This vegan tikka masala is incredibly tasty. It’s got an amazingly flavourful thick masala sauce with beautifully roasted marinated veggies and tofu. It’s a true feast for the tastebuds - it’s tangy and fresh, yet so indulgent and comforting!
If you like curries, then you will love this vegan tikka masala! We don’t often boast a lot about our recipes, but this is hands down the best Indian recipe that we have ever cooked!
The origin of tikka masala is a hot topic for debate. No matter how it came to be what it is today, it’s a wonderful example of how food travels and adapts across cultures.
In Britain, chicken tikka masala was voted as the nation's favourite dish. The thick and creamy curry sauce is simply a winner.
We actually adapted this recipe from a book that was given to us by Indian guests that we hosted in England, which makes it quite different - and we think so much more tasty - than most other recipes we see around.
This vegan tikka masala is now the most popular vegan curry in our home, that’s how good it is!
About this recipe
Our vegan tikka masala is full of traditional Indian spices and richness. Instead of chicken, we have roasted veggies and marinated tofu, each of which brings a wonderful variety to the texture and flavour of the finished dish.
Roasting the marinated veggies and tofu, rather than cooking them in the pan, creates a deep layer of flavour. But it also results in amazing texture, tender but with a perfect bite to it.
The veg and tofu then gets engulfed by a rich and creamy curry sauce made in heaven.
Read on for ingredient tips and step by step instructions and find out how to make this wonderful Indian inspired vegan tikka masala!
The ingredient list and preparation time is a little longer than some of our other easy recipes, but trust us, it’s totally worth it!
Most of the ingredients are spices and other flavourings for the marinade and masala sauce. Here’s a breakdown of the most important ingredients you need for this tasty recipe.
For the marinated and roasted ‘tikka’:
- Mixed vegetables - we use red pepper, sweet potato and mushrooms
- Firm tofu - for its substantial, meaty texture and added protein
- Soy yoghurt - creamy & tangy
- Fresh ginger and garlic
- Spices - tandoori masala, kashmiri red chili powder and black salt
Tandoori masala is one of the three spice mixes we frequently use, next to curry powder and garam masala (All three can be found in our Apple Curry). It is often used in Indian roasted dishes. It’s super flavourful and really makes it easy to add great taste to your dishes. There's a recipe for tandoori masala in the recipe notes.
Kashmiri chili powder is another Indian staple. It’s quite mild for a chili powder and is used liberally for its colour. It is used in place of red food colouring and can also be replaced with paprika, and a dash of cayenne pepper if you want a bit of heat.
And for the masala sauce you’ll need:
- Whole cumin and mustard seeds
- Onions & garlic
- Chopped tomatoes
- Coconut milk
- Garam masala
- Lemon juice
- Fresh mint and coriander
The whole spices are fried briefly in oil before the onion, tomatoes and coconut milk are added to make the bulk of the sauce.
The fresh herbs are stirred in at the very end - one of the tricks that make this tikka masala incredibly tasty. If, like Paul, you don’t normally like mint, don’t judge too quickly - this recipe convinced him that mint can be tolerable after all... 😉
How to keep fresh herbs - We get fresh greens in bunches and learnt this great method to store them. Place them in a tall container or jar with their stems in water. Then put a plastic bag over the tops of the herbs and secure to the container with a rubber band. Place in the fridge and change the water every few days. This way you can make the herbs last for up to two weeks!
How to make it
At first glance, it might seem a bit complicated, but don’t shy away! It really isn’t when you break it down. Plus it gets easier every time you make it again, which you’ll want to once you’ve tried this flavour bomb of a tikka masala!
- The veg - First, the tofu and vegetables are first marinated in a yoghurty, spicy sauce, then roasted in the oven.
- The sauce - In the meantime, a creamy sauce is cooked from onions, tomatoes and coconut milk.
- Mix - Finally, the roasted veg and tofu chunks are combined with the sauce and a few more flavourful ingredients stirred in. Ta-daa!
You see, easy peasy. Want to know more details? The full recipe can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post, but here’s a handy visual step by step guide.
Step by step
Step 1 - Stir together all the ingredients for the marinade and marinate the chunks of veggies and tofu for 4 hours in the fridge.
Step 2 - Spread them out on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 inutes at 220°C (430°F).
Step 3 - While the veg is roasting, heat some oil in a frying pan and fry (temper) the whole cumin and mustard seeds for 30 seconds.
Step 4 - To the spices add the onions and brown sugar and saute on medium to high heat for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.
Step 5 - Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.
Step 6 - Stir the chopped tomatoes. Cook down while stirring often for 6-7 minutes, until the oil separates from the tomatoes.
Step 7 - Add the coconut milk, stir to combine and cook for another few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
Step 8 - Take off the heat, add in the roasted veg and stir to combine well with the sauce.
