Who doesn’t love a good vegan or vegetarian tikka masala recipe? This rich tasty mild curry, featuring chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and tender aubergine (eggplant), comes together in half an hour and is completely restaurant or entertaining-worthy.
Serve your yummy vegan tikka masala with fluffy basmati rice, raita and naan bread for maximum enjoyment. As a bonus, there is no need to marinate anything, and you can make it in just one non-stick pot (or pan).
Where was Tikka Masala invented?
Although the name sounds Indian, with tikka usually meaning meat or veggies that have been marinated, and masala being a spice mix, it isn’t.
No friends, tikka masala comes from a little bit further north in the world…Scotland. Glasgow to be precise.
A Glaswegian eatery claims the dish was invented when a customer complained about their chicken tikka being dry, prompting the cook to add yogurt and cream to the dish.
There is no accepted standard for chicken tikka masala recipes, the general consensus being that it’s orange, creamy, and mildly spiced. Which, of course, leaves the door wide open when interpreting it as a vegan dish…
What vegetables can I put in tikka masala?
I made this vegan tikka masala with eggplant (aubergine) and garbanzo beans (chickpeas) because I think Indian flavors + tomatoes + garbanzos + eggplant= heaven.
However, I have added lots of different veggies on other occasions to great success, mushrooms, in particular, go really well with the sauce.
Sliced carrots, peas, cauliflower, and a handful of fresh spinach have all appeared in various tasty incarnations of this curry. If you do add cauliflower and/or carrots, make sure to add them at the same time as the eggplant (or substitute for the eggplant if they float your boat more).
The spinach and peas can be added in when the garbanzos go in, or used as garbanzo substitutes. If you are as crazy about garbanzo beans as I am, you might also be interested in my chickpea spinach curry (chana palak masala).
Is tikka masala spicy?
In a word? No. Well, not particularly. Indian heat levels were most probably adapted for the milder British palate.
The coconut cream also cancels out a lot of the heat – although remember that the longer the sauce sits (in the fridge for example) the spicier it will get.
I’ve added 1.25 teaspoons of kashmiri chili for a mildly spiced garbanzo bean tikka masala curry.
Although I highly recommend kashmiri chili for just about everything, due to its lovely slightly smoky flavor and bright red color, you can substitute it with 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (not 1.25 teaspoons, as cayenne is hotter than kashmiri chili).
I would recommend 2 teaspoons of kashmiri chili or around 1.5 heaped teaspoons of cayenne if you fancy something spicier. That would be my spice level of preference (but unfortunately not for Handsome Hubby and the kids, boo).
I know it sounds like an insane amount of heat but the creamy consistency tampers down the fire (and if you’re nervous about adding too much you can always add it bit by bit and taste the curry to check).
If you serve raita alongside it (if you’re vegetarian this Kefir Onion Raita will make you swoon) it will also help take the bite out of any extra heat if you feel like you’ve overdone it for your personal spice level preference.
Is tikka masala healthy?
How long is a piece of string? Yes and no, like many dishes it depends on what you put in it and serve it with.
With just two tablespoons of oil and 150ml coconut cream between six servings, lashings of tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, eggplant and garbanzo beans, this version is definitely one of the lighter ones.
Serve with a small serving of rice and raita and you have a winning protein-packed combo. For vegans, I definitely recommend drizzling the Curious Chickpea’s vegan mint and cucumber raita over your rice and some of the curry. For vegetarians, plain raita or onion raita would be awesome.
If you want to lighten up the dish you can also swap out the full-fat coconut cream for non-dairy yogurt, or Greek yogurt if vegetarian. Note that I do really recommend full-fat coconut cream for an optimum restaurant-style taste.
How do I make it?
Easily! I start by getting all my spices out, and the tinned tomatoes, and measuring them into different little plastic bowls, as later things will move quickly and you’ll risk burning or over-browning your food.
You might want to chop up the eggplant now as well (small-medium dice), or you can quickly do it after adding the water and tinned tomatoes.
Roughly chop and whiz your onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed (no stringy long bits of ginger please, yuck!).
If you don’t have a food processor you can do this in a blender but I recommend finely grating the ginger and pressing the garlic to make it easier to blend. As a last resort, you can also add a tiny bit of water to help things along.
