Tofu tikka masala is a vegetarian and vegan tikka masala recipe inspired by the world-famous Indian chicken tikka masala.

It’s made with slightly chewy marinated and oven-baked tofu pieces cooked in a rich, creamy, and aromatic tomato-based sauce.

You’ll love this tofu tikka masala recipe because it’s easy to make, rich in protein, and excellent for a weeknight dinner and meal prep.

Tofu tikka masala with white rice in a bowl

Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet.

Don’t have time to read the full blog post? JUMP TO RECIPE HERE!

What is Tofu Tikka Masala?

Tofu Tikka Masala is an Indian-inspired dish where we substitute beautifully marinated and slightly chewy tofu chunks for chicken.

Tofu works beautifully in Indian recipes, and while it’s not widely used in Indian cooking, its color, texture, and flavor remind us of paneer, a fresh Indian cheese with a mild flavor that is often diced and added to curries and masalas.

Our vegan tikka masala is an adaptation of paneer tikka masala.

It’s similar to chana masala, although creamier, and vegan butter chicken, but with a bolder, redder, more tomatoey sauce, less cream, and no butter.

tofu tikka masala with cream and fresh cilantro

Don’t be discouraged by the somewhat long list of ingredients. Most repeat themselves as we use them for the marinade and the sauce.

They are all Indian pantry staples, mostly spices that stay in your kitchen forever.

You can use them in many of our Indian curry recipes, such as vegan curry, tofu curry, chickpea curry, potato curry, sweet potato curry, and lentil curry.

You can make tofu tikka masala vegetarian, using Greek yogurt and heavy cream. Or you can make it vegan, using non-dairy yogurt and a dairy-free cream like cashew or soy cream.

Like chicken tikka masala, you can expect the same flavorful and creamy tomato-based sauce infused with the mesmerizing aroma of cumin, garam masala, and coriander.

You can make vegan tikka masala for a weeknight dinner with little effort or make it ahead for your weekly meal-prep; it keeps well for days in the fridge and reheats wonderfully.

Serve it with a squeeze of lemon, fresh cilantro, and a dollop of yogurt. Side it with basmati rice, roti, or naan to soak up the flavorful sauce.

tofu tikka masala with white rice in a bowl

Tofu tikka masala video

Ingredients & Substitution for Tofu Tikka Masala

Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

FOR THE MARINATED TOFU

ingredients for the tofu tikka masala marinade

Tofu

Use firm tofu or extra firm tofu. Avoid soft or silken tofu, as it won’t keep its shape as it simmers in the sauce.

You can cut the tofu cubes with a knife, or for best results, you can pull the tofu apart into bite-size pieces with your hands.

This way, its rugged surface makes it easier to stick to the sauce and looks like chicken pieces.

Yogurt

Vegetarians: we recommend a Greek-style yogurt or a thick, strained yogurt. Avoid runny yogurts, as they won’t stick to the tofu.

Vegans: for vegan tikka masala, try to find a non-dairy Greek-style, strained, or thick yogurt, unsweetened and without any aromas.

Oil

We recommend a neutral olive oil, avocado oil, or mustard oil for tofu tikka masala.

Substitute another neutral vegetable oil like canola or sunflower oil for olive oil.

While olive oil and avocado oil are not traditional in Indian cooking, they are healthier than more refined vegetable oils, and their flavor works beautifully with Indian spices.

Spices

  • Garam masala: garam masala is a spice mix used in most Indian recipes, and we recommend finding some to make your Indian-inspired dishes more authentic. It keeps well for months. You can get it in larger supermarkets, most Asian grocery stores, or online. Substitute curry powder for garam masala.
  • Ground coriander: you can find it in most grocery stores.
  • Ground cumin.
  • Turmeric powder.
  • Chili powder or red pepper flakes.

Garlic

We recommend fresh garlic, peeled and grated with a lemon zester or any grated with small holes.

Substitute garlic paste for grated garlic.

Ginger

We recommend fresh ginger, peeled and grated with a lemon zester or any grated with small holes.

Substitute ginger paste for grated ginger.

Lemon Juice

Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a hint of acidity to tofu tikka masala, balancing out the warm flavors of the spices.

FOR THE MASALA SAUCE

Ingredients for the tofu tikka masala sauce

Oil

Same as above. We recommend olive oil, avocado oil, mustard oil, coconut oil, or any neutral vegetable oil.

Authenticity note: traditionally, butter, ghee, or mustard oil might be used.

Onion

Indian cooking is heavy on onions because, when cooked properly, they add a beautiful, sweet, caramelized, and savory flavor to any dish.

We recommend white or yellow onions. Substitute shallots for onions.

