Creamy, perfectly rich, and packed with fragrant spices, this vegan butter chicken will transport your taste buds straight to the streets of India. The seitan perfectly mimics the texture of chicken, while soaking up all the delicious flavors of the sauce.
I recommend making this recipe using the seitan from my vegan chicken recipe. I think you will agree that the texture really nails it!
Just imagine biting into tender chunks of seitan drenched in a velvety, tomato-based sauce, garnished with fresh cilantro and served over fluffy basmati rice, or over my nourishing, completely sattvic veg biryani with Kerala Parotta, red lentil dahl and peerkangai kootu (ridge gourd curry).
Are you hungry yet? Give this plant-based twist on a classic Indian favorite a try and let your taste buds dance with joy!
🥰Why you are going to adore the heck outta this recipe
✊ Vegan AF: This recipe is 100% plant-based and can be made gluten-free with my suggestions below.
🥸 Fool-proof method: Mastering this veggie butter chicken on your first try is a breeze, with photographed steps and easy-to-follow instructions in this recipe!
✅ Tested and approved worldwide: Just like every recipe on my blog, this absolute banger has been meticulously refined and rigorously tested by a global team of recipe testers, including some in India where the dish originates. No matter where you are, rest assured it’s a recipe that’s been fine-tuned for success.
🐥What is butter chicken?
Butter chicken, also known as murgh makhani, is a classic Indian dish that has captured the hearts (and taste buds) of people all over the world. The origins of butter chicken can be traced back to the early 20th century in the city of Delhi, India. It is said to have been invented by a famous Gujarati chef named Kundan Lal Gujral, who was the owner of a popular restaurant called Moti Mahal.
The story goes that Gujral was looking for a way to repurpose leftover tandoori chicken, which he is also credited with inventing. Tandoori chicken tends to dry out when reheated. The resourceful chef decided to marinate the chicken in a seasoned yogurt, and cook it in a rich, creamy tomato sauce, made with butter, cream, and a variety of spices. The result was a dish that was so flavorful and delicious, it quickly became a hit with diners. In fact, butter chicken was so popular that it soon became a staple on the menu of many Indian restaurants around the world.
Now I am sharing my completely plant-based version with you!
- Chana Masala: Chana masala is a spice blend commonly used in Indian cuisine, particularly in the preparation of chickpea-based dishes such as Punjabi Chole, chana chat, and aloo chole. It typically includes a combination of cumin, coriander, turmeric, amchur (mango powder), fenugreek, and other spices, giving it a warm and aromatic flavor with just a tiny hint of heat.
- Seitan: Seitan, also known as wheat meat, is a delicious plant-based protein source made from wheat gluten. Its savory flavor and tender, meaty texture make it a versatile ingredient in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to sandwiches. My Vegan chicken recipe is also the perfect seitan for making bulgogi, kofta, Vietnamese rice paper salad, and SO much other stuff with.
- Vegan Yogurt: Unsweetened vegan yogurt is used in the marinade in this recipe. The acidity of the yogurt helps to tenderize the seitan and to allow it to absorb more of the flavorful cooking sauce. Vegan yogurt can be made from soy, coconut, almonds, oats, or cashews. It has a perfectly tangy flavor that is great for adding to both sweet and savory dishes. I use it in my labneh, and Turkish yogurt and mint soup. Just please make sure to use a totally unsweetened variety for this dish.
- Garam masala: The word "garam" means hot or warming in Hindi, which refers to the warming effect the spices have on the body. The blend typically includes a combination of spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin, and coriander, among others, which give it a warm, aromatic, and slightly sweet flavor. It is more commonly used in Northern and Western Indian cuisines than in the south. Like many masala blends, there are regional variations, and recipes even vary from house to house.
- Coconut milk: I recommend using full-fat canned coconut milk in this recipe for it to come out with comparable richness to the non-vegetarian version. Do not use "coconut cream" which tends to be a bit too fatty and oily, and often has funky thickeners and additives that can affect the outcome of this recipe. You can get away with substituting a different plant-based milk of your preference, as long as it is unflavored and unsweetened.
