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Easy Tofu Tikka Masala (Vegan & Gluten-Free) – Cookilicious

Tofu Tikka Masala is a vegan spin-off of Chicken Tikka Masala. It’s a healthy and delicious Indian curry made with marinated and fried tofu that’s cooked in a delicious masala paste along with aromatic spices and flavors. This flavorful curry can be served with bread or rice.

a hand digging into a plate of tofu tikka and rice
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What is Tikka masala

Tikka masala is a North Indian dish made by marinating the protein in a spiced yogurt mixture and then preparing the curry. Tikka refers to protein and masala refers to sauce. Paneer Tikka Masala and Chicken Tikka are the two most popular tikka masala variations. In fact, Chicken Tikka Masala is a popular dish served in UK restaurants and is considered an Indian-British dish.

There are many tikka masala recipes online. Every household has its own way of making it. My recipe is simple and easy. This time I have used tofu to make this popular Indian curry vegan-friendly. I feel it works so with Indian flavors and textures. This is my way of showing that Indian recipes can use tofu and how! My version of Indian Vegan Tofu Tikka Masala curry is authentic, tasty, creamy, indulgent, and sumptuous.

Flavor-wise, this Indian curry is mildly sweet, spicy, and tangy. I have marinated tofu with aromatic spices and plant-based yogurt then pan-fried them. I then cooked the fried tofu in an onion-tomato tikka sauce. This vegan masala curry is creamy without adding any cream. Why go out when you can make restaurant-style meals at home? Cauliflower Tikka Masala is another fun variation to this Indian tofu curry recipe that you can try. I have prepared it with coconut milk.

a bowl of tofu masala placed next to a plate full of tofu tikka masala and rice

Difference between tofu and paneer

Tofu is to soymilk what paneer is to cow’s milk. It’s a great substitute for paneer (Indian cottage cheese) in Indian cuisine for vegans and those with lactose intolerance. It has no cholesterol, almost no starch, and has some great health benefits. It’s an amazing source of protein and anti-inflammatory food. It adds a unique flavor to the dish which is distinct from paneer.

It is not that widely used in Indian cuisine even though it has a large proportion of vegetarians because we have paneer. It is dense and sometimes does not easily absorb or soak spices or curry. Taste-wise, tofu is chewy, so people transitioning from meat-based to plant-based diets prefer it. Paneer has cholesterol but since tofu is made from soy (a plant product), it does not have cholesterol. Paneer has a slightly higher amount of protein in comparison.

Both have roughly the same amount of calcium, but paneer does not contain iron. One reason tofu is popular among western vegans and vegetarians is that they see it as an easy, though not always a good substitute, for meat, cheese, cream, etc, depending on the texture. It is a wonderful, versatile ingredient and can be used in many different recipes.

Why make this

  • Meatless, dairy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free curry
  • Healthy and rich in protein
  • Quick and easy vegan tikka masala recipe
  • Made with everyday ingredients
  • A delicious way to eat tofu
  • Made with minimal efforts
  • Budget-friendly one pot- meal
  • Great recipe for crowds
  • Ideal for meal prep and weeknights

Ingredients needed 🧾

all the ingredients needed to make tofu tikka masala with labels

Tofu – I have used Nasoya’s super firm tofu that is pre-pressed and drained. This saves so much time and is just convenient. If you can’t find this, use any brand’s extra firm tofu. Press using a tofu press or do it the traditional way. But anything other than super firm or extra firm tofu will not work.

Wondering what else can be made from it? You can make this Indian dish called Tofu Bake with Makhani Sauce, or Asian Vegan Pad Thai, or Tom Yum Soup are some recipes that you can try. In fact, any Indian recipe that calls for paneer can be substituted by it.

Veggies – Onions and tomatoes are the basic veggies that make this vegan tikka masala curry delicious. They give body, sweetness, and acidity. Instead of using fresh tomatoes, you can also use canned crushed tomatoes or tomato puree.

Spices and aromatics – curry power or Kitchen King Masala, turmeric powder, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, chilly powder, ginger, garlic, cumin seeds, curry powder, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cilantro are the basic ingredients needed here.

Yogurt – Use any dairy-free unsweetened yogurt in this vegan tikka masala recipe. It should be thick and creamy if possible. Read notes below for substitutions.

Fat – Make this curry in vegan ghee or vegan butter to give it that rich flavor.

