanks and keep up the good work.
    I LOOOVE Indian food, so I was psyched to make this. It didn't turn out so hot for me, though. I found that it was really bland (needed salt and some heat). Adding curry won't do it--I've found that no matter how much curry you add to a recipe, you really have to cook it in oil first to release the flavor.

  22. Anonymous12/24/2008

    cooking the spices in oil first is a great idea. try heating some oil in a pan, add the curry powder and other spices and simmer at a medium/low heat for a minute, then add the onions and get them good and coated and sautee for three or four minutes.

    this is how I do it when I make chicken curry, and it really brings out the flavor.

    I can't wait to try this recipe!

  23. Unfortunately I generally hate tofu but I gave this recipe the old college try anyway. I still hate tofu. I did notice, however, that in one of the referring links to this recipe (from another one of your indian recipes) that it's called Indian Spinach and Potatoes. Was that a typo or did this recipe start out with potatoes instead of tofu? If so, I think I'll try it again if I can figure out the best potato to use.

  24. Anonymous2/04/2009

    I love my crockpot in theory only. I have yet to make anything that is not vile. I was very excited when I saw this recipe because I adore Indian food and had all the ingredients on hand. I followed the recipe exactly as written including sauteeing the spices in a bit of oil first. I'm sorry to say that I must add another notch in my list of crockpot failures. However, just because I had to throw the entire sloppy disaster into the trash doesn't mean that I will not continue to live in hope! I'm going keep tossing ingredients into that thing until a decent meal emerges!

  25. I ran out of time and cooked this on high for 2 hours. I don't recommend that b/c the tofu ended up rubbery. Otherwise it was a tasty dish! Thanks, Stephanie, you are helping me get lots of use from my CP.

  26. Hi. I have to comment on this recipe because I am the QUEEN of Indian food in a crockpot. I'm not sure why everyone (including us Indians) wants to use frozen spinach. Make true Palak Paneer with fresh spinach. And yes you can make it in the slowcooker - you have to cook it 4 hours and then blend and cook another 4 hours. Tofu is nice if you are allergic to dairy but the Paneer is so easy to buy and make as well. The Palak Paneer that I've made in my crockpot lately for my upcoming book is out of this world. My mom used to use frozen spinach too and it's just not the same. Again, love your blog. Thanks for posting. (Oh, and my dish has NO Ghee - NO oil!!!:) I will be posting the recipe on my site soon...but first BUTTER CHICKEN!

  27. Where might I find garam masala? I am interested in making this recipe and have or can easily get all the other ingredients. I'm just not familiar with this one.

  28. Hi Carey,

    Garam Masala is a spice blend, and I can find it at our local grocery store. You can make your own though by following this recipe.

    xox steph

  29. I've recently stumbled across your blog and have now tried both the Thai curry (the good one) and this. Both were fantastic! For this, I added 1 lb of cubed new potatoes, a can of tomatoes, and 2 tsp of Penzey's Vindaloo seasoning (because I had run out of garam masala). It was fantastic! I served it with a ginger/garlic barley and lentil pilaf with a dollop of FF greek yogurt. Thanks so much!

  30. this is absolutely delicious! my husband is away on business, and he doesn't like indian food or tofu... but i do! so i made this up on thursday and have been eating it for three days in a row. it was a little too liquid-y at first but that is probably because i cooked it on high for 2 hours because i was impatient. once i scooped the leftovers out of the liquid though- they are totally delicious. i didn't have any naan, so i used flour tortillas to scoop it up. heavenly.

  31. Tammy P.3/24/2010

    Wanted to use my crockpot after not having done it for a while and this was the recipe I came back with. YUMMY! Have this with some homemade roti and you are in heaven!

  32. Jenny C.8/22/2011

    OMG, I just found this recipe and it might be the happiest day of my life! I love Indian food and I love spinach!
    One tip for getting the water out of the tofu: I put several layers of papertowel under my tofu, then another papertowel on top, then a heavy saucepan. Let it sit and most of the water will drain out and be absorbed by the papertowels.

  33. Something that confused me here - it says to use frozen spinach, but then it says "drained" - so you are supposed to cook the spinach first? My inclination would have been to just put it in frozen.