- Asafetida: Asafetida, also known as hing, is a pungent and potent spice commonly used in Indian cuisine. It is derived from the resin of the Ferula plant, which is native to Central Asia and the Middle East. For this particular dish, I recommend using asafoetida powder, rather than the pure resin block form, as it is easier to measure and use in small amounts.
Asafetida has a strong and distinctive aroma, often compared to that of garlic and onions, and a slightly bitter taste. It is typically used in small quantities as a flavoring agent in vegetarian and lentil dishes. It is especially a great alternative to onions and garlic, for people following a strictly sattvic diet.
Asafetida has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues and respiratory problems. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In addition to its health benefits, asafoetida is also known for its ability to enhance the flavor of dishes and is a staple in many Indian kitchens.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this page for the complete list of ingredients and their quantities.
- Sattvic- This recipe can be easily modified to be completely sattvic! And guess, what? I have a TON of great sattvic recipes you can serve with it. Simply remove the onions and garlic from the recipe, and add ½ teaspoon of hing (asafetida powder) to the yogurt marinade for the seitan.
- 🔥Spicier!- I personally like this made on the spicier side, but made it a little toned down for the general audience of cooks who might stumble upon this recipe who don’t love heat as much as I do. Simply add a teaspoon of Kashmiri red chili powder and 3 dried red chilies (I prefer byadagi chilies for this, but you can use whatever you have) to the sauce.
You wanna see how this yummy thing gets made? I will walk you through the whole quick process. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Whisk the yogurt marinade ingredients in a container.
Stir in the seitan pieces and marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, or overnight if you have time.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the marinated seitan.
Fry the marinated seitan until lightly browned on all sides and set aside.
Melt vegan butter in a pan, add onions and fry for 4 minutes until translucent.
Add garlic, ginger, spices, crushed tomatoes, chili powder, water, and salt.
Cook for 3 minutes until deep brown-red.
Blend the contents of the pot for 30 seconds until smooth.
Pour the blended sauce back into the pan over medium heat. Add coconut milk, seitan, and any remaining marinade.
Cook for 4-5 minutes until the sauce thickens and seitan is covered.
🍅Serve this with your favey sabjis! I love it with a lighter gourd-based prep such as ridge gourd curry, pointed gourd curry, bottle gourd curry, or olan. Chickpea dishes like kala chana and chana masala help booth protein. Other veggie-loaded dishes like Punjabi Okra, Spinach and Potato curry, or South Indian Aviyal make great accompaniments.
Get that initial browning just right: Getting that initial browning on the seitan is important, so don’t rush the frying of seitan after it has been marinated. Remember, this is emulating a dish that was originally made with cooled tandoori chicken. When something is cooked in a hot clay oven, it becomes firm on the outside. So we are looking to create a similar texture, just without harming any adorable, lovable chickens!
I made this recipe to be on the milder side to appeal to a wider array of cooks and eaters. You can adjust the spice level by adding or reducing the amount of chili powder or other spices. I gave instructions in the variations section above for exactly how I would suggest making it spicier.
Vegan butter chicken is lower in fat and calories than the traditional version made with chicken and cream. It also has no cholesterol at all! This recipe made with seitan is also very high in healthy plant-based protein.
Store butter chicken for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
If you want to store it for a longer period, you can totally freeze it for up to 3 months!
Allow the vegan butter chicken to cool to room temperature before freezing.
Transfer the curry to an airtight, freezer-safe container or freezer bag.
Label the container or bag with the date and contents.
Place the container or bag in the freezer.
Remove the vegan butter chicken from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
Once thawed, reheat the vegan butter chicken using the instructions below.
Note: Do not refreeze the butter chicken once it has been thawed. It should be consumed within 2-3 days after being thawed.
Transfer the vegan butter chicken to a saucepan and heat it over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it is heated through. If the sauce has thickened too much, simply loosen it up by stirring in a few tablespoons of water or coconut milk.
Alternatively, you can reheat it in the microwave by placing it in a microwave-safe dish, covering it, and microwaving it in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until it is heated through.
Once reheated, serve vegan butter chicken immediately.
