This vegan tikka masala is quick and easy to prepare and features an incredibly rich and creamy tomato curry sauce. Comes together all in one-pan and you will only need simple ingredients to make it.
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, mushroom 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 usually make a simple vegan 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!
Why you'll love this curry recipe
- Quick and easy, can be made under 30 minutes!
- Great weeknight dinner and can be made ahead.
- Taste indulgent with its rich and creamy sauce.
- Amazing comfort food.
- Packed with fragrant Indian spices.
- Loaded with healthy ingredients and high-in-protein.
- Versatile with enough sauce to load up on extra veggies.
What is a tikka masala
The origin of tikka masala is unclear, but it is believed to have originated from the United Kingdom. One of the theories is that English chefs from India have adapted a dryer Indian chicken recipe to serve this meal in a gravy texture to please the British people.
Tikka masala is made of small pieces of meat (tikka) often marinated in a spiced yogurt mixture and then served in a creamy tomato curry sauce. Vegetarian tikka masala versions using tofu, mushrooms, chickpeas or cauliflower are now very popular.
This masala sauce recipe uses coconut milk to reach the rich and amazing creamy texture. The coconut milk has a slightly sweet taste that pairs amazingly well with the spices.
Ingredients you'll need
- Extra firm tofu
- Fresh tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Maple syrup
- Coconut milk
- Spices: Garam masala, turmeric and smoked paprika.
Main spice in this vegan tikka masala
Garam masala is the main spice mix used in this recipe, which combines a few fragrant Indian spices. There are endless versions of garam masala and it seems like each Indian family has 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.
For convenience, I love to use 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.
You can also make your own garam masala mix right at home! 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!
How to make it: Step-by-Step
Prepare and roast the tofu
Pat dry and dice the tofu in bite sized pieces (I don't usually press the tofu). Then, roast in a large pan until browned on each side. You can use a small amount of oil or use a non-stick pan. When done, set aside on a plate.
Using the same pan, sauté the onion for 3-5 minutes with a pinch of salt until softened and browned. Then, add the garlic, ginger and spices. Stir and cook for about one minute before adding the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well and cook for another minute or until fragrant.
Then, add the coconut milk, maple syrup and lime juice.
Simmer the sauce and finish up
Let the tikka masala gently simmer uncovered for a few minutes or until the sauce thickened slightly. Then, add the cilantro and roasted tofu back to the pan and stir well. Keep cooking until warmed up and taste to adjust seasoning.
Watch how to make it
- Browning the onion for a few minutes and roasting the spices really helps reach the best flavor.
- You can use diced tomatoes (15 oz) instead of the fresh ones, although the flavor won't be quite the same.
- You will need extra firm tofu for best results.
- Be sure to roast the tofu before adding it to the sauce so the tofu isn't chewy.
- Try not to boil the curry sauce too strongly as it can curdle the coconut milk. Keep it on a gentle simmer instead.
- If you are not a tofu-lover, then simply make the sauce as directed and add some roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, mushrooms, tempeh, lentils or any roasted vegetables like peppers to the sauce. Or do half tofu/half veggies.
This saucy tofu recipe is great served over grains, such as rice, quinoa or even buckwheat. I also love to pair it with my coconut pineapple rice, the subtle sweetness from the pineapple goes so well with the spiced fragrant sauce.
At serving, sprinkle fresh cilantro over with a side of lime wedges.
The spices will diffuse and deepen in the sauce with time, which makes for the best leftovers and a great recipe to make ahead. Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To reheat, use the microwave or the stove. The sauce tends to thicken while resting in the fridge. If this is the case, then add a plash of water before heating up.
My kids LOVE that recipe. Tikka masala recipes CAN be spicy, but it doesn't have to be. My recipe actually gives a milder version, but if you are worried about the spice level, simply start with less garam masala and add more as you taste.
This dish can also be frozen for up to 6 months. Be sure to freeze in individual portions so it is ready to go for a quick single-meals.
Some tofu tikka masala requires a marinade first using a mix of spices. I don't do this step, as I find the sauce SO flavorful and it is simply more convenient that way.
Yes, this recipe is completely gluten-free.
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
- Panko tofu nuggets
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 with Tofu (Easy & Quick)
- 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 tomatoes (about 2 small tomatoes) - diced
- 15 oz canned coconut milk - unsweetened
- 1 tbsp maple syrup - or other sweetener
- ½ lime - juiced
- 1 handful fresh cilantro - chopped, for serving (optional)
- 3 tsp garam masala - store bought or homemade
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper - to taste
- 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. Add some salt and pepper and use a small amount of oil if desired. When done, transfer to a plate and set aside. You might have to work in 2 batches to roast the tofu.
- In the same pan, add the chopped onion and cook on medium-high heat for about 3-5 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.
- Then, add the fresh tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to combine with the onions and spices.
- Finally, add the coconut milk, maple syrup and lime juice. Stir and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the roasted tofu and the fresh cilantro to the pan with the sauce and stir to combine Keep cooking until everything is warmed up.
- Serve over cooked whole grains and garnish with fresh cilantro.
- 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.
- You can use canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh, especially when the tomatoes are not in season.
- Store leftover in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat using the microwave or the stove. Splash with extra water if needed when heating up.
- Feel free to use only half of the tofu to leave some space to add on extra veggies such as mushrooms, cauliflower, red pepper or broccoli. Roast the veggies before adding to the sauce. Chickpeas would work great in place of the tofu as well.