Step 9 - Finally, stir in the garam masala, lemon juice and chopped fresh herbs.
Do I have to marinate for 4 hours?
The longer you marinate the tofu and vegetables, the more flavour they absorb. This is especially true for the tofu.
If you are in a hurry, marinate for an absolute minimum of 15 minutes, but at least one hour is better. Don’t skip the marinating altogether.
If a marinating time of four hours doesn’t work for your schedule, don’t worry. You can marinate in the fridge overnight or while you’re out during the day, and immediately start roasting when you’re ready.
Variations and substitutions
Some ingredients in this vegan tikka masala recipe are more easily replaced than others, while a few ones are key to make this dish the flavour bomb that it is. Here’s our recommendations:
You would want vegetables that you can chop into chunks and roast well. We often try and get a variety of textures and colours into the dish, too. We’ve also used carrots and courgettes before, and if you like cauliflower or beets, those would work too.
We like tofu for its meaty texture and protein, but it can be replaced by other ingredients that offer the same.
Tempeh would be great in this vegan tikka masala, as would vegan ‘chicken’ pieces. A plain seitan works if you don’t mind it’s flavour.
If you want a soy and gluten-free alternative, beans and chickpeas offer you that.
To replace kashmiri red chili powder and get the same mild level of heat, use three parts paprika to one part cayenne pepper.
We like our curries quite mild. But if you like it with some heat, you can use a hotter type of chilli powder entirely. Or add some fresh chillies when you fry the spices and saute the onions.
If you neither have nor want to buy black salt (kala namak), you can leave it out, but the dish definitely turns out better with it!
For tandoori and garam masala, there are no good substitutions to use in this tikka masala. Spice mixes like these are considered essential in Indian cuisine. They are a great starting point if you are looking to explore new flavours!
Plant-based yoghurt. As a soya free alternative to soy yoghurt, coconut yoghurt is a great choice. Just check that it’s not actually a soya-based yoghurt with added coconut.
You can use ginger powder for fresh ginger. Use about a tablespoon of dry ginger in the marinade.
Use fresh tomatoes in place of canned, which we mainly use for their convenience when fresh tomatoes are out of season. About 4-6 large tomatoes replace one can of chopped tomatoes. Pureed tomatoes (passata) also work, with 1 ½ cups to replace a tin of chopped tomatoes.
Dried mint can replace fresh mint leaves, though they won’t provide quite the same fresh flavour. Stir it into the sauce a bit earlier than you would fresh to allow it to rehydrate. Start with a 1-to-3 ratio (1 tablespoon dried for 3 tablespoons fresh) and if you want, increase to your liking.
For a flavourful alternative to plain rice, try our foolproof recipe for aromatic yellow rice.
Or serve the veggie tikka masala with naan bread, poppadoms or these easy red lentil flatbreads and a spoonful of mango chutney.
Vegan Tikka Masala
Tikka (chopped into bite sized cubes or chunks)
- 1 block (300 g) extra firm tofu
- 2 cups (260 g) sweet potato
- 3 cups (150 g) mushrooms
- 1 red pepper
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1½ tsp black mustard seeds
- 1½ tsp cumin seeds
- 2 onions sliced
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 3 cloves garlic pressed
- 1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes
- 1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1½ tsp garam masala
- 3 tbsp fresh mint leaves chopped
- 5 tbsp fresh cilantro / coriander leaves chopped
For the 'tikka'
- Mix together all the marinade ingredients: soy yoghurt, olive oil, garlic, ginger, tandoori masala, kala namak, kashmiri chili powder and salt.
- Combine well with the chopped vegetables and tofu and marinate in the fridge for 4 hours.
- Spread the marinated vegetables and tofu out on a large baking tray (lined with a reuseable baking sheet) and roast in the oven at 220°C (430°F) for 30 minutes. Set aside until the sauce is ready.
For the masala sauce
- While the veg is roasting, heat up the vegetable oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Add in the whole cumin and black mustard seeds and fry them for 30 seconds.Tip: The whole spices should sizzle up if the oil is hot enough.
- Next, add the sliced onion and brown sugar and saute on medium-high heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and continue to saute for 1 minute.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cook them down, stirring frequently, on medium-high heat for about 6-7 minutes. Tip: The oil should start to separate from the thick tomato.
- Now stir in the coconut milk. Continue to cook until the sauce starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes.
- Take the sauce off the heat. When the vegetables and tofu are finished roasting, add them into the pan and stir to combine with the sauce.
- Finally, stir in the garam masala, salt, lemon juice and the fresh coriander and mint leaves.
- 1 cinnamon stick (or 2 tsp ground cinnamon)
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp cardamom seeds (removed from pods)
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp black pepper corns
- 2 tsp whole cloves
- 2 tsp cardamom seeds (removed from pods)
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp fenugreek leaves
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp paprika powder
- 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp red chili powder (or cayenne pepper)