This recipe can be very easily made gluten-free, because the only thing that you need to swap out is the seitan. Here are some other things I would recommend making it with instead, and how you should prepare them to make this recipe come out incredible:
Oyster mushrooms: Oyster mushrooms work so well as a meat replacement (just ask my shawarma recipe)! Replace the seitan with 4 cups of oyster mushrooms, with the bottom funky bit at the bottom of the stems cut off. Place them onto a baking tray, lightly salt them and then put another baking tray on top with a heavy weight on it. Press the mushrooms for 30 minutes to flatten and tenderize them. Then rinse the salt off of them under cold running water in a colander. Once dry, marinate them as you would the seitan and finish them by following the cooking method outlined in this recipe.
Soy curls: Soy curls are a meat substitute made from soybeans that have been cooked, mashed, formed into curls with an extruder, and then dehydrated into chewy, protein-rich pieces that resemble meat. To use them as the primary protein in this recipe, simply rehydrate 1 ¾ cups of them in a large bowl by pouring 2 cups of hot water or vegetable broth over them and covering the bowl. Allow the soy curls too absorb the liquid for 20 minutes. Drain and then use them in place of seitan in this recipe.
Soya chaap: soya chaap is a meaty soy protien on a stick. I use it for making soya chaap sabji. Cut it off the stick and it makes a great substitute for seitan.
Pressed soft tofu: For replacing the amount of seitan called for in this recipe, you will need two 14 oz. blocks of soft (not silken) tofu. This method takes some time (overnight) but produces a texture that is so meaty, you would never think it was made from tofu pieces! Follow the pressing and freezing instructions outlined in my tofu katsu recipe. When the tofu is thawed and pressed for the second time, just tear it by hand into bit-size pieces and use it in place of the raw seitan in this recipe. If you don't have time for pressing, freezing, thawing and a second pressing, you can alternatively just use a block of extra-firm tofu unpressed. I just can't say the texture is particularly going to trick anyone that its chicken or anything...
Jackfruit: Young green jackfruit can have a very meaty appearance and mouth feel, which is why Kathal Ki Sabji is such a popular dish in India.. Make sure to use canned jackfruit in brine, not sweet jackfruit in syrup. For replacing the seitan in this recipe you will need two 20 oz. cans of jackfruit drained. Once drained, squeeze and crush the pieces by hand to press out any extra water, to tenderize the pieces, and to press them into more natural “chicken-y” pieces. Stir fry the pieces for 4 minutes in 4 teaspoons of olive oil over a medium flame to lightly brown them before you use them to replace the seitan. Then marinade the lightly browned jackfruit pieces in the yogurt marinade and follow the rest of the directions in this recipe to completion.
✌️Other Indian dishes that go great with this:
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Vegan Butter Chicken
Seitan and marinade
- 2 ½ cups 300 grams of seitan torn into bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup unsweetened vegan yogurt
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, or paprika
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil to cook marinated Seitan in.
For the vegan butter chicken sauce
- ¼ cup vegan butter
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 minced clove garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons chana masala
- ½ teaspoon asafetida
- 14 oz crushed tomatoes (400 g.)
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder or to taste
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Cilantro and mint leaves to garnish
- In a container, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, ground coriander, chili powder, and salt with a whisk. Stir in the pieces of seitan and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator if time allows.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add seitan pieces. Fry until lightly browned for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the seitan and set it aside. You can place it back into the container you marinated it in if you want to reduce the number of dishes you make a mess of.
- In a frying pan over a high flame, melt the vegan butter. After about 60 seconds when the butter is hot and bubbling, add the onions and fry them, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes until translucent and lightly golden.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Sauté for 1 minute until fragrant
- Add crushed tomatoes, chili powder water and salt. Lower the flame to medium and cook for 3 minutes until a deep brown-red color is reached.
- Add the contents of the pan into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour the puréed sauce back into the pan and place it over medium heat. Stir the coconut milk and add the cooked seitan with any remaining marinade. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the sauce is thick and the seitan is thoroughly covered in it.
- To serve the vegan butter chicken, ladle it over vegan biryani or steamed basmati rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro and mint leaves.