This vegan tikka masala is so flavorful you will want to make it over and over again. If you are not used to eating Indian style food, the you might really enjoy this milder and kid-friendly version. 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. Mac and Cheese, Broccoli soup, 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 this simple 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 that's 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. We were hooked at first bite and I bet you will be too!
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.
A typical tikka masala is also 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. The heat level, the spices used and the proportion of tomato vs cream will also vary a lot in between recipes.
Vegan tikka masala sauce ingredients
The sauce is a combination of a tomato cream base with lots of Indian spices. Here is what you will need:
- Spices: garam masala mix, smoked paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper
- Fresh produce: onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, lime and cilantro
- Pantry: canned coconut milk, tomato paste and maple syrup
How to make it
- Tofu: Start by roasting the tofu. Simply dice in bite size and cook in a non stick pan until slightly crispy and browned. When the tofu is done, transfer to a plate.
- Sauce: In the same pan, start by cooking the onion until soft. Then add the spices, garlic and ginger and cook for one more minute to allow the spices to roast as well. Then, add the fresh tomato and tomato paste and cook 1-2 more minutes before adding the rest of the ingredient (coconut milk, lime juice and maple syrup)
- Combine: Transfer the tofu back to the pan with the sauce and stir to combine. Keep cooking until warmed up and to desired consistency.
What spices are used in this Vegan tofu Tikka Masala
Garam masala is the main spices mix used when preparing this dish. It combines a few Indian aromatic spices that are very fragrant. There are endless versions of garam masala and it seems like each Indian family have their own personal spice 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.
I used the store-bought garam masala from Frontier CO-OP that contains cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper and coriander. If you have a garam masala with a slight variation of this, it will still work great for this recipe.
On top of garam masala, this recipe also contains a touch of turmeric and smoked paprika to add even more flavor.
Make this vegan tikka masala super quickly
Typical tikka masala can take some time to prepare, but I adapted my recipe so it is fast and simple while still being very delicious. This meal can be done under 40 minutes from start to finish!
Skip the marinade
When making a tofu tikka masala, the tofu will often be marinated for a little while and then cooked in the oven before adding it to the sauce. In this case, there is no marinade at all! The tofu is cooked plain and then combined with the very flavorful sauce.
Store bought Garam Masala
Like described, garam masala is a combination 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 still feel like making your own mix, check out this Homemade Garam Masala recipe. I love that this recipe only uses already 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!
This saucy tofu recipe is great served over any whole grain (like brown rice, quinoa or even buckwheat) with a side of steamed vegetables. Combines well with roasted cauliflower, broccoli or wilted leafy green vegetables.
Also, a delicious way to eat a tikka masala is with a side of vegan naan bread to dip in the delicious creamy sauce.
At serving, sprinkle fresh cilantro over with a side of lime wedges.
This tikka masala stores very well. Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The sauce tends to thicken while resting in the fridge. If this is the case, then add a plash of vegan plain milk before reheating.
Other tofu recipes you might like
- Silken tofu scramble
- Tofu bolognese
- Sweet ginger tofu
- Crispy coconut tofu
- Tofu-carrot spread
- Watermelon salad with tofu-feta
- Smoky tofu sandwich
I hope you will love this vegan tikka masala dish as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Tikka Masala
- 3 tsp garam masala - store bought or homemade
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp salt
- black pepper - to taste
Tofu tikka masala
- 2 X 454 g extra firm tofu - pat dry with a towel
- 1 white onion - diced
- 4 cloves of garlic - crushed
- ½ 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)
- ½ lime - juiced
- 1 handful fresh cilantro - chopped, for serving (optional)
- Combine the spices in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Dice the tofu in bite size. In a large non stick pan, roast the tofu on medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side or until browned. Use a small amount of oil if desired. When cooked to your liking, transfer to 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 more minute while stirring.
- Then, add the fresh tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for about 1-2 more minutes while stirring constantly.
- Finally, add the coconut milk, maple syrup and lime juice. Stir and cook for about 2 more minutes.
- Add the roasted tofu back to the pan and combine with the sauce. Keep cooking until everything is warmed up and to desired consistency.
- Serve over cooked whole grains and garnish with fresh cilantro and a side of lime wedges.
- I like using store bought garam masala for convenience. If you would like to make your own mix, check out this Homemade garam masala recipe only using common already ground spices.
- This meal is also very delicious served with a side of naan bread.
- Store leftover in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.