Quick, easy and deliciously aromatic vegan tikka masala made with home-made curry paste, smooth vegan yogurt and coconut cream.
When it comes to this vegan tikka masala I have a rather huge vegan curry confession to make. I'm ashamed to admit that before developing this recipe, I'd never actually made a tikka masala before. I know I know, cover me in mango chutney and sacrifice me to an army of fire-ants. I deserve it! But look, I put it down to two things; 1. I'm a bit of a curry snob and often turned my nose up at the more "Anglicised" curry recipes and 2. what's a tikka masala without chicken??
Well, I'll come to point 1 shortly, but point 2 is very easy to clear up. I've tested this recipe with my home-made vegan chicken, with both store-bought vegan chicken pieces and even with extra firm tofu and the results will make you cry with joy either way!
And don't be put off by the fact that I'm new to making tikka masalas - I'm certainly not new to eating them. Also, BOY did I do my vegan curry homework on this one. I've tried roughly TWENTY different recipes from around the internet and my ridiculous cookbook collection in an attempt to find the ingredients and methods which work best when making a home-made vegan tikka masala.
As such, the recipe at the bottom of this page is my ultimate vegan tikka masala. My prize fighter! It's the Charizard you didn't even know I had when you challenged me to a Pokemon battle!
A note on the "MEAT" of the recipe
OK a quick note, because let's not forget, a vegan tikka masala is usually a crazy meaty curry. As mentioned above, you can use my vegan chicken recipe to make this dish. I'd highly recommend it because the texture is the closest I've come to actual chicken and it absorbs flavour like that's its full time job.
BUT, if you want to skip that, for whatever reason, you can still make this vegan tikka masala recipe. My next best choice is store-bought vegan chicken. I used this stuff from Tesco in these photos but there are SO many options out there. If you're still not feeling it, why not try the recipe with extra firm tofu instead? I know, tofu in vegan curry seems just odd, but bear with me. I used Tofoo brand in some of my recipe trials and the results were wonderful. Probs more like paneer tikka masala than chicken, but still such a special vibe!
How do I make vegan tikka masala!?
As always, the FULL RECIPE for my vegan tikka masala is at the bottom of the page - scroll on down if you're in a hurry. If not, hey! How wonderful that you actually came here to read stuff! Wanna prove it? Head to my instagram and comment "Maya Rudolph" so I know you're one of the good ones!
1. Make your vegan tikka masala curry paste
This process couldn't be easier. It's a simple blend-job (or food processor if you prefer). This is where the majority of your aromatics for your vegan tikka masala are coming in, so don't skip this step. Also, unlike many recipes, we're going to be making the exact amount of curry paste for this dish - there will be no left-overs, so if you want to have extra for future meals, make sure you double the recipe.
Oh and a quick note about the coriander stems - I think they make a huge difference to the flavour of the dish, plus it's a nice zero-waste trick. We use the leaves for serving too, so don't skip this step!
2. Get your vegan curry started!
The vegan tikka masala gets going with a blend of vegetable oil and vegan butter (margarine works great too - just double check it doesn't contain milk). When everything's nice and hot we're going to add our onion and fry until just starting to brown.
Next in goes the vegan curry paste. You're going to want to cook it for at least 3 minutes, but I found that the flavour intensified when cooked up to 5 mins. After that, you start to lose some of the more delicate flavours from the paste in the final curry. If the paste starts to stick to the pan and burn, just add a small splash of water to "deglaze" the pan.
3. Add your tomato!
I found some recipes for vegan tikka masala which swore by tomato puree (paste in the USA) and others which swore by canned tomatoes. I really liked what happened when you use BOTH in this vegan curry! The tomato puree adds the deep umami while the fresh tomatoes are essential for adding a bright tang to the vegan tikka masala. I use canned whole tomatoes rather than chopped because I find they have way more flavour and are way less watery, so just make sure you crush them before adding to the sauce.
4. Cook the vegan tikka masala on down!
Next you're going to add your vegan chicken or tofu to the tikka masala and then just LEAVE IT DAMN-WELL ALONE! I mean, sure, you can stir from time to time, but you NEED to let your tomatoes cook. You want that gorgeous spice-infused oil and the vegan butter to bob to the surface in bright red pools and that stuff only arrives when the tomatoes are nicely cooked.
Make sure your pot is covered and just leave it to simmer for a good 25-30 minutes.
5. Get everything sweet and creamy!
I knew we needed a great solution to the creaminess of regular tikka masalas, and a blend of vegan yogurt + coconut cream (the firm stuff on the top of a can of coconut milk) worked out wonderfully! But I also didn't realise how SWEET a decent vegan tikka masala needs to be. Sure, some recipes include sugar, while others rely on the sweetness of the tomatoes, but I love he addition of mango chutney.
I find the chutney dissolves into the curry bringing a delightful balance of sweet and tang to the picture. Lordy lord I'm getting hungry all over again.
And that's how to make vegan tikka masala!
Add this baby to your standard school-night rotation - whether you use vegan chicken or tofu, it doesn't matter! You're still gonna live your best life with that glossy creamy sauce all over your face! If youj're not a curry fan, I've got plenty more school night dinners for you, don't worry! My vegan bolognese is easy and so damn delicious. My vegan caesar salad makes a lovely summer dinner! Oh and my vegan chilli con carne will resolve all your past-life traumas! Now, what's for dessert!?
WANT MORE EASY DINNERS!?
Why not try:
Vegan Tikka Masala
For the Curry Paste
- ½ onion (peeled and roughly chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 40 g ginger (peeled and sliced into coins)
- ½ red chilli (de-seeded and roughly chopped)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder
- seeds from 1 cardamom pod
- juice of 1 lemon
- small bunch of coriander stems ((leaves used later))
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the Curry
- 400 g my vegan chicken (my recipe can be found here or sub for extra firm tofu or your favourite store-bought vegan chicken pieces)
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil (or sub for any neutral oil)
- 20 g vegan butter (or sub for margarine)
- 1 large onion (roughly chopped)
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree (aka tomato paste in USA)
- 400 g can of peeled plum tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon mango chutney
- 150 ml vegan yogurt (make sure it's unsweetened and unflavoured)
- 50 g coconut cream (the firm stuff on top of a can of coconut milk)
- small bunch of fresh coriander (for serving)
To Make the Curry Paste
- Place all the curry paste ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until you have a thick paste. Set aside.½ onion, 3 cloves garlic, 40 g ginger, ½ red chilli, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, ½ teaspoon garam masala, ¼ teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder, seeds from 1 cardamom pod, juice of 1 lemon, small bunch of coriander stems, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
To Make the Curry
- Slice the vegan chicken or tofu into 3 cm cubes and set aside. If using store-bought vegan chicken pieces, there’s usually no need to slice, depending on the size of the pieces.400 g my vegan chicken
- Place a large, open saucepan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil and vegan butter. Once hot, add the roughly chopped large onion and fry, stirring often, for around 3 minutes or until just starting to brown.2 tablespoon vegetable oil, 20 g vegan butter, 1 large onion
- Add the curry paste and cook for a further 3 minutes. If the paste starts to catch, add a few tablespoon of water to the pan.
- Stir in the tomato puree. Remove the tomatoes from the can and squash them one by one in your hand over the saucepan. Add to the saucepan then add the remaining tomato juice in the can along with 100ml water. Stir well and bring to a simmer.1 tablespoon tomato puree, 400 g can of peeled plum tomatoes
- Add the vegan chicken or tofu, stir to combine and then cover with a lid. Leave to simmer for 25-30 minutes to allow the tomatoes to thoroughly cook down.
- Remove the lid and reduce heat to low. Stir in the mango chutney, vegan yogurt and coconut cream. Do not allow to boil or the yogurt and coconut cream could spit, just warm to serving temperature.2 tablespoon mango chutney, 150 ml vegan yogurt, 50 g coconut cream
- Serve with boiled rice and top with the fresh coriander.small bunch of fresh coriander