Vegan Chicken Tikka masala is an absolutely delicious take on a classic found in Indian restaurants all over the world. It's easy to make and is ready in under an hour. Featuring succulent vegan chicken pieces and a handful of staple cupboard ingredients, it might just be the easiest tikka masala ever! Great with a side of air fryer onion bhaji.
🌟 Why this recipe works
All the flavor of the curry house favorite - enjoying the exquisite flavors of this amazing curry house dish doesn't have to be a distant memory! In this recipe, we've recreated the essence of chicken tikka masala, ensuring that every mouthful is as flavorful and satisfying as the traditional version. In fact, it's absolutely delicious. You won't miss a beat when it comes to taste or texture. Plus this version is much lower in oil than ordering takeout.
Simple ingredient switches - to make a perfect vegan chicken tikka masala, all we've done is switched out the non-vegan ingredients for the vegan counterparts! For example, instead of chicken, we're using vegan chicken pieces, instead of yoghurt we're using dairy-free plain yoghurt and instead of cream we're using soy cream. There are more substitute options for this recipe below.
Delicious blend of spices - the secret to any remarkable tikka masala lies in the harmonious blend of spices, and our recipe is no exception. We've curated a selection of spices that you're likely to have in the cupboard, that's strikes the perfect balance of flavor without relying on anything too exotic. From the warm embrace of cumin and coriander to the gentle heat of paprika and garam masala, each ingredient plays a pivotal role in crafting that unmistakable taste. It elevates this dish to a whole new level of deliciousness, all while keeping it accessible.
🤔 What is vegan tikka masala made from?
If you know what a chicken tikka masala is made from, then this is basically a curry using like-for-like ingredients, just with completely plant based options!
The basis of any good tikka masala is chicken, yoghurt, cream, tomato, onion, garlic, ginger and a great mix of spices. That's lots of non-vegan ingredients, but thankfully the stores are now filled with amazing plant based alternatives.
We'll be using store-bought vegan chicken, soy or coconut based yoghurt and a dairy-free cream.
The result is the perfect creamy tomato sauce with all the flavor of your old curry house favorite, but completely vegan! So, if we've sold you on our vegan tikka masala with chicken, let's get to work...
📋 Ingredient notes
All the spices - a simple mix for both the marinade and the tikka masala sauce is all that you need. Featuring paprika, garam masala, cayenne pepper, back pepper and cumin and coriander powder, it's an easy list of cupboard staples that anyone can throw together! Optionally, if you don't want any heat in your vegan chicken tikka masala, try replacing the cayenne with kashmiri chili powder. This will add color without adding heat.
Vegan chicken - the clue is in the name! We used the vegan chicken pieces by Richmond in for this vegan tikka masala, but any vegan chicken pieces will do. Seitan (like in this seitan curry), tofu (to make it more of a tofu tikka masala) or tempeh all make for a fantastic vegan tikka masala recipe. If using tofu, we recommend extra firm tofu, so that it doesn't need pressing.
Vegan yogurt - we use plain soy yoghurt but plain oat or soy yoghurt would also work just as well. It's used to coat the vegan chicken pieces with the spices, which in turn helps the creamy tomato sauce to be full of so much flavor.
Vegan cream - we used an alpro single soy cream to really bring out the creamy sauce. Alternatively coconut cream, coconut milk or cashew cream could be used. However, we found the lightness of the single soy cream as well as the convenience of buying it at the store to be the best option.
🔪 Vegan chicken tikka masala step-by-step instructions
This is a step-by-step overview with photos for making vegan tikka masala. The full recipe, along with measurements and detailed instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
For the chicken:
1. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
2. Pop the vegan chicken pieces in, stir until coated and leave to marinade for 30 minutes.
3. Add a splash of oil to a frying pan over medium-high heat and brown off the chicken.
Oil should start to separate, and the vegan chicken pieces should turn golden. Set aside while you make the creamy tomato sauce for your vegan tikka masala.
For the curry:
4. In a large pan over medium heat fry the cumin seeds and onion for 10 minutes until the onion is soft.
5. Add the minced garlic and grated ginger for 30 seconds, then add the spices and stir well.
6. Chuck in the tomato puree (tomato paste), stir well.
7. Immediately add the vegan cream and 250ml of water. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, it will turn into a silky tomato sauce.
8. Stir in the vegan chicken, stir well and season to taste.
9. Serve with basmati rice (or brown rice), naan bread and fresh cilantro.
👩🍳 Expert tips
Frozen vegan chicken is fine - frozen vegan chicken pieces works well for this vegan tikka masala, however, for easier marinating and cooking, it's best to defrost the pieces first. Alternatively, you can buy vegan chicken pieces from the fridge section of the grocery store.
