Tofu Tikka Masala is the perfect rich and creamy Indian curry that’s better than takeout. Instead of classic chicken, this tikka masala features tofu, peppers and onions, marinated in aromatic spices, roasted to tender perfection, and dropped into wonderfully flavorful tomato-based curry sauce.
Indian food is hands down my number one favorite takeout, after Thai and Vietnamese. I absolutely love the wonderfully rich saag paneer, butter chicken, samosas, all the fluffy naans and even the super spicy Vindaloo when I’m craving something particularly spicy. However, when I don’t know what I want, my go to curry has always been, without fail, Chicken Tikka Masala. The delicious creamy tomato sauce and perfectly marinated chicken pieces cooked in a tandoor oven hit the spot Every. Single. Time.
For this recipe, I wanted the signature Tikka Masala flavor but decided to go plant-based with the protein and used extra firm tofu. Personally, I like my Indian curries more chunky than saucy, probably because I used to live in the UK and that’s how Indian restaurants tend to serve their super popular curries over there. I started by making a yogurt-based marinade, which I smothered my tofu and vegetables in. I then worked on my masala (curry sauce) by cooking whole masala spices in oil. This step is important to develop a truly flavorful curry though it can be omitted. While my tomato-cashew masala was cooking on the stovetop, I baked the tofu and vegetables on a sheet pan at 425 degrees, combined everything together, and there it was – my perfectly seasoned Tofu Tikka Masala.
Tofu Tikka Masala Ingredients
Tofu: I recommend extra firm tofu for this recipe. It is the firmest kind of tofu and has a dense structure that will crisp up nicely in the oven. For best results, take it out of the packaging, drain the liquid and wrap the tofu in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Then, put something heavy on top of it, such as a cast iron skillet or a plate and a couple of cookbooks, and leave it be for at least 30 minutes. In a pinch, when you don’t have any time to spare, just wrap the tofu in a kitchen towel and gently squeeze the liquid out with your hands over the kitchen sink.
Vegetables: Onions and peppers work best in this recipe. You can use any color sweet peppers that you will cut into strips or chunks. Do the same with the onion. If you like your Masala spicy, I also recommend adding a seeded and roughly chopped spicy pepper, such as a Jalapeño.
Tomatoes: Canned diced, stewed, or whole tomatoes will all work since they will be pureed in a food processor or a stand up blender. I also like adding some tomato paste to my masala to give it a more intense tomato flavor and richer color. Keep in mind that canned tomatoes are usually salted which is why I recommend holding off on extra salt till the end. Give it a taste and season to your liking.
Spices: What makes a really good Indian curry is the wonderful combination of aromatic spices. I know the list of ingredients for this recipe is long, and as much as I appreciate the amazing 5-ingredient dishes on Pinterest, if you want your curry to be truly amazing, you will need to add some amazing spices to it. I use turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, cayenne and black pepper. If, however, you are missing one of these spices (especially if you’d never use it again), you can make this masala without it and it will still be tasty.
HOW TO MAKE TOFU TIKKA MASALA
- You can dice the tofu as big or as small as you like. Smaller cubes will produce crispier, less “spongy” baked tofu, while bigger pieces will be softer and more tender. I usually go with 1/2 inch pieces.
- Marinating tofu and vegetables before baking is an important step that makes this dish super flavorful. I use plain or Greek yogurt as the base but feel free to swap it for unflavored plant-based yogurt for a vegan version, such as coconut or cashew plain yogurt.
- Since tofu pieces break easily, I recommend putting the vegetables in the marinate first. Swirl them around until they are well coated, then add diced tofu and carefully stir it in using a silicon spatula. You can also divide the marinade in half and use two bowls, one for tofu and one for vegetables (only if you don’t mind washing the extra bowl!).
- Bake the tofu and veggies for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Take out of the oven, flip to the other side and bake 15-20 minutes more until golden crust appears here and there and some edges start to blacken a little.
- While the vegetables and tofu are baking, prepare your masala. Start by cooking whole masala (cloves, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and bay leaf) in oil. This step adds yet another layer of flavor to this curry and I’ve seen legit Indian chefs starting every single curry this way. Once the whole masala spices start crackling and sizzling, it’s time to add onions and all the aromatics: garlic, ginger and spices. Cook them together low and slow, then add tomato paste and water.
- Now it’s time for tomatoes. In a food processor or a stand up blender, whizz tomatoes with soaked cashews. It produces a wonderfully creamy and velvety sauce. Cook together for a couple minutes, add more water if needed and dump the baked vegetables and tofu into the curry. Serve immediately or reheat later.
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to good Indian so I like to serve mine with white basmati rice and garlic naan (homemade or Trader Joe’s has a really great frozen naan option). However, for a more healthy version, serve the tofu tikka masala over cauliflower rice or your favorite whole grain: brown rice, quinoa or farro. Sprinkle everything with chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, although these toppings are completely optional.
MEAL PREP AND FREEZER TIPS
This dish is perfect for meal prep. Either store the curry in an airtight container up to 5 days in the fridge and reheat on the stove when ready to eat, or cook your grains/cauliflower rice and divide equally between 1-portion airtight containers and top with Tofu Tikka Masala. Close the lids and store in the fridge up to 5 days. When ready to serve, reheat in the microwave until hot, about 2 minutes uncovered.
To freeze, place the masala in an airtight container, close the lid and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. Next time Indian food craving strikes, take out from the freezer, let it thaw on the counter for a couple hours or in the fridge overnight and once thawed, reheat on the stove until heated through. Enjoy!
MORE VEGETARIAN DINNER IDEAS
- Cauliflower Shawarma Bowls
- Greek Chickpea Salad
- Veggie Feta Baked Chickpea Pasta
- Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta
This Tofu Tikka Masala is the perfect, rich and creamy Indian curry that’s better than takeout. Instead of classic chicken, this tikka masala features tofu, peppers and onions, marinated in aromatic spices, roasted to tender perfection, and dropped into wonderfully flavorful tomato-based curry sauce.
2 tbsp neutral tasting oil, such as avocado or canola
½ cup plain yogurt (use coconut or cashew yogurt for a vegan variation)
1 tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
¼ teaspoon Cayenne
Juice from ½ lime
1 large clove of garlic
1 piece of ginger, roughly the size of a garlic clove
Roasted tofu and vegetables:
1 block of tofu, extra firm
1 large red pepper
1 Jalapeño pepper
1 large onion
¼ cup raw cashews
1 tbsp neutral tasting oil
1 bay leaf
2–3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/8–1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
1 pinch of black pepper
1 15-oz can of tomatoes, stewed or diced
2 heaping tbsp tomato paste
½–1 cup water
- Remove the tofu from the packaging and wrap in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to squeeze the moisture out. Place something heavy (such as a book or cast iron skillet) on top of the wrapped tofu and set aside.
- Make the marinade. In a large bowl mix together yogurt, oil, minced garlic, lime juice, grated ginger and all the spices until smooth paste forms.
- Cut red pepper, Jalapeño pepper and onions into large chunks or strips. Place vegetables in the bowl and stir to coat with marinade. Unwrap tofu and cut into ½ inch cubes. Carefully place the tofu on top of vegetables and gently stir with a silicon or wooden spatula so the tofu also gets coated (raw tofu crumbles easily but it should stay intact if you are careful). Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and place the marinaded tofu and vegetables on the tray spreading them around for an even browning.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and turn once. Put back in the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes until vegetables and tofu’s edges get brown and/or slightly charred. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the vegetables and tofu are roasting, make the masala. Place the cashews in a small bowl or cup and cover with boiling water. Let soak while you are preparing the curry sauce.
- In a large saucepan/skillet with a thick bottom heat up the oil and add whole spices: cinnamon, cloves, cinnamon stick and whole cumin seeds. Fry for a minute or two stirring, if needed. The cumin seeds may start crackling which is a sign it’s time to add onion. Add the onion and cook stirring for a minute or so. Add garlic, ginger and spices. Stir and cook together for about 2-3 minutes until fragrant. If they start browning too fast, add a splash of water. Add 1/2 cup of water and tomato paste, stir and bring to boil. Turn the heat down.
- In a blender or food processor blend tomatoes, cashews and water they were soaking in, until smooth. Add to the pot, bring to boil and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes.
- Add baked tofu and vegetables to the curry and gently stir. If the curry is too thick, add another ½ cup of water. Taste and add salt and more black pepper to taste.
- Serve hot with basmati or cauliflower rice and garnish with chopped cilantro.
If you are missing any of the spices, such as turmeric or garam masala, you can still make this dish and it will turn out tasty.
- Category: dinner
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: Indian, curry, masala, tofu, tofu tikka masala, easy Indian