This vegan tofu Tikka Masala is so flavorful you will want to make it over and over again. Even if you are not used to eat Indian style food, this version is mild and even kid friendly. My Tikka Masala is also extra fast to make and requires only a few simple spices to make it accessible for most.
It is only the end of August and I’m already getting excited for all the fall comfort foods coming up. Butternut squash Mac and Cheese, Warm Broccoli velouté, Filling Mushroom and corn stroganoff, just to name a few, will soon end up on our table more than regularly.
But, when I feel like a saucy dish to warm us up, I make my Chickpea and vegetables curry stew. I just love how curry dishes are able to reach complex flavors in such a short time. I was looking for a different curry recipe also quick to make and that our kids would want to eat. So here comes this Vegan tofu Tikka Masala.
This Indian style curry meal has a perfect balance of tanginess from the tomatoes, warmth from the spices and creaminess from the coconut milk. I promise, you will be hooked at the first bite!
What is a Tikka Masala
Tikka Masala is an Indian inspired dish served mostly in America and Britain.
It is made of small pieces of meat (Tikka) served in a gravy-like creamy tomato sauce containing lots of spices. This dish is typically made with chicken, although vegetarian Tikka Masala versions using tofu, mushroom, chickpea or cauliflower are now very popular.
The origin of Tikka Masala is unclear, but it is believed to have originated from the United kingdom. One of the theory is that chefs from India have adapted a dryer Indian chicken recipe to serve this meal in a gravy texture to please the British people. You will likely not find a saucy Tikka Masala dish in India, even though the spices are Indian.
What goes in a Vegan tofu Tikka Masala sauce
The sauce is a combination of a tomato cream base with lots of Indian spices. Chopped onions are first cooked in a pan, then the mix of spices is roasted with the onions to help develop the flavors. To get that saucy texture, tomatoes (fresh or paste or sauce) and cream are mixed in. The result is a very flavorful red creamy sauce.
A typical Tikka Masala is made with dairy cream (or yogourt). Like in this case, many dairy-free versions are made with coconut milk for a similar result in the texture, but with a slightly sweeter taste. Even if you are not vegan, try with coconut milk! It tastes so much better!
There are many variations of a Tikka Masala. The spice level and the proportion of tomato vs cream will vary a lot in between recipes. Also, the spices combination seems to be unique to each recipe.
What spices are used in this Vegan tofu Tikka Masala
Garam Masala is the main spices mix used in this dish. It combines a few Indian aromatic spices that are very fragrant. There are endless versions of this mix and it seems like each Indian family have their own personal recipe.
The taste and smell of Garam Masala is difficult to explain: an almost citrusy and sweet mixture with a warming up feeling. It can also be spicy, depending of what is the exact composition of the mix.
The Garam Masala spices mix used for this recipe contains cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper and coriander. If you have Garam Masala with a slight variation of this, it will still be perfect for this recipe!
On top of Garam Masala, this recipe also contains some turmeric and smoked paprika to add even more flavor.
How is this Vegan tofu Tikka Masala an easier and faster version to make?
I truly love being in the kitchen, I simply could cook all day! But life gets in the way of this nice dream. So, I love to adapt classics to make them simpler while making sure it is still as tasty. Here are a few adaptations to a more classic Tikka Masala to make it easy peasy.
Skip the marinade
Often, the tofu will be marinated for a little while and then cooked in the oven before adding it to the sauce. Although this can elevate the taste and texture of the tofu, it adds a few steps to the recipe and more dirty dishes to clean. All of which I’m happy to avoid on a busy weekday with 2 hungry kids screaming at me.
Since the sauce is already so flavorful, I thought skipping the marinate altogether would be an acceptable variation. And it worked!
You will simply have to roast the cubes of tofu in a large pan (the same one you will use to make the sauce). This will bring some texture to the spongy tofu. Then keep on the side until ready to add it back to the pan when the sauce is ready.
Store bought Garam Masala
Like described, Garam Masala is a mix of multiple spices. You can make your own Garam Masala, but I prefer to use a store bought one for convenience (you can find it in any grocery stores).
If you feel like making your own mix, check out this Homemade Garam Masala recipe. I love that this recipe only uses ground spices, which you probably already have in your house. You can make a larger amount of the mix and keep it in your pantry for all the delicious Garam Masala recipes to come!
I hope you will love this dish as much as I do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was.
Easy vegan tofu Tikka Masala
- 3 tsp Garam Masala store bought or homemade
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp salt
- black pepper to taste
Tofu tikka masala
- 2 X 454 g extra firm tofu patted dry with a towel
- 1 white onion diced
- 4 cloves of garlic crushed
- 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger grated
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup fresh tomato (about 2 small tomatoes) diced
- 15 oz canned coconut milk
- 1 tbsp maple syrup (or any other liquid sweetener)
- 1/2 lime juiced
- 1 handful fresh cilantro chopped (optional)
- In a small bowl, combine the spices together. Set aside.
- Cut the tofu in small cubes. In a large non stick pan, roast the tofu on medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side or until browned. When cooked to your liking, set aside on a plate.
- In the same pan, add the chopped onion and cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add a small amount of water or oil to prevent them from sticking to the pan.
- Add the spices mix, garlic and fresh ginger and cook for about one minute while stirring in the pan.
- Add the fresh tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes while stirring constantly.
- Add the coconut milk and maple syrup and cook for about 2 more minutes.
- Add the tofu and combine well into the sauce. Keep cooking until everything is warmed up.
- Serve over cooked brown rice and top with fresh cilantro, if desired.