Garlic

Fresh garlic cloves, grated or minced.

Ginger

Fresh ginger, grated or minced.

Spices

  • Red chili powder, cayenne powder, red pepper flakes, or Kashmiri chili powder.
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground cumin
  • Garam masala: substitute with 1/2 teaspoon of coriander plus 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, and optionally 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of ground clove.
  • Fenugreek leaves or kasoori methi is optional. It’s often used in traditional tikka masalas. However, it is difficult to find in Western supermarkets, and you can leave them out.

Tomato puree/passata

We love the bold, umami-rich flavor that tomato puree or tomato passata (not tomato paste or tomato concentrate) adds to the Tofu Tikka Masala.

Water

You can use water or vegetable broth.

Water is more traditional. Vegetable broth adds more flavor, but that’s unnecessary since there are already so many spices.

Cream

Vegetarian: we recommend heavy cream for tofu tikka masala.

Vegan: for a vegan tikka masala, we recommend a soy-based or non-dairy cooking cream, cashew cream, coconut cream, or coconut milk.

You can make cashew cream by blending 1/2 cup of cashews with 1/2 cup water in a high-speed blender and adding more water until you reach a pourable consistency.

Authenticity note: tikka masalas hails from the Punjabi region in the northernmost part of India, where cream is more common than coconut milk, which is more prevalent in southern India.

Salt & Black Pepper

Use sea salt or kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

Sugar (optional)

Sugar is often used in Indian cuisine to balance the tomatoes’ acidity and the spices’ boldness.

Depending on your tomato puree and spices, you might need more, less, or no sugar. Usually, we add from 1 teaspoon to 1 scant tablespoon.

Our advice is to taste and adjust for sugar towards the end, shortly before serving the dish.

Substitute coconut sugar, agave syrup, or maple syrup for sugar.

Serves well with

  • Fresh cilantro
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • A dollop of yogurt or non-dairy yogurt
  • Basmati rice, roti, or naan.
tofu tikka masala with a dollop of yogurt and a silver spoon

How to Make Vegan Tikka Masala

US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

1. Bake the tofu

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celcius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To a large mixing bowl, add Greek yogurt, grated garlic, grated ginger, chili powder, ground cumin, garam masala, turmeric powder, ground coriander, oil, lemon juice, and salt.

Make it vegan: substitute a plain Greek-style or strained non-dairy yogurt for Greek yogurt.

spice mix with yogurt in a glass bowl

Stir well to combine into a homogenous marinade.

hand with spatula mixing yogurt blend in a glass bowl

Take the tofu out of the package, drain the liquid, if any, and pat it dry with paper towels.

Pull the tofu apart with your hands into bite-size pieces and add it to the bowl with the marinade.

Tip: you can cut the tofu into dice with a knife. However, pulling it apart with your hands is better because it creates a rugged surface that helps the marinade stick.

tofu torn apart by hands

Stir gently with a spoon to coat the tofu in the marinade.

Tip: tofu does not absorb flavor, so it is unnecessary to let it sit in the marinade. You can bake it right away.

tofu pieces covered in yellow sauce

Transfer the tofu to the baking tray and arrange it on a single layer without overlapping.

tofu pieces before baking

Bake at 400°F or 200°C for 30 minutes until golden brown and slightly chewy. There is no need for flipping.

While the tofu bakes, make the masala sauce.

Tip: you can also cook the tofu for 12 to 15 minutes on a large pan with some oil, turning it every 3 to 4 minutes. In this case, we recommend cutting the tofu with a knife. This is more labor-intensive as you have to tend the tofu.

tofu pieces after baking on a tray

2. Make the masala sauce

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the chopped onion and sauté on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until translucent but not browned. Stir often.

chopped onions in a blue skillet

Add grated garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, ground coriander, ground cumin, and garam masala, and sauté one more minute or until fragrant.

spice mix and chopped onions in a skillet with a wooden spoon

This step helps release the aroma from the dried spices. Stir often to prevent the spices from burning.

onions frying in a skillet with a spice mix

Add the tomato puree, salt, and black pepper and cook on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

tomato passata with onions in a skillet

Add water and simmer for 10 more minutes or until the sauce is creamy.

adding water to blue skillet with tomato sauce

Stir in the heavy cream.

Make it vegan: substitute a non-dairy cream for heavy cream. Supermarkets have many options, from soy-based and rice-based creams to cashew and coconut-based ones.

Alternatively, you can blend 1/2 cup of cashews with 1/2 cup water to make your cashew cream.

Hand adding cream to a skillet with tomato sauce

3. Add the tofu

Stir in the baked tofu and, optionally, the sugar.

tofu pieces in a skillet with tomato sauce

Finish cooking vegan tikka masala for a few minutes until you reach your desired consistency. Taste and adjust for salt, sweetness, and acidity.