How to make it 🔪

4 image collage showing how to marinate the tofu to make tikka masala
  1. Here’s how to prep tofu for making this tikka masala. If using super firm pre-pressed tofu, then you can directly cut them into small bite-sized cubes, else follow the process of removing the excess water till dry and then cutting it.
  2. Add these tofu cubes to a ziplock bag.
  3. Also add turmeric powder, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, chilly powder, vegan yogurt, and salt. Chef Tip – Don’t shy away from adding spices. The flavors will balance out eventually. Shake the bag so that the masala coats the tofu well. Keep the Ziplock in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  4. Now take the bag out of the fridge. Melt vegan ghee or butter in a pan and toss in the marinated tofu. Roast it evenly and then take it off the pan. Chef Tip – If there is any leftover marinade, reserve it and add it to the curry later.
4 image collage showing how to make tikka sauce
  1. Heat oil/vegan ghee/vegan butter in a pan, and temper cumin seeds. Then add the chopped ginger, garlic, and roughly chopped onion. Saute till the onion turns translucent.
  2. Then add roughly chopped tomatoes and salt. Give a good mix and cook it till the tomatoes turn soft. Chef Tip – Put a splatter guard on the pan to avoid mess.
  3. Next, add curry powder, sugar, and chilly powder. Continue to saute for a minute. Take it off the flame and let it cool down.
  4. Now grind the onion-tomato mixture to a smooth paste. Add water when grinding.
4 image collage showing the steps to make vegan tofu tikka masala
  1. Add it back to the same pan that you made the mixture before. Throw in a bay leaf, cinnamon stick, salt, and water as required. Cook it till it comes to a boil. Simmer and cook for another 2 minutes.
  2. Add vegan yogurt. Mix.
  3. Then add the fried tofu. Lightly give it a mix.
  4. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve it with steamed rice/bread.
tofu tikka masala served with rice

Serving suggestions 🍽

You can also drizzle some lemon juice, and vegan butter/ghee on top before serving. Serve Indian Tofu Tikka Masala warm with some steamed rice or any flatbread like roti, puri, chapati, naan, kulcha, paratha, bhakhri, almond flour tortillas, wraps, or even gluten-free lentil pancakes/crepes.

This Indian vegan curry can also be paired with brown rice or Jeera Rice. If looking for healthier options, serve this tikka masala with alternate grains like quinoa, lettuce or cabbage wraps, or even cauliflower rice. You can serve this dhaba-style vegan curry on weeknights, in lunch boxes, or serve it on weekends, at parties, brunches, potlucks, or special occasions.

The flavors are so fantastic that you will definitely add it to your weekly dinner rotation. This is such a flavorful curry that it need not be limited to vegans! Everyone can enjoy this plant-based meal! If you have the tikka sauce and the marinated masala tofu made ahead of time, you can make this dish under 30 minutes. My tip is – to have it the next day because the flavors are more well-absorbed.

Top recipe tips 💭

Don’t skip the marination of the tofu. That’s what will infuse flavor into it and help with the texture. To save time, while it’s marinating in the fridge, prepare the masala base. Then use that same pan (without cleaning) to fry the tofu. It will absorb all the leftover flavors from the pan. You can also let it sit in the marinade overnight, and add the leftover marinade to the sauce. 

To save on cooking time, use store-bought premade tikka sauce. Marinate the tofu as mentioned in the recipe and then cook it in the premade sauce. I find using the Ziplock to marinate the tofu work better than mixing it in a bowl. It prevents it from breaking. If you let the curry simmer for a long time, it will thicken. If it’s too thick, add some water or stock to get the desired consistency.

You can nutritional yeast when finishing the curry to give it a cheesy flavor. Add coconut milk to the curry towards the end, to give it a different flavor. Add black salt instead of garlic to get the flavor. Coconut milk can also be added toward the end to give this curry an earthy and creamier texture. If you don’t have dairy-free yogurt at hand or don’t wish to use it, you can also use cashew, vegan sour cream, or coconut cream. If you are Jain, you can also make it without onion and garlic.

Recipe FAQs 📖

Don’t have a tofu press?

I just wrapped it in a paper towel and placed a heavy utensil over it to create pressure. Leave it for a few minutes. Once it is dry, take it out. Then cut it into small cubes. Alternatively, you can also freeze it and defrost it to use in the recipes. The tofu might be firmer and soak up the flavor better.

In place of tofu, you can also use tempeh. Just steam or sear the tempeh beforehand to take out some of the malty flavors that it carries with it, before cooking. The same recipe can be made with soya chunks, vegan meatballs, or any vegan meat.

Tips and ways to cook tofu

There are many ways you can cook it once it’s marinated well. You can shallow-fry, deep fry, air-fry, grill (the char will give it a wonderfully deep, rich flavor), or bake it at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Just remember, the marinade should get cooked and the tofu should turn slightly crisp and golden. Alternatively, you can cook in the air fryer for 15-20 minutes at 400° F. 

When frying on the stovetop, use a non-stick pan, keep the heat low, and add more oil to achieve a firmer texture and more golden color without the tofu sticking to the pan. Do not stir tofu a lot. Let it sit undisturbed at a lower temperature. Once the proteins in tofu cooks, they naturally “let go” of the pan more easily.

How to store leftovers?

Leftover Tofu Tikka Masala can be stored in the fridge for 5 days. Tofu can be marinated and stay in the fridge for 3-4 days. They can also be frozen. Even the tikka sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge and freezer. You can make some extra tikka sauce and use it in other recipes. I use it as a pizza spread, pasta sauce, and in other curries.

Cook the tofu with the tikka masala fresh as and when needed. If it’s frozen, thaw it in the fridge overnight. Reheat on the stovetop by bringing it to a simmer or in the microwave for a few minutes until heated through. Splash some water when reheating. Since it freezes really well, make a batch over the weekend and freeze it in small portion containers. That way you can just take the container you need out of the freezer and defrost it in the fridge.

Can this be made in the Instant Pot?

You can make Tofu Butter Masala in the Instant Pot, crockpot, or slow cooker. Cook times will vary depending on which gadget you use. If using the Instant Pot, marinate and fry the tofu as per the recipe. Cook the tikka masala ingredients in Saute mode and then grind it to a smooth paste. Then add the prepared sauce along with fried tofu and other ingredients to the pot. Cook in manual mode for 5 minutes.

Want to add more veggies?

You definitely can make this vegan curry soy-free using just vegetables. Add green peas, potatoes, eggplants, chickpeas, carrots, baby spinach, bell pepper, mushrooms, and cauliflower florets to the vegan tikka curry instead. If you are vegetarian (not vegan), then use paneer to make this tikka masala. You can also add any of these veggies in addition to tofu to make this vegan curry recipe more hearty.

More dairy-free Indian curries

tofu tikka masala served in a bowl

Did you try this recipe? Please let me know how it turned out by leaving a comment below or sharing a picture on Instagram @cookilicious with the hashtag #cookiliciousveg. I love hearing your feedback! 

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Recipe 📖

tofu tikka masala served in a bowl

Vegan Tofu Tikka Masala

Tofu Tikka Masala is a vegan spin-off of Chicken Tikka Masala. It’s a healthy and delicious Indian curry made with marinated and fried tofu that’s cooked in a delicious masala paste along with aromatic spices and flavors. This flavorful curry can be served with bread or rice.

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Course: Main Course, Side Dish

Cuisine: Indian

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Marinating time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Servings: 4 people

Calories: 139.26kcal

Author: Priya Lakshminarayan

Ingredients 

To prepare the tikka sauce

Instructions

  • If using super firm pre-pressed tofu, then you can directly cut them into small bite-sized cubes, else follow the process of removing the excess water till dry and then cutting it.

  • Add these tofu cubes to a ziplock bag.

  • Also add turmeric powder, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, chilly powder, vegan yogurt, and salt. Chef Tip – Don’t shy away from adding spices. The flavors will balance out eventually. Shake the bag so that the masala coats the tofu well. Keep the Ziplock in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

  • Now take the bag out of the fridge. Melt vegan ghee or butter in a pan and toss in the marinated tofu. Roast it evenly and then take it off the pan. Chef Tip – If there is any leftover marinade, reserve it and add it to the curry later.

  • Heat oil/vegan ghee/vegan butter in a pan, and temper cumin seeds. Then add the chopped ginger, garlic, and roughly chopped onion. Saute till the onion turns translucent.

  • Then add roughly chopped tomatoes and salt. Give a good mix and cook it till the tomatoes turn soft. Chef Tip – Put a splatter guard on the pan to avoid mess.

  • Next, add curry powder, sugar, and chilly powder. Continue to saute for a minute. Take it off the flame and let it cool down.

  • Now grind the onion-tomato mixture to a smooth paste. Add water when grinding.

  • Add it back to the same pan that you made the mixture before. Throw in a bay leaf, cinnamon stick, salt, and water as required. Cook it till it comes to a boil. Simmer and cook for another 2 minutes.

  • Add vegan yogurt. Mix.

  • Then add the fried tofu. Lightly give it a mix.

  • Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve it with steamed rice/bread.

Notes

Don’t skip the marination of the tofu. That’s what will infuse flavor into it and help with the texture. To save time, while it’s marinating in the fridge, prepare the masala base. Then use that same pan (without cleaning) to fry the tofu. It will absorb all the leftover flavors from the pan. You can also let it sit in the marinade overnight, and add the leftover marinade to the sauce. 
To save on cooking time, use store-bought premade tikka sauce. Marinate the tofu as mentioned in the recipe and then cook it in the premade sauce. I find using the ziplock to marinate the tofu work better than mixing it in a bowl. It prevents it from breaking. If you let the curry simmer for a long time, it will thicken. If it’s too thick, add some water or stock to get the desired consistency.
You can nutritional yeast when finishing the curry to give it a cheesy flavor. Add coconut milk to the curry towards the end, to give it a different flavor. Add black salt instead of garlic to get the flavor. Coconut milk can also be added toward the end to give this curry an earthy and creamier texture. If you don’t have dairy-free yogurt at hand, you can also use cashew, vegan sour cream, or coconut cream. If you are Jain, you can also make it without onion and garlic.

Nutrition

Calories: 139.26kcal | Carbohydrates: 12.57g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 5.48g | Saturated Fat: 1.23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.91g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1.61g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 1.09mg | Sodium: 121.47mg | Potassium: 436.29mg | Fiber: 3.21g | Sugar: 5.22g | Vitamin A: 1000.81IU | Vitamin C: 11.99mg | Calcium: 105.94mg | Iron: 3.12mg

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