Endlessly creamy, tangy, and a little sweet and spicy, this vegan butter chicken is one of the best ways to combine tofu and Indian cooking.

Hand-torn pieces of tofu are hugged by a rich spiced yogurt marinade and balanced with a creamy tomato sauce. Honestly? This is one of our favorite tofu recipes, period!

Vegan Butter Chicken on a plate with spoon

Check out our best tofu recipe collection!

Butter chicken or murgh makhani is an Indian dish from New Delhi and is now famous worldwide.

The chicken is marinated in yogurt, spices, and lemon juice. Then pan-fried and simmered in garlic, ginger, and tomato sauce and smothered in butter.

Our vegan butter chicken, tofu butter chicken, or butter tofu tries to stay as close as possible to the original Indian recipe.

  1. First, we hand-tear the tofu into bite-size pieces to make it look like chicken pieces.
  2. Second, we toss it in a tasty marinade with dairy-free yogurt, lemon, and Indian spices.
  3. Third, we pan-fry the tofu to give it some color and texture.
  4. Finally, we simmer it in our vegan butter chicken sauce until rich and creamy.

No words can describe how delicious this recipe is. The sauce is rich, milky, creamy, packed with flavors from the spices, tangy from the yogurt, and fresh from the lemon.

For a delicious Indian-inspired dinner, serve vegan butter chicken as a plant-based alternative to butter chicken with your favorite Naan bread or chapati flatbread.

Vegan Butter Chicken with naan bread

Ingredients

ingredients for vegan butter chicken

Tofu

Use firm or extra firm tofu for this recipe.

Tofu is an excellent protein source to replace chicken.

Avoid soft, medium, and silken tofu, as they won’t hold up in the skillet.

For the marinade

Vegan yogurt

Our two favorite dairy-free and vegan yogurts for this recipe are plain and unsweetened soy yogurt or cashewmilk yogurt.

If you can’t find these, then you can make a quick vegan sour cream with cashews and use it to replace the yogurt.

To make it, boil 1 cup of cashews in water for 10 minutes, drain them and add them to a blender with 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Blend at high speed until silky smooth (3 to 7 minutes, depending on the blender model).

If you are vegetarian, you can use unsweetened full-fat yogurt or greek yogurt.

Spices

You’ll need turmeric powder, garam masala, ground cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes.

Substitute chili powder or cayenne pepper for red pepper flakes. You can also add 4 or 5 cardamom seeds if you like.

Garlic and Ginger

Garlic and ginger are the soul of Indian food, and I’d recommend using both fresh. Grate them before adding them to the blender for an extra smooth sauce.

Lemon Juice

Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds freshness and acidity to the sauce.

For the sauce

Vegan butter

Pick your favorite. There are many around these days. We like to use vegan butter that comes in stick form.

Some good ones are Miyoko’s European Style Cultured Vegan Butter, Vioblock from Violife, Melt Organic Butter, Earth Balance, and Kite Hill, but there are many more.

If you are vegetarian, you can use unsalted butter.

Vegan heavy cream

The best option would be a soy-based vegan heavy cream. If you are based in Europe, that’s easy to find. Dozens of brands offer that and are sold in virtually all supermarkets across the continent.

If you are in the USA, that’s a little tricky. You can order some European vegan heavy cream online. The best and most available are Violife and Alpro.

Or you can use our homemade vegan sour cream, cashew cream, or a can of coconut milk, although that would slightly flavor the vegan butter chicken.

You can also use half vegan cream cheese and half unsweetened soy milk, blended until they turn into cream.

If you are vegetarian, you can use heavy cream.

Tomatoes

We recommend using tomato puree or tomato passata that comes in a glass bottle.

It’s already pretty smooth and sweeter than canned tomatoes. It makes the perfect base for the butter tofu curry.

Salt and Sugar

We recommend sea salt or kosher salt. You can use any sugar; we use organic cane sugar.

Water

You’ll also need some tap water to add to the sauce.

Garnish

Garnish with cilantro or fresh coriander or, if you don’t like that, with fresh flat-leaf parsley. Serve with warm naan or flatbread.

Vegan Butter Chicken with hand and bread

Instructions

1. Marinate the tofu

To a blender, add non-dairy yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric powder, coriander, garam masala, ground cumin, red pepper flakes, grated ginger, and grated garlic.

Blend until very smooth and set aside.

blended spices and yogurt

Drain your tofu and pat it dry. Then tear it into bite-size pieces with your hands, so it looks like chicken pieces.

It’s important to do this with your hands, not with a knife because the uneven and rugged tofu texture will make the sauce stick to it.

Break tofu with hands

Transfer the tofu into a large mixing bowl and toss it in the marinade until fully coated on all sides.

You can now use the tofu immediately or let it marinate in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, for up to 24 hours.

tofu in turmeric marinade

2. Cook the tofu butter chicken

Melt the vegan butter in a large skillet, best if nonstick.

Add the marinated tofu pieces without the marinade left in the bowl. Set the leftover marinade aside for later.

Fry the tofu on medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning it every 2 – 3 minutes, until golden brown on most sides.

yellow tofu pieces in a pan

Add the leftover marinade, vegan heavy cream (coconut milk or blended cashews), tomato puree, salt, sugar, and 1/2 cup water.

tofu yogurt and diced tomato in a pan

Stir and simmer on medium to low heat for about 15 minutes until the sauce gets thick and creamy. Add more water if you’d like a thinner sauce.

Vegan Butter Chicken in a pan

Taste and adjust for salt, then serve the vegan butter chicken in a bowl, garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve with warm naan bread, roti, chapati, or basmati rice.

Vegan Butter Chicken with lemon and bread

Variations

Vegetarian Butter Chicken

If you are a vegetarian and are looking for a delicious alternative to butter chicken, then this recipe is excellent!

To make it, follow the same recipe for our vegan butter chicken and substitute full-fat yogurt, heavy cream, and unsalted butter for their vegan alternatives.

Vegan Butter Chicken with spoon

Serving Suggestions

This vegan butter chicken is a weeknight-friendly dinner, and it pairs well with flatbread like naan, roti or chapati, basmati rice, and vegetable sides.

For example, pair it with:

Questions

What can you substitute for chicken in butter chicken?

You can substitute firm or extra firm tofu for chicken in butter chicken. The best way to do it is to drain the tofu, pat it dry, and tear it apart with your hands into uneven bite-size pieces that look like chicken. Check out our full recipe in this blog post.

Is butter chicken sweet or spicy?

Butter chicken is both sweet and spicy but not overly so. It has a creamy, tangy, and mildly sweet sauce with a warm spicy kick.

Tips

Tear the tofu with your hands instead of cutting it with a knife. This way, the uneven surface of the tofu will grab onto the sauce, making the tofu super tasty. Also, it does look like chicken pieces cut this way.

Make Ahead & Storage

Make Ahead: vegan butter chicken is an excellent recipe to make ahead, as the tofu gets more flavorful as it sits in the sauce. You can also let the tofu marinate the day before, then cook it the day after for a quick dinner.

Refrigerator: transfer leftovers into an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Freezer: let the butter tofu cool down completely, transfer it into a freezer-friendly container, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Thaw: defrost in the fridge over several hours or in the microwave.

Reheat: this recipe will thicken up quite a bit as it sits in the fridge or freezer. To reheat it, you’ll need to add some water – about 1/2 to 1 cup. Reheat in the microwave or a skillet.

More Tofu Recipes

See our easy and tasty tofu ideas for more plant-based dinner inspiration:

More Curries

Get more Indian-inspired recipes from these warming and aromatic curry ideas:

  • Tofu curry (tofu cubes, coconut milk, curry, turmeric, garam masala, ginger, garlic).
  • Chana Masala (chickpeas, curry, diced tomatoes, turmeric, cumin, coriander).
  • Lentil curry (lentils, Indian spice mix, diced tomatoes, coconut milk, ginger).
  • Chickpea curry (chickpeas, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, curry).
  • Cauliflower curry (Cauliflower, onion, garlic, ginger, curry, turmeric, coconut milk).

For many more 30-minute meal ideas, check out our 30-minute meal category page.

Vegan Butter Chicken in a white plate

Vegan Butter Chicken

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 9 votes
Endlessly creamy, tangy, and a little sweet and spicy, this vegan butter chicken is one of the best ways to combine tofu and Indian cooking.
Hard-torn pieces of tofu are hugged by a rich spiced yogurt marinade and balanced with a creamy tomato sauce. Honestly? This is one of our favorite tofu recipes, period!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces firm tofu

For the marinade

  • ½ cup non-dairy yogurt soy or cashew is best
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • teaspoon turmeric
  • teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic

For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • cup tomato puree or passata
  • 1 cup vegan heavy cream or blended cashews (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • teaspoon salt
  • ½ to 1 cup water

Serve it with

  • chopped cilantro, lemon wedges, naan, roti, or basmati rice

Instructions 

Marinate the tofu

  • To a blender, add non-dairy yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, cumin, red pepper flakes, grated ginger, and grated garlic.
    Blend until smooth and set aside.
    blended spices and yogurt
  • Drain tofu and pat it dry. Tear it into bite-size pieces with your hands.
    Break tofu with hands
  • Transfer tofu pieces into a large bowl and toss it with marinade until fully coated.
    Note: you can use it immediately or let it sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
    tofu in turmeric marinade