Tip: If the sauce is too acidic, add some sugar. If it’s too spicy, add more cream. If it’s bland, add some salt.

creamy tofu tikka masala in a blue skillet

Serving Suggestions

Serve tofu tikka masala with basmati rice, vegan naan bread, roti, or chapati.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, and add a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of yogurt.

You can also top it with quick pickled red onions for a delicious tangy flavor.

tofu tikka masala with a dollop of yogurt and a silver spoon

In India, more dishes are often served on the table simultaneously. You can combine this vegan tikka masala with aloo gobi, raita, or chana saag.

For a simple side dish, opt for a quick tomato cucumber salad, roasted cauliflower, sautéed kale, sautéed green beans, or a delicious and refreshing mango salad.

Variations

Vegan Butter Chicken

Vegan Butter Chicken with hand and bread

Endlessly creamytangy, and a little sweet and spicy, vegan butter chicken is another delicious way to combine tofu and Indian cooking.

The recipe resembles vegan tikka masala but includes less tomato, more cream, and vegan butter.

Check out our vegan butter chicken.

Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer is an Indian fresh cheese similar to ricotta in flavor and tofu in texture. It’s made with cow’s milk, so it’s unsuitable for vegans.

However, it’s an excellent meat replacement for omnivores or vegetarians because it’s nutritious and fulfilling.

You can buy paneer in Asian grocery stores or larger supermarkets. You can also easily make it at home with milk, vinegar, salt, and a muslin cloth.

To make paneer tikka masala, slice the paneer into bite-size pieces, then substitute it for the tofu.

Tips

  • Use firm or extra firm tofu and avoid silken or soft tofu so the pieces stay together as they cook.
  • Pull the tofu apart with your hands instead of cutting it with a knife. This way, the tofu has a rugged surface that helps the sauce stick. It also looks like chicken pieces.
  • Adjust with salt, sugar, and cream. If the sauce is too acidic, add some sugar. If it’s too spicy, add more cream. If it’s bland, add more salt.
  • Sauté the onion for at least five minutes, but as a rule of thumb, the longer you cook the onion without burning it, the more flavor your dish will have.
  • Add flavor to your basmati rice by adding two cardamom seeds, a pinch of salt, a bay leaf, or a pinch of cumin to the cooking water.

Questions

How to make vegan tikka masala sauce?

Tikka masala dishes contain yogurt in the marinade and often ghee, butter, and heavy cream in the sauce.

To make tikka masala sauce vegan, you can substitute ghee and butter for vegetable oil, light olive or avocado oil, and a non-dairy cream for the heavy cream.

There are several options for non-dairy cooking creams in supermarkets. You can choose a soy-based cream, rice-based cream, coconut milk, coconut cream, or cashew-based cream.

Alternatively, you can use cashews to add creaminess. In this case, blend 1/2 cup of raw unsalted cashews in a high-speed blender with 1/2 cup water, then add more water to reach a cream-like consistency.

Do I need to press the tofu?

Pressing tofu is unnecessary for tofu tikka masala and can be counterproductive as it makes the tofu dry and can ruin its texture.

We recommend draining the tofu from its liquid and patting it dry with a kitchen towel. That’s it!

How long should you marinate tofu for?

Tofu does not absorb flavor well, so we don’t recommend letting it sit in the marinade as it won’t make much difference.

What we do and recommend is to make a thick marinade with Greek-style yogurt (dairy-based or dairy-free). The thick yogurt will help the spices and flavorings in the marinade stick to the tofu.

Also, we recommend pulling the tofu apart with your hands into rugged bite-size pieces rather than cutting it with a knife.

The knife produces tofu dice with a smooth surface, making it difficult for the marinade to stick.

The rugged surface of hand-pulled tofu makes it ideal for the sauce to stick.

tofu pieces after baking on a tray

Storage & Make Ahead

Make ahead: Tofu tikka masala is an excellent recipe for meal prep as it keeps well for up to 4 days in the fridge.

Refrigerator: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Freezer: Let the vegan tikka masala cool down completely, then transfer it to a freezer-friendly container and freeze for up to 3 months. Remember that freezing is not ideal; the tikka masala sauce might split as it thaws. Don’t freeze multiple times.

Thaw & Reheat: Thaw in the refrigerator over several hours, then reheat in a saucepan with a dash of water to make the sauce thinner. Alternatively, reheat in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes or until the tofu is heated through.

More Tofu Recipes

More Indian-Inspired Recipes

Find more creamy and aromatic meals with these wholesome curry recipes:

For many more dinner ideas, check out our mains category page.

