I can’t believe that I’ve had my vegan tikka masala recipe hanging out in my Google Drive for fully THREE years and finally remade it to share it with you! Just food blogger problems I guess. The list of future recipes is always growing infinitely larger :). This is a slow cooker tofu tikka masala – start by sauteeing a few aromatics and spices in a pan, but then transfer everything to your Crock Pot (or pressure cooker!) to finish the curry.
Traditional chicken tikka masala (which, I’ll add, is thought to actually originate from the UK) involves marinating the protein in a spiced yogurt mixture before starting the curry. No marinade required here! #VeganHacks. All you need to do is press the tofu of its excess liquid so that it can absorb the creamy, garam masala-spiced sauce while it cooks in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
You can mix up this tofu tika masala by substituting chickpeas or adding vegetables like sweet potato or cauliflower; but I happen to like it exactly as written. Slow cooker tofu is not at all like you’d expect. It doesn’t fall apart into mush, but instead gets flavorful and tender while maintaining its shape. I used to always pre-bake or pre-fry my tofu before adding it to the crock pot, but over the years I’ve learned that this step isn’t even necessary either. Making flavorful tofu is now easier than ever!
Aside from turning this curry vegetarian, I had to do something about the cream normally found in this recipe. My original dairy-free tikka masala used cashew cream, which I have to tell you made for a dead ringer for the classic, but is a little bit more of a pain in the butt because you have to soak and blend the cashews. Ultimately I decided that coconut milk is much easier and works with the flavors, so my final recipe uses that. But in the recipe notes I also tell you the cashew version!
Trader Joe’s might have a pretty tasty vegan tikka masala now, but I’ve gotta say this homemade tofu tikka masala is even better, more cost-effective, and loved by vegans and omnivores both! My non-vegan friend who claimed not to be hungry ended up going back for seconds, so yeah.
Serve this slow cooker tofu tikka masala with brown or white rice or other grain of choice; or a bread like naan, chapati, paratha, etc. Or just slurp a bowl of it on its own! You won’t regret it! And after you give the recipe a try, let me know in the comments here and by tagging me @yupitsvegan on Instagram!
Slow Cooker Tofu Tikka Masala
Hearty, creamy, delicious tofu tikka masala that cooks in your slow cooker or Instant Pot for easy meal prep. Vegan and gluten-free.
For the spice blend:
For the tofu tikka masala:
- 12 oz extra-firm tofu (1 normal package)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 inch ginger peeled and minced
- 2 green chili peppers finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 6 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes quartered (or use 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained)
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk (1 and 3/4 cups)
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp coconut sugar (optional - or use brown sugar)
- salt to taste
- freshly-squeezed lemon juice to taste, for serving
- chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) to taste, for serving
Drain excess liquid from the tofu package. Wrap the tofu in several clean towels and place a heavy object on top of it. (Alternately, use a tofu press). Press the tofu for 10-15 minutes - to save time, I start this before I chop and prep other ingredients.
Mix together all of the spices and set aside. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add the diced onion with a pinch of salt. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until translucent and starting to lightly brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the cumin seeds and cook for 60 seconds more. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili pepper, and cook for another 60 seconds. Stir in all of the spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, just until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
Add the bell pepper, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste, and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. Finally, add the tomatoes and stir well, scraping around the bottom of the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the tomatoes are starting to soften. Turn off the heat.
Cut the pressed tofu into small cubes. Lightly spray or grease the bottom of your slow cooker. Add the coconut milk, white wine vinegar, and coconut sugar to the slow cooker, and stir to combine. Use a spatula to add all of the mixture from the skillet. Add the tofu and stir gently.
Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, or on high for 2 to 3 hours. Alternately, cook under pressure in your Instant Pot for 10 to 15 minutes; or on the stovetop for about 30 minutes at a simmer, stirring occasionally.
After cooking, season to taste with additional salt, and fresh lemon juice. Serve with rice or accompaniments of choice, garnished with fresh cilantro.
CASHEW CREAM: I'm usually too lazy to do this extra step, but for a more authentic tikka masala flavor, this recipe is even better with cashew cream substituted for the coconut milk. For the cashew cream, use 3/4 cup raw cashews plus 1 and 3/4 cups water and 2 tsp lemon juice.
NO SLOW COOKER: Bring the mixture to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce to a gentle simmer, then cook covered for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tomatoes are broken down and tofu has absorbed the sauce flavor.
NUTRITIONAL YEAST: The nutritional yeast gives a slightly cheesy, funky undertone that makes this tikka masala taste more similar to one made with dairy. To omit it, add 1/2 tbsp of olive oil or vegetable oil, and brown the onions more deeply before continuing with the recipe. If you have soy sauce on hand, also add 1/2 tbsp to replace the umami.
Adapted from non vegan Chicken Tikka Masala on AllRecipes.
Other tasty curry recipes from the blog: