Tofu Tikka Masala features crispy cubes of tofu in a creamy, spiced curry sauce. A vegetarian, streamlined version of the Indian classic, this crave-worthy curry is comfort food at its finest. Ready in 1 hour, and easily made vegan/dairy free.
Why You'll Love this Tofu Tikka Masala:
Traditional tikka masala is composed of chunks of chicken marinated in spices and yogurt, roasted in a clay oven, and served in creamy curry sauce. This version, however, swaps the chicken for crispy cubes of tofu.
The sauce and spice mixture for tikka masala tends to vary, however the common ingredient lineup is tomatoes, coconut milk/cream, and masala spice mix. This recipe utilizes pantry staple spices such as curry powder, paprika, and turmeric to make it truly accessible to anyone.
You can easily make vegan tikka masala by swapping the whole-milk yogurt for a dairy-free alternative, such as soy yogurt. I love serving the tofu over basmati rice with fresh naan and a big handful of fresh cilantro. It's also delicious topped with a spoonful of yogurt for extra creaminess.
This dish is the true equivalent to a big bear hug on a chilly evening. It's supremely spiced, ultra hearty, and brimming with anti-inflammatory ingredients. What's not to love?!
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
- Tofu: It’s important to use extra-firm (or “super-firm”) tofu for this recipe. The firmer the tofu, the less moisture you need to press out of it. (Less moisture = “meatier”, crispier cubes.) I purchase the super-firm, vacuum-sealed packs of tofu from either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
- Yogurt: In classic tikka masala, the yogurt is used to tenderize the chunks of chicken. To stay true to the classic, this recipe also uses plain, whole-milk yogurt to coat and marinate the tofu. Avoid using Greek yogurt, which is too thick to create the ideal marinade consistency. If making vegan tikka masala, use soy or coconut yogurt instead.
- Spices: This is where the real magic lies! The recipe calls for a blend of garam masala, curry powder, turmeric, and paprika to really invigorate the dish with spice. Garam masala is a blend of spices including cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, bay leaves, pepper, fennel, and dried chilies. Most grocery stores carry it, but you can also find my favorite brand online.
- Aromatics: A mix of shallots, garlic, and ginger infuse the dish with zesty, aromatic goodness. I highly suggest using fresh ginger over ground, which tends to be more muted in flavor. If you don't have shallots on hand, feel free to use yellow onion instead.
- Tomato Paste + Sauce: I like to double down on the tomato products to create a deeply flavored base for the sauce (especially if making vegan tikka masala). Just be sure to cook down the tomato paste until it turns brick red and begins sticking to the pan. This helps unlock its full flavor potential, which makes the sauce infinitely more savory. I prefer Muir Glen brand of tomato paste and sauce.
- Coconut Milk: To add richness and body to the sauce, nothing does the job quite like canned coconut milk. You can also use heavy cream here, however you'll only need ½ cup to achieve similar creaminess.
Step 1: Marinate the Tofu
In a small bowl, combine garam masala, turmeric, curry powder, paprika, and salt; mix to combine.
In a separate larger bowl, combine yogurt and half of spice mixture; mix well. Next, add tofu and gently toss in yogurt mixture to coat. Spoon mixture into a storage-size zip-top bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours).
Step 2: Bake the Tofu
Preheat oven to 400ºF and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange tofu pieces on the baking sheet in a single layer so that they aren't touching. (Discard any extra marinade). Bake in the center rack for 30 minutes, gently turning the tofu after 15 minutes, until golden and crispy.
Step 3: Sauté Aromatics
While the tofu bakes, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add shallots; cook 3 to 4 minutes, until soft. Next, stir in tomato paste, garlic, ginger, and remaining spice mixture; cook 2 more minutes, stirring often, until tomato paste turns brick red and begins sticking to the pan.