Next heat the oil over a high temperature until sizzling hot, and add the pureed onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until slightly golden or light brown. Don’t worry if some little brown patches appear.
Turn the heat down to medium-high and add in the cumin turmeric and coriander powder. Stir and cook for about two more minutes.
Wash out the food processor jar with some of the water from the ingredients list to get the maximum amount of flavor out of any remaining onion-garlic-ginger puree, and reduce clean-up (win-win!).
Add in the water and tinned tomatoes ( I like to add this before the next spices so that nothing burns while I’m getting ingredients ready, but it doesn’t really matter what order you add things in this phase), followed by the chili or cayenne powder, hot smoked paprika, curry powder, eggplant, and stock cube.
I really must insist you use hot smoked paprika for this, the sweet stuff doesn’t come anywhere near the flavor profile needed, only substitute with sweet or regular paprika if you’re absolutely desperate.
Turn the heat up until the mixture comes to a lively simmer, and adjust to keep it bubbling away for ten minutes. Rescue some chopped eggplant with a fork and check if it’s done (this depends on how small you chopped it).
If it’s not done, continue to simmer away and check every 2-3 minutes. When it’s done, add in the garbanzo beans, coconut cream, and sugar, and simmer for 3 minutes.
If you can’t find coconut cream, stick a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge for a few hours, then carefully open it and scoop out the cream which will have risen to the top.
Add the garam masala and simmer for a further two minutes (do NOT let it boil or the coconut cream could separate).
Make sure the sauce has reduced enough to your liking before adding in the garam masala and coconut cream, as the coconut cream will thin it out a little.
Mix in the lemon juice just before serving and sprinkle a little finely chopped coriander on top (optional, but it looks nice!). Voila, your impressive tasty vegan tikka masala awaits!
If you make this recipe and love it as much as I do, please don’t hesitate to leave a star rating (in the recipe card) and review, or take a picture and tag me on Instagram @the_fiery_vegetarian.
Other recent posts that might interest you:
- Quick Spicy Feta Dip (Tirokafteri)
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- Easy Zucchini Marinara
- Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Pear (Vegan!)
- Easy Red Lentil Chili Recipe
- 2 tbsp sunflower or canola oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 6 large cloves garlic
- 1 ½ inch ginger, roughly chopped
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tbsp ground coriander
- 400g crushed tinned tomatoes
- 1.75 cups water (400 - 420 ml)
- 1 ¼ - 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder (or 1 - 1 ½ tsp cayenne pepper)
- 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 diced eggplant (small-medium dice)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ vegetable stock cube
- 400g cooked garbanzo beans
- 150 ml coconut cream
- 1.5 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Fresh chopped coriander to serve (optional)
- Blitz the garlic, ginger and onion in a food processor until smooth.
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan or pot over a high heat until it sizzles when you flick a droplet of water in. Tip in the onion-garlic-ginger puree.
- Fry the puree for around four-five minutes stirring often, until lightly browned, and reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the ground cumin, turmeric and coriander and mix well. Saute for two minutes more, stirring just enough to prevent burning.
- Add the tomatoes, water, chili powder/cayenne, paprika, curry powder, eggplant, salt and stock cube.Turn the heat up high, reduce slightly when boiling and allow to cook for ten minutes or until the aubergine is tender.
- Mix in the garbanzo beans, coconut cream, and sugar, and cook over a medium heat for three minutes.
- Add the garam masala and cook for two minutes more.
- Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and sprinkle fresh coriander on top if desired. Ready to be served.
- I recommend you make sure the aubergine is diced, the tomatoes and water are near, and your spices are measured and portioned out before you start cooking as the initial stages move quickly and things can burn very fast.
- If you don't have a food processor to make the onion-garlic-ginger paste with, you can use a blender, but finely grate the ginger and crush the garlic to make it easier to blend. As a last resort, you can add a little bit of water.
- Will keep in the fridge for up to five days, and also freezes very well.
Serving Size1/3 plate
Amount Per Serving Calories 370Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 0mgSodium 381mgCarbohydrates 41gFiber 11gSugar 13gProtein 10g