Craving that comforting Indian flavor but want to make it yourself? This Tofu Tikka Masala, a vegetarian twist on the classic chicken tikka masala, is packed with flavor and easy to make at home! We’ve streamlined the process of making this complex dish with a few simple tricks and step-by-step photo instructions.
There’s never really a time when I’m not craving Indian food. Long day of work and want something comforting? Indian food. Just get home from skiing all day and want something warm? Indian food. Date night and want to make something memorable? Indian food.
When when the question is what to order, the answer is almost always tikka masala.
I think you’re going to love this Tofu Tikka Masala recipe. It’s:
- Packed with flavor, as any authentic Indian dish is! It has all the seasonings and taste of a restaurant-style tikka masala.
- Streamlined to make the process more approachable. (I’ve got a trick for prepping the most tedious parts of the recipe all at once so that the dish actually comes together pretty easily).
- Adaptable to whatever protein you’d like to use. We’re using tofu today, but you could also use beans, chickpeas, tempeh, or even soy curls!
What is “Tikka Masala”?
The exact origins of tikka masala are debated. While it’s often associated with Indian cuisine, some culinary historians claim its birthplace might not be India at all, and that it may have been created in the UK by Indian immigrants.
“Tikka” refers to the method of preparation, typically involving marinated pieces of meat—like chicken—cooked on skewers in a tandoor oven. The marinade often includes yogurt and spices, like cumin, coriander, and paprika.
“Masala” refers to the flavorful spice blend or sauce that’s integral to countless Indian dishes. In Tikka Masala, it signifies the creamy, tomato-based sauce infused with a medley of spices like cumin, turmeric, garam masala, and more.
So, when you bring these two components together—marinated, flavorful protein cooked to perfection and wrapped in a luscious sauce—that’s when the magic of Tikka Masala happens!
How to make Tofu Tikka Masala
I go into detail on how to make this vegetarian tikka masala in the recipe card below (I’ve also included photos for each step), but just so you can wrap your head around it, the process looks something like this:
- Make the rice, because no tikka masala is complete without it.
- Prep the seasonings (see Sarah’s tip below!)
- Make the marinade for the tofu tikka.
- Prep the tofu, pressing it to get out extra moisture.
- Marinade the tofu, either just for a few minutes or overnight!
- Bake the tofu until all browned and crispy.
- Make the flavor base for the masala sauce.
- Finish the masala sauce with a good long simmer.
- Stir the tofu tikka into the masala sauce and serve!
In all of my culinary training, the most important thing was the power of “Mise En Place”, aka – prep everything before you start cooking! In this recipe, we’ll measure out all the spices and prep the garlic and ginger in advance to make cooking more streamlined!
Variations & Substitutions
The tofu part of this dish can easily be replaced with so many other ingredients! While the traditional curry includes chicken, to keep it vegetarian you could make a paneer tikka masala with paneer cubes, or use:
- Cauliflower florets
- White beans
- Soy curls (see how to cook soy curls)
Make It Vegan
We’re using plain dairy-yogurt here, making this dish not suitable for vegans. To make a vegan tikka masala, simply use a non-dairy yogurt for the tofu marinade! The tikka masala sauce is already vegan.
This is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day! Store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stove, adding a splash of water or coconut milk if needed to get things soupy again.
Makes Great Meal Prep!
This recipe makes great meal prep – just be sure to store the naan and rice separate from the tofu tikka masala! See how we store it in this Chickpea Tikka Masala Meal Prep.
Make it a next-level feast by pairing this dish with one of our other Indian recipes:
- Homemade Naan is easier than you would think and perfect with this tikka masala.
- Air Fryer Veggies help to get a quick side dish on the table.
- Mango Lassis wash everything down!
- 1 Tbsp garam masala
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 cloves garlic minced, divided
- 4 Tbsp fresh grated ginger divided
- 1 cup plain yogurt 240 g
- 1 14-oz package extra-firm tofu 400 g
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter 28 g
- ½ medium yellow onion diced, about 1 cup
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste 28 g
- 1 14.5-oz can crushed tomatoes 415 g
- 1 13.5-oz can coconut milk 380 g
- Basmati rice
- Rice: If serving with rice (highly recommended), start cooking that now according to package instructions.
- Prep Seasonings: In a small bowl, stir together 1 Tbsp garam masala, 2 tsp ground turmeric, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, and 1 tsp salt. Evenly split the spice mixture into 2 small bowls. Similarly, evenly divide the 8 cloves garlic and the 4 Tbsp fresh grated ginger into 2 bowls. Half of this will be for the tikka, and the other half for the masala.
- Tikka Marinade: In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup plain yogurt and half of the seasonings (half of the spices, garlic, and ginger).
- Prep Tofu: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Drain 1 14-oz package extra-firm tofu and wrap it in a few layers of paper towels. Set a heavy pan on top to help press out water for about 15 minutes. When finished, tear into bite-sized chunks.
- Add Tofu: Gently stir tofu chunks into marinade. You can let the tofu marinate overnight for maximum flavor, or continue cooking. It's good either way!
- Bake Tofu Tikka: Pour tofu tikka mixture onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and flip each piece over. Continue cooking for 15 minutes, or until a bit browned and crispy at the edges. (Optionally turn the broiler on your oven at the end to help get things crispy, just be sure to watch it closely to prevent burning!)
- Masala Base: Melt 2 Tbsp unsalted butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add ½ medium yellow onion and the reserved half of garlic and ginger. Cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbsp tomato paste and the reserved half of seasonings (from step 1). Continue cooking for 3 minutes.
- Masala Sauce: Add 1 14.5-oz can crushed tomatoes and 1 13.5-oz can coconut milk. Cover and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to let flavors all merge.(Optionally blend the sauce carefully with an immersion or countertop blender to make it smooth and creamy!)
- Serve: Gently stir tofu tikka into masala sauce. Serve warm with naan and basmati rice.