Tofu tikka masala with white rice, yogurt, and fresh parsley

Tofu Tikka Masala

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 10 votes
Tofu tikka masala is a vegetarian and vegan tikka masala recipe inspired by the world-famous Indian chicken tikka masala.
It’s made with slightly chewy marinated and oven-baked tofu pieces cooked in a rich, creamy, and aromatic tomato-based sauce.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Oven-Baked Tofu: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian-Inspired

Ingredients

FOR THE TOFU MARINADE

  • 16 ounces tofu firm or extra firm
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil swap avocado or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 inch ginger grated
  • 2 cloves garlic grated
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or chili powder

FOR THE MASALA SAUCE

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil swap avocado or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 1 inch ginger grated
  • 2 cloves garlic grated
  • 2 teaspoons coriander ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin ground
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • 2 cups tomato puree or passata
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • 2 twists black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup heavy cream swap non-dairy cream, cashew cream, or coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons sugar optional

Serves well with

  • lemon juice, cilantro, yogurt, roti, naan, or basmati rice

Instructions 

BAKE THE TOFU WITH THE MARINADE

  • Preheat oven to 400°F or 200°C. Line baking tray with parchment paper.
    In a large bowl, stir together ½ cup Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 inch ginger (grated), 2 cloves garlic (grated), 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
    hand with spatula mixing yogurt blend in a glass bowl
  • Pat dry 16 ounces tofu with paper towels then pull it apart with your hands into bite-size pieces.
    Toss gently in the marinade until well coated.
    tofu pieces covered in yellow sauce
  • Arrange tofu on baking tray on a single layer.
    Bake for 30 minutes until golden. In the meantime, make the sauce.
    tofu pieces after baking on a tray

MAKE THE MASALA SAUCE

  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot/pan. Add 2 medium onions (chopped) and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir often.
    Add 1 inch ginger and 2 cloves garlic (grated), 2 teaspoons coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon garam masala, and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and sauté 1 more minute until fragrant.
    onions frying in a skillet with a spice mix
  • Add 2 cups tomato puree, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 twists black pepper and simmer 5 more minutes.
    Add 2 cups water and simmer 10 more minutes until the sauce is creamy.
    adding water to blue skillet with tomato sauce
  • Stir in ½ cup heavy cream and 2 teaspoons sugar.
    Hand adding cream to a skillet with tomato sauce
  • Add the baked tofu and finish cooking for a couple more minutes or until you reach your desired consistency.
    Taste and adjust for salt, sugar, and heat before serving.
    creamy tofu tikka masala in a blue skillet

MAKE IT A MEAL

  • Serve tofu tikka masala with basmati rice, naan, roti, or chapati.
    Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, and add a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of yogurt.
    You can also top it with quick pickled red onions for a delicious tangy flavor.
    tofu tikka masala with a dollop of yogurt and a silver spoon

Video

Tofu Tikka Masala (easy & protein-rich)

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 serving of tofu tikka masala out of 4 servings without rice or yogurt topping.
STORAGE & MAKE AHEAD
Make ahead: Tofu tikka masala is an excellent recipe for meal prep as it keeps well for up to 4 days in the fridge.
Refrigerator: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezer: Let the vegan tikka masala cool down completely, then transfer it to a freezer-friendly container and freeze for up to 3 months. Remember that freezing is not ideal; the tikka masala sauce might split as it thaws. Don’t freeze multiple times.
Thaw & Reheat: Thaw in the refrigerator over several hours, then reheat in a saucepan with a dash of water to make the sauce thinner. Alternatively, reheat in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes or until the tofu is heated through.
ALSO ON THIS PAGE
 

Nutrition

Calories: 361kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Potassium: 786mg, Dietary Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 722IU, Vitamin B6: 0.3mg, Vitamin C: 25mg, Vitamin E: 4mg, Vitamin K: 13µg, Calcium: 245mg, Folate: 30µg, Iron: 6mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 59mg, Zinc: 1mg
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If you liked this vegan tikka masala, you might also enjoy:


Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

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5 from 10 votes (9 ratings without comment)

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is amazing, the content you’re putting out here for free is just amazing. The detail, the fact that you can change the ingredient list from imperial to metric and adjust the quantities, how well everything is explained, and even a great video. I’m so happy to have found this page, you guys make it easy to try new recipies! I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 5 years now and if I don’t make myself try new recipies I end up eating the same things over and over. Trying this tikka masala tofu for sure!

    1. Hi Albert,

      Aww – thank you so much for your heartwarming message, I’m so happy that you enjoy our content ❤️

      We appreciate you being here and cooking with us. All the best,

      Louise