A simple version of the popular Indian dish, made completely vegan! The tofu for Vegan Butter Chicken is prepared in a unique way that couldn’t be easier and somehow makes it taste a lot like chicken. Better than take-out and healthier, too!

looking down on vegan butter chicken with rice, cilantro in background.

Butter chicken is one of the most popular Indian dishes around, with it’s mildly spiced creamy tomato sauce, and packed full of flavor. It’s usually made with dairy cream, and of course with chicken. I’ve created the most delicious vegan version, and I’m so excited to share it with you today!

The “chicken” is actually tofu, but it’s not any old tofu. No, the tofu is prepared in a unique way in the oven that makes it perfectly chewy. It actually tastes very similar to chicken, especially once drenched in the creamy sauce.

close up of vegan butter chicken with white rice

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Garam Masala

The only ingredient you might not be familiar with is garam masala. It’s a great spice mix to have on hand. I use it in Vegetable Korma, and other dishes, too. It’s a blend of several Indian spices and adds an incredible amount of flavor to your recipes. A lot of regular grocery stores carry it, or find it at an Indian market. You can also order it online.

vegan butter chicken in a pan, cooked with sauce.

How do you make Vegan Butter Chicken?

This recipe only takes about 30 minutes to make. The one catch is that you probably need to press your tofu, if you have the water packed variety. You can skip pressing if you buy the super firm tofu, not packed in water but in a clear vacuum seal pack.

Press the tofu for 20-30 minutes, if needed. Then, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the tofu into about 6 slices, as shown below, then rip each slice into smaller pieces, but still fairly large chunks. Tear gently, and don’t make the pieces too small.

Next, place the torn tofu pieces in a large ziplock type bag along with the olive oil, cornstarch and salt. Seal the bag, and shake to gently coat the pieces. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet.

collage showing how to cut and rip tofu for vegan butter chicken.

Leave room so they are not touching each other. If your pans are small, you might need two. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pieces are golden brown and crispy. There is no need to flip the pieces, so baking is very hands off. While the tofu is baking, make the creamy sauce.

collage of baking tofu pieces, before and after on baking sheet.

For the sauce, melt the vegan butter in a large skillet or pot. Add the onion, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then add the ginger and garlic and cook 1 minute more. Now add the spices, salt, tomato paste and coconut milk. Stir well until smooth and creamy. Bring to a boil, then simmer the sauce for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Once the tofu is done baking, add it to the sauce and stir to coat the pieces. Serve over rice, with Easy Vegan Naan, and sprinkled with fresh chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

vegan butter chicken in a pan, cooked.

If you liked this recipe, you might enjoy these as well:

