This vegan matar paneer (aka mattar paneer and mutter paneer) with tofu and green peas is rich, creamy and packed full of wonderful ingredients. I’ve used different techniques to extract as much flavour from the vegetables and spices used in this dish.
A vegan-friendly version of a mater paneer is not as accessible at Indian restaurants as you’d think. Many use ghee, cream and/or yoghurt, and of course paneer (cottage cheese).
The conventional approach is to have paneer in a dish with green peas in a mildly spiced tomato gravy. I set out to make a vegan version (also gluten-free) of matar paneer so you can still enjoy this flavour-packed dish!
Using tofu in place of paneer
To make this dish vegan, it’s common to use tofu instead of the paneer, which is precisely what I’ve used in this recipe.
Paneer is cottage cheese with a mild taste (not cheesy), so it resembles the taste and texture of firm tofu. The main difference is that it’s milkier, which is to be expected from a dairy product.
I’d typically advise to lightly fry the tofu before adding to the curry, however, I found that the oil and crust can keep the sauce from soaking into the tofu in this recipe.
Paneer is also usually quite firm so I added the tofu at the end because you don’t want it to be too soft.
The tofu here, like paneer, does a fantastic job of soaking up the flavours of the gravy. At first, I was worried that it would taste too much like raw tofu, but it really works! No raw tofu taste here, phew…
It’s crucial that you use firm tofu for this recipe to achieve the right consistency and an organic one if possible.
Peas are the hero of the show
I’ve already highlighted the importance of the tofu (paneer) for this recipe, but peas share just as much of the limelight. The small bursts of goodness are the perfect flavour and texture combination in this beautiful rich tomato sauce.
In North India, where this dish originates from, they make it during the winter months when fresh peas are in season. So, if you have access to fresh peas, please feel free to use them in place of frozen.
We use frozen organic peas and they add a nice sweet flavour to this recipe.
Different ways to serve matar paneer
There are many ways to serve matar paneer. We often eat it with either basmati rice, or my vegan naan, which is one of our favourite recipes!
Other ways you can serve it is with roti, paratha (Indian stuffed bread), different types of pickled vegetables, potatoes, and chapati.
If you want to keep this recipe gluten-free, serve it with any rice.
Tips when making this vegan matar paneer
Matar paneer is typically made using fresh tomatoes, and I definitely recommend keeping that tradition for extra flavour. However, if you don’t have access to fresh tomato, you can use canned tomatoes instead.
I chose to use cashews in this recipe to add the creaminess that you’d get in a matar paneer. The addition of cream or yoghurt normally achieves this. I felt that cashews create a beautifully rich and creamy flavour without being overpowering. Frying them off at the beginning gives the masala (gravy sauce) a nuttier depth.
If you don’t have cashews or are allergic to them, swap them out for coconut cream. Add the coconut cream towards the end when you’ve added water or stock to the gravy.
Here are some more vegan curries to try!
- Creamy Red Lentil Curry (Vegan-Friendly)
- Vegan Dal Makhani (Black Lentil Dal)
- Vegan Palak Paneer with Sweet Potato