Cook tofu butter chicken

  • Melt the vegan butter in a large nonstick skillet.
    Add marinated tofu pieces without the marinade that's leftover in the bowl. Reserve leftover marinade for later.
    Fry tofu on medium heat for 10 minutes, turning it every 2-3 minutes until golden brown on most sides.
    yellow tofu pieces in a pan
  • Add leftover marinade, vegan heavy cream (or alternative, see notes), tomato pure, salt, sugar, and ½ cup water.
    tofu yogurt and diced tomato in a pan
  • Stir then simmer on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until the sauce gets thick and creamy. Add more water if you'd like a thinner sauce.
    Vegan Butter Chicken in a pan
  • Taste and adjust for salt. Garnish with chopped cilantro and lemon wedges.
    Vegan Butter Chicken with lemon and bread
  • Serve with naan, chapati, roti, or basmati rice.
    Vegan Butter Chicken with hand and bread

Video

Vegan Butter "Chicken" (with tofu)

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 portion of vegan butter chicken out of 4 portions.
SUBSTITUTIONS
– Non-dairy yogurt: use plain and unsweetened soy yogurt, cashew yogurt, or coconut yogurt.
You can also use our vegan sour cream.
To make it, boil 1 cup of cashews for 10 minutes, drain them and add them to a blender with ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Blend until silky smooth – 3 to 7 minutes.
– Vegan butter: some good ones are Miyoko’s European Style Cultured Vegan Butter, Vioblock from Violife, Melt Organic Butter, Earth Balance, and Kite Hill, but there are many more.
– Vegan heavy cream: you can use a soy-based vegan cream (Alpro, Violife, etc.).
Alternatively, use our vegan sour cream, coconut milk, or half vegan cream cheese and half unsweetened soy milk mixed together.
– For vegetarians: you can use plain full-fat yogurt or greek yogurt, unsalted butter, and heavy cream.
TIP
Tear the tofu with your hands into bite size pieces. Don’t cut it with a knife.
Hand-torn tofu has a rugged surface that grabs onto the sauce, making the tofu super tasty.
MAKE AHEAD & STORAGE
– Make Ahead: vegan butter chicken is an excellent recipe to make ahead, as the tofu gets more flavorful as it sits in the sauce.
You can also let the tofu marinate the day before, then cook it the day after for a quick dinner.
– Refrigerator: transfer leftovers into an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
– Freezer: let the butter tofu cool down completely, transfer it into a freezer-friendly container, and freeze for up to 3 months.
– Thaw: defrost in the fridge over several hours or in the microwave.
– Reheat: this recipe will thicken up quite a bit as it sits in the fridge or freezer. To reheat it, you’ll need to add some water – about ½ to 1 cup. Reheat in the microwave or a skillet.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 386kcal, Carbohydrates: 36g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Potassium: 483mg, Dietary Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 582IU, Vitamin B6: 0.2mg, Vitamin C: 16mg, Vitamin E: 2mg, Vitamin K: 9µg, Calcium: 208mg, Folate: 12µg, Iron: 4mg, Manganese: 0.3mg, Magnesium: 28mg, Zinc: 0.5mg
Tried this recipe? Leave a comment below or mention @theplantbasedschool on Instagram. We are also on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok.

If you liked this vegan butter chicken recipe, you might also enjoy the following:

[adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”itHnVkWo” upload-date=”2023-02-08T14:54:44.000Z” name=”Vegan Butter Chicken.mov” description=”Endlessly creamy, tangy, and a little sweet and spicy, this vegan butter chicken is one of the best ways to combine tofu and Indian cooking.

Hand-torn pieces of tofu are hugged by a rich spiced yogurt marinade and balanced with a creamy tomato sauce. ” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]


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.

Easy right?

5 from 9 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




9 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Merci pour cette excellente recette !
    J’adore votre blog, il est très complet, intuitif et clair, et j’apprécie aussi la facilité des recettes.
    Merci de nous aider à manger mieux!
    Baci da Francia

    1. Fantastic, Emmanuelle!! Merci beaucoup for your kind comment ❤️

      We are so happy you enjoy our food, thank you for your support 🥰 /Louise

  2. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! ❤️ I’ve made this recipe a couple of times already and I recommend marinating the tofu as long as possible – the longer it marinates the more yummy it is. 10/10

  3. 5 stars
    This was really good and easy, I’m going to do this regurlarly. Kids loved it too. Thank you!

    And thank you all your receipts, our vegetarian food choises have multiply.

    Greeting from Finland,
    Johanna

    1. Hi Johanna,
      That’s wonderful, I love that the butter tofu was a successful family meal!
      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, we’re super happy to help with a little vegetarian inspiration.
      Have a great day. All the best to you and your family,
      Louise

      1. Hi Maria José,
        We add 1¼ teaspoon of salt to the sauce, and we did not feel that the dish needed any more 🙂 But you are welcome to taste for salt and add more to your liking.
        Kindest,
        Louise

    1. Hey Lucy,
      That’s fantastic – it was a new way of flavoring tofu for us, so we’re super happy you liked it!
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a message 🙂
      Kindest,
      Louise