Step 4: Simmer Sauce
Add tomato sauce, broth, and coconut milk; stir well to combine. Gently simmer masala sauce, uncovered, until it slightly reduces and thickens, about 12 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings of sauce, if needed.
Step 5: Add Baked Tofu to Masala Sauce
Remove tofu from oven and transfer to masala sauce; stir to coat. Serve tofu tikka masala over rice and top with fresh cilantro.
FAQs and Expert Tips:
What is the "tikka" in Tikka Masala?
- The “tikka” refers to the protein. Traditionally chunks of boneless, marinated, skewered chicken (or sometimes lamb) roasted in a very hot clay oven, called a tandoor. For vegan tikka masala, you can use cubes of tofu, cauliflower, or even chickpeas.
How to Best Prepare Tofu:
- Purchase extra-firm or super-firm blocks of tofu. Anything else will have too much moisture to achieve optimal crispiness. My favorite is the vacuum-sealed packs of super-firm tofu at Trader Joe’s.
- Drain the water and press as much moisture out as possible before cooking. I typically slice the tofu into 4 even slabs and then use a kitchen towel to thoroughly press each slab. Remember, LESS water = MORE crisp.
- Cut into equal size cubes to promote even cooking. Aim for bite-sized cubes.
What to Serve with Tikka Masala:
- Grains: I love serving this tofu over fluffy basmati rice. If you're looking for a lower carb alternative, you can use cauliflower rice or quinoa instead.
- Herbs: Finish each serving with a flurry of cilantro, mint, or basil for a pop of freshness.
- Naan: You truly can't beat a piece of warm naan to sop up the extra masala sauce. I personally love garlic naan, which I typically purchase from Whole Foods or Sprouts.
- Veggies: You can either add roasted veggies to the masala sauce, or serve them on the side. This dish is excellent with tender florets of cauliflower or broccoli. You can also add some mushrooms or cubed eggplant to the mix.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips:
- To Make Ahead: Slice, drain, and cube the tofu up to 2 days in advance. You can also marinate the tofu up to 12 hours ahead.
- To Store: Place leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat: Gently rewarm leftovers in a skillet over medium-low heat, adding a splash of broth to rehydrate the sauce as needed. In a pinch, you can also reheat leftovers in the microwave, pausing at 30 second intervals to stir.
More Indian-Inspired Recipes:
If you give this recipe a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations. I’d also love if you could leave a recipe rating and review!
Tofu Tikka Masala
- Large rimmed baking sheet
- Large skillet
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- 1 ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 ½ tsp. curry powder
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 (14-oz.) pkg. extra-firm (or super firm) tofu drained, pressed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ cup whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) sub soy or coconut yogurt if making vegan
- 2 Tbsp. neutral cooking oil (vegetable or olive)
- ½ cup finely chopped shallots
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp. finely grated peeled ginger
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce (I like Muir Glen brand)
- 1 (13.5-oz.) can coconut milk
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- Basmati rice and fresh naan for serving optional
- In a small bowl, combine garam masala, turmeric, curry powder, paprika, and salt; mix to combine. In a separate larger bowl, combine yogurt and half of spice mixture; mix well. Add tofu and gently toss to coat. Spoon mixture into a storage-size zip-top bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours).
- Preheat oven to 400ºF and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange yogurt-coated tofu pieces on the baking sheet in a single layer so that they aren't touching. (Discard any extra marinade). Bake in the center rack for 30 minutes, gently turning the tofu after 15 minutes, until golden and crispy.
- While the tofu bakes, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add shallots; cook 3 minutes, until soft. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, ginger, and remaining spice mixture; cook 2 more minutes, stirring often, until tomato paste turns brick red and begins sticking to the pan.
- Add broth, tomato sauce, and coconut milk; whisk to combine. Gently simmer masala sauce, uncovered, until it reduces and thickens, about 12 to 15 minutes.
- Remove tofu from oven and transfer to masala sauce; stir to coat. Serve tikka masala over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and a dollop of yogurt.