Creamy, full of flavor and oh-so comforting, this Tofu Tikka Masala recipe is downright delicious. Plus, it’s very easy to make! Serve the creamy spiced tofu over rice or with naan and dig in!
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Why This Recipe Works
Tikka Masala is often made with chicken or lamb, but extra-firm tofu makes a great plant-based stand-in for animal protein. When torn (instead of cut) into pieces, the tofu takes on craggy edges that hold on to the thick, silky sauce.
The tofu is also marinated in a spiced yogurt mixture, which when broiled turns nice and golden brown and crispy. Together, these two things create a very meaty plant-based dinner.
And finally, the sauce. This incredible sauce is based off of my Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce and is so good it can—and should—be eaten with a spoon.
What is Tikka Masala?
Tikka literally means “chunks of meat cooked on skewers” in hindi. An the Indian word masala often describes spice blends—though the blend and number of spices varies by region.
Many assume tikka masala, which we consider an Indian dish today, originated in India. However, some sources say it hails from Britain, while others say Scotland is tikka masla’s homeland. You can read more about the history of tikka masala here.
Whichever side you’re on—authentic tikka masala consists of marinated meat (often in yogurt) that gets skewered and cooked over a grill until charred. The charred meat gets simmered in a silky curry sauce made with warm spices, coconut milk, onions, and tomatoes.
But when it comes to tikka masala, it’s hard to know what is truly authentic as its origins are largely disputed and recipes vary widely.
Ingredients in Tofu Tikka Masala
- Spices: ground Garam Masala, ground cumin, ground coriander and ground cardamom are all used in this recipe.
- Extra-firm tofu: extra-firm holds up well when tossed with spices, the yogurt marinate and broiling. Firm will also work, but take extra care when mixing with the marinade.
- Whole milk plain yogurt: it’s important to use whole milk yogurt. Low-fat will curdle under the broiler, will not coat the tofu pieces as well, and won’t brown as well.
- Onion: yellow or white will work here.
- Garlic: fresh garlic is always a must here!
- Serrano: I love using serrano chiles in cooking because unlike jalapeños, they have a consistent spice level. I fine one is spicy enough in this recipe, but if you love heat consider adding two.
- Ginger: fresh ginger adds a ton of flavor to this dish. You can most often find ginger in the produce area next to the onions and garlic.
- Canned whole peeled tomatoes: tomatoes are the base of this tikka masala sauce. Add both the juices and the tomatoes to the pan. I crush the tomatoes with my hands as I add them to the pan (because they’re your best kitchen tool) but you can use kitchen shears to cut them if you prefer.
- Canned coconut milk: for the most decadent and flavorful sauce, use regular canned coconut milk.
How to Make Tofu Tikka Masala
- Tear the tofu into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces. Toss the tofu with the spices to coat then toss with the yogurt to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator.
- While the tofu marinates, get started making the tikka masala sauce. Cook the sliced onions until softened then stir in the aromatics (serrano, ginger and garlic). Cook for a few minutes then stir in the spices and cook briefly.
- Add the canned tomatoes and their juices, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Cook the sauce until thickened and deep rusty-red in color.
- Stir the coconut milk into the sauce and simmer until thickened.
- Arrange the marinated tofu in a single layer on a baking sheet and broil until golden brown on both sides. Be sure to keep an eye on the tofu here, every broiler is different—some are hotter than others.
- Stir the browned tofu into the sauce and serve over rice or with naan.
Make Ahead Tips
- The tofu can be prepped and marinated up to 1 day in advance.
- The sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead of time or frozen for up to 3 months.
- The entire dish stores very well and can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead of time. Reheat the tofu tikka masala on the stove top in a sauté pan.
Creamy Tofu Tikka Masala
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 14-ounce containers extra-firm tofu, drained, and patted dry
- 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
- High heat cooking oil such as avocado, grapeseed or vegetable
Tikka Masala Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
- 1 yellow onion halved and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic chopped (2 teaspoons)
- 1 serrano minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 (13.66 ounce) can coconut milk
- Cooked brown rice naan, cilantro
- Combine 1 tablespoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, coriander, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Toss the spices around to combine. Tear tofu into 1-inch pieces, add to spices and toss to coat. Add yogurt and gently toss tofu to coat; press a piece of plastic wrap against surface of tofu and transfer to refrigerator to marinate 1 hour or up to overnight.
- When ready to cook, heat oven to broil (high) with rack set in upper middle position (6-inches from element). Coat a rimmed baking sheet with a drizzle of high-heat cooking oil. Transfer tofu to prepared sheet and spread into an even layer (don’t scrape yogurt off).
- Broil tofu until starting to char, 20 minutes, flip and continue to broil until second side is charred, about 10 minutes. (Keep an eye on the tofu as each broiler is different.)
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat oil in a 12-inch satué pan over medium. Add onion and 1 teaspoon salt; cook until softened and starting to brown, 6–8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, serrano, and ginger; cook stirring frequently 3 minutes. Stir in garam masala, cumin, and cardamom; cook 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes with juices, crushing tomatoes with hands as you add them (or use your kitchen shears to cut them in can). Bring sauce to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until thickened and deep in color, about 10 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, 5–7 minutes.
- Add tofu to sauce, stir to coat and cook until warmed through. Serve with rice, cilantro, and naan if desired.