Batch cook it - you can make huge batches of this vegan tikka masala for meal prep, or if you're hosting a curry night or going to a potluck, you can easily double the recipe and it will still work well.
Storage - vegan tikka masala will keep in the fridge for three days or in the freezer for three months. Defrost before reheating thoroughly in the microwave or on the hob. The sauce can thicken up in the fridge, so make sure to add a splash of water when reheating from the fridge.
Tomatoes - a lot of recipe call for crushed tomatoes to make the creamy sauce found in a vegan tikka masala. However, tomato puree (or tomato paste) is better in this instance as it makes for more of an overall silky smooth sauce.
Garam masala - garam masala is often used as a seasoning at the end of the cooking process, much like adding salt or pepper. If you want to use garam masala in this way, don't add it to the marinade and instead add it at the end into the creamy tomato sauce.
Gluten free - as long as the vegan chicken pieces are gluten free and you don't make any ingredient substitutions this vegan chicken tikka masala is a great gluten free meal!
In a nutshell, this is how to make vegan tikka masala. Start by marinating tofu or a plant-based chicken substitute in a blend of plant-based yogurt and aromatic spices. Then, grill, fry or bake the marinated protein until it's golden and slightly charred. In a separate pan, sauté onions, garlic, and ginger, then add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and a medley of spices. Simmer the sauce until it thickens, and finally, fold in the cooked protein. Serve your vegan tikka masala over fragrant basmati rice or with warm naan bread for a satisfying and flavorful meal.
Vegetable Tikka Masala is not necessarily vegan by default. Traditional recipes often include yogurt and cream, which are dairy products so are not considered vegan. However, it's entirely possible to create a vegan version of Vegetable Tikka Masala by substituting dairy-based yogurt and cream with plant-based alternatives. It's best served with basmati rice and chopped fresh cilantro for a more traditional meal.
Yes, you can make Tikka Masala without coconut milk. While many recipes call for coconut milk, it's not a mandatory ingredient. If you're not a fan of the coconut flavor, want a dish lower in saturated fat, or simply don't have coconut milk on hand, you can use other dairy-free options like almond milk, soy milk (or cream), or cashew cream as a substitute. These alternatives will provide creaminess to the sauce without the coconut flavor, allowing you to tailor the dish to your preferences.
🍛 Serving suggestions & substitutions
How do you usually take your vegan tikka masala? Jess is more of a rice kind of gal and Dan is all about the bread. Here's what we'd serve it up with:
The fluffiest vegan naan bread
Our favorite side dish, brinjal bhaji
If you're missing any of the ingredients, you're allergic or you just don't fancy something, here are some ingredient substitution suggestions:
Vegan chicken - in place of the vegan chicken, try making it into a chickpea tikka masala or even a vegan tofu tikka masala. To do that, simply substitute the vegan chicken pieces for chickpeas or tofu. In addition, you could use tempeh, seitan or even soy or TVP chunks.
Vegan yogurt - we used plain soy yoghurt but plain oat or soy yoghurt would work just as well. It's used to coat the vegan chicken pieces with the spices, which in turn helps the creamy tomato sauce to be packed with so much flavor.
Vegan cream - oat cream, soy cream, coconut milk, coconut cream or even cashew cream could be used. Bear in mind the coconut options will add a coconut taste which will not be as traditional.
🇮🇳 More vegan Indian recipes to try
If you love vegan Indian inspired recipes then you've come to the right place, we have a whole section of our website dedicated to vegan Indian recipes as we just love Indian food. Plus checkout these zucchini Indian recipes and these butternut squash Indian recipes. In addition, some of our favorites are:
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Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala
For the marinade
- 120 g unsweetened vegan yoghurt
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
For the curry:
- 330 g vegan chicken pieces - defrosted
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ cup tomato puree
- 250 ml vegan cream
- 250 ml water
For the marinade:
- Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.120 g unsweetened vegan yoghurt, 2 teaspoon garam masala, 4 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- Pop the vegan chicken pieces in, stir until coated and leave to marinade for 30 minutes.330 g vegan chicken pieces
- Add a splash of oil to a frying pan over medium-high heat and brown off the chicken. Oil should start to separate, and the vegan chicken pieces should turn golden.
For the curry:
- In a large pan over medium heat fry the cumin seeds and onion for 10 minutes until the onion is soft.1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 onion
- Add the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds, then add the spices and stir well.4 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon ginger, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, ½ teaspoon turmeric
- Chuck in the tomato puree (tomato paste), stir then add the vegan cream and 250ml of water. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, it will turn into a silky tomato sauce.½ cup tomato puree, 250 ml vegan cream, 250 ml water
- Stir in the vegan chicken, stir well and season to taste. Serve with basmati rice (or brown rice), warm naan bread and fresh coriander.Salt