The meatiest, easiest Vegan Tikka Masala you ever did smash! No, you won't need a magic wand or a culinary degree to pull this off; it's the real deal, straight from my kitchen to yours. An explosive burst of flavors, a dance of spices, and a velvety sauce that wraps around your senses like a comfort food blanket from heaven.
Even easier and faster than making vegan butter chicken, but just as perfect over vegetable biryani with some crispy onion bhaji. You know the game is about to get flipped on its head right? Crafting the perfect Vegan Tikka Masala was no walk in the park! I tried it about a zillion times with every possible protein, and plenty of different spice ratios, before I concluded that this recipe is maniac-level unbeatable.
Whether you're already a level 5 vegan who doesn’t eat anything that casts a shadow, or are just dipping your toe into the fun world of plant-based Indian recipes, you have a foolproof recipe in front of you that is your golden ticket to culinary glory. Get that apron on, spice up your life, and whip up the best darn Vegan Tikka Masala you've ever tasted!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
✊ Vegan AF: Stop making tikka masala out of chicken and other dead animals. This recipe is 100% plant-based, and if you are looking for a gluten-free recipe, it’s totally do-able with the tofu-based option I provide.
🌶️ Dialed-In Spice: I have made this recipe repeatedly, testing out different mixes and ratios of spices, and what you have in front of you nails the traditional tikka masala taste perfectly. From the kick of Kashmiri chili powder to the warmth of garam masala, the pungent flavor of the asafetida, every spice contributes to a balanced flavor.
✅ Tested & Reliable: Like all the dairy-free recipes I share, this Tikka Masala recipe has been rigorously refined by me, and then tested by a huge team of recipe testers in kitchens all over the world.
🌶️Notable ingredients and substitutions
The Vegan Meat of Your Choice: Tofu or Seitan
It was essential for me to make this recipe with something plant-based that had the satisfying chew of meat. Torn into bite-sized pieces tofu and seitan absorb the aromatic spices. My vegan chicken recipe is probably the best seitan you can use to make this recipe, but store-bought seitan works well too. I have also made this recipe with young green jackfruit (which I normally use in my kathal ki sabji and Filipino Sitaw), and that’s a great alternative if you want to make this recipe both gluten and soy-free.
Fresh green chilies add a spicy kick. Whether you go for Indian hari mirch (which also makes a great green chili pickle), or use jalapeño or serrano peppers, the heat level is your call. Adjust to suit your own spice preference.
A golden touch from turmeric not only adds color but also brings anti-inflammatory benefits. Known as "haldi" in India, this spice is found in everything from chana dal to sayur lodeh, and also makes amazing steamed turmeric rice, which you can serve this dish over a steaming bed of. If you don’t have powdered turmeric, grated fresh turmeric or a pinch of saffron can work well here, too.
Kashmiri Red Chili Powder
This particular chili powder is known for its vibrant red color and moderate heat level. Unlike regular chili powder, it adds a mild, fruity undertone along with a subtle kick, which is why I use it in everything from masala phool makhana to sukha kala chana and gajar ka achar! If unavailable, you can substitute it with a mix of paprika and cayenne pepper for a similar taste and color.
Garam Masala powder is a warming spice blend cornerstone of Indian cooking. It is used in my turai ki sabji and vegan chana masala recipes. If garam masala is MIA, make your own blend with equal parts of cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, and cloves.
Asafetida, sometimes called hing, is a unique spice with a pungent, onion-garlic flavor. Originating from Afghanistan, it’s commonly used in Indian cuisine, especially in dishes where onions and garlic aren’t used, like sattvic masoor dal, achar masala (Indian pickle spice blend) and peerkangai kootu. If you don’t have asafetida in your pantry, you can replace it with an equal amount of garlic or onion powder for a similar flavor profile, though it won’t be identical.
Kasuri Methi is a popular herb in Indian cuisine. I’d been cooking Indian dishes for over 20 years before I started using fried fenugreek leaves, and they’re a game changer! I use kasuri methi to make another meaty vegan Indian dish, my soya chaap sabji. It is just so fragrant and lovely!
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
🤯Two Soy & Gluten-Free Tikka Masala Variations
Mushroom Magic: Substitute tofu or seitan with hand-torn oyster mushrooms. It’s downright crazy how meaty these can get when cooked right. Don’t believe me? Check out my baharat roasted oyster mushroom vegan shawarma recipe, or my tom yum rice to see what I am talking about.
Chana Tikka Masala: Simply cook the sauce and then let the drained cooked chickpeas simmer in the velvety tomato-coconut sauce until they soak up all the rich goodness. Chickpea tikka masala not only has soy and gluten-free protein, but also has a lovely texture.
📖 How to make vegan tikka masala
Nail this Indian curry on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with helpful tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Texture the protein:
Warm oil in a Dutch oven or large frying pan over medium heat. After 90 seconds when the oil is hot, seitan for 7 minutes until golden and nicely textured. Set aside.
It's the same process if you use tofu.
I like to use hand torn chunks of extra firm tofu so that they end up having a meatier, more natural appearance and mouthfeel.
In the same pan, add 2 teaspoons more oil. Sauté diced onion for 4 minutes until lightly golden.
Now comes the fun stuff:
Add minced garlic, grated ginger, minced green chilies, turmeric, Kashmiri chili powder, coriander, garam masala, asafetida, and kasuri methi. Cook until strongly fragrant. Avoid browning the garlic.
Now turn it into a sauce:
Combine diced tomatoes and coconut milk. Simmer for 5-8 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season with salt to taste.
A sauce to blend them all:
For a smoother sauce, blend by using an immersion blender. Or blend in batches in a blender and return the blended sauce to the pot.
Fold prepared tofu or seitan into the sauce. Simmer briefly, letting the sauce infuse the protein.
- Tofu/Seitan Excellence: Your tofu or seitan will cook better if it is as dry as possible before you sauté it. If you are working with tofu, I recommend following the pressing (but not freezing) method outlined in my tofu katsu recipe. This eliminates excess moisture, allowing the protein to absorb the vibrant flavors of the spices and achieve that golden, slightly crispy exterior during sautéing.
- Spice Blooming Technique: Unlock the full potential of your spices by employing a "blooming" technique. Add the ground spices like turmeric, Kashmiri chili powder, and coriander to the hot oil briefly before introducing the wet ingredients. This intensifies the flavors, infusing the oil with the essence of the spices, creating a robust base for the sauce.
- Patient Sauce Simmering: Don't rush the simmering process once the diced tomatoes and coconut milk join the party. Allow the tikka masala sauce to gently simmer for 5-8 minutes, until it thickens nicely. This ensures the tomatoes break down, marrying their sweetness with the coconut milk's richness, creating a balanced flavor and creaminess.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Ensure your tofu is well-pressed to remove excess moisture before sautéing, creating a golden, crispy exterior. Tearing it into natural bite-sized chunks instead of cutting it with a knife will create a crisper, more naturally shape.
Traditional tikka masala is made using chunks of chicken meat, but this recipe is 100% plant-based, and no birdies are harmed to make it!
Customize the heat by controlling the quantity of green chilies and red chili powder or adjusting the ratio of spices to suit your taste buds.
Store the Vegan Tikka Masala in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be refrigerated for up to four days, allowing the flavors to deepen slightly over time.
For longer storage, freeze in suitable freezer-safe containers. Ensure the dish is fully cooled before freezing. Label with the date for easy tracking. Frozen Vegan Tikka Masala can be enjoyed up to three months later.
To thaw, transfer the frozen Tikka Masala to the refrigerator a day before reheating. Thawing slowly in the fridge preserves the dish's texture and flavor.
🔥 Stovetop Reheating:
On a medium-low flame, gently reheat the Tikka Masala in a saucepan.
Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Once thoroughly heated, serve and enjoy the rich, aromatic flavors.
⚡️ Microwave Reheating:
Place the Tikka Masala in a microwave-safe dish.
Use the medium heat setting and microwave in short intervals.
Stir between intervals to ensure even heating.
Once heated through, serve promptly.
Either way you reheat it, it’s nice to perk up the dish before serving it by garnishing it with fresh herbs and chilies.
Here's how to pull this dish off in an instant pot:
Set the Instant Pot to the "Sauté" function. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil.
Sauté tofu or seitan until golden brown. Set aside.
In the Instant Pot, add 2 teaspoons more oil and sauté diced onion for 4 minutes until lightly golden.
Add minced garlic, grated ginger, minced green chilies, turmeric, Kashmiri chili powder, coriander, garam masala, asafetida, and kasuri methi. Sauté until fragrant.
Stir in diced tomatoes and coconut milk. Cancel the "Sauté" function.
Close the Instant Pot lid and set to "Manual" for 5 minutes at high pressure. Allow natural pressure release for 5 minutes, then quick release.
Fold prepared tofu or seitan into the spiced tomato sauce. Set the Instant Pot to "Sauté" and let it simmer briefly to infuse flavors.
✌️My faves to serve with vegetarian tikka masala:
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Vegan Tikka Masala
For the tofu or seitan
- 2 tablespoons canola oil vegetable oil, or sunflower oil
- 2 14 oz. blocks Extra firm tofu drained, pressed and torn into bite size piece, -or 2 cups seitan, hand torn
For the Sauce
- 2 teaspoons canola oil vegetable oil, or sunflower oil
- ¾ cup diced onion
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons ginger grated
- 2 green chilies hari mirch or a single jalapeño, minced
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon asafetida hing
- 1 tablespoon kasuri methi dried fenugreek leaves
- 28 oz diced tomatoes
- ⅔ cup coconut milk unsweetened (full fat coconut milk is best)
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Cilantro leaves
- Thinly sliced hari mirch chilies
- Heat oil in a frying pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. After 90 seconds, when the oil is hot, sauté the tofu or seitan for about 7 minutes until golden brown all around. Set aside.
- In the same pan, add 2 teaspoons more oil and sauté diced onion for 4 minutes until lightly golden.
- Add minced garlic, grated ginger, minced green chilies, turmeric, Kashmiri chili powder, coriander, garam masala, asafetida, and kasuri methi. Cook for a couple of minutes until strongly fragrant, but do not let the garlic darken.
- Pour in diced tomatoes and coconut milk. Simmer for 5-8 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add salt to taste.
- For a smoother sauce, blend by using an immersion blender. Or blend in batches in a blender and return the blended sauce to the pot.
- Gently fold the prepared tofu or seitan into the sauce. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes, letting the sauce penetrate the protein a little.
- Serve garnished with cilantro leaves and thinly sliced green chilies. Serve the vegan tikka masala over rice or with your favorite flatbread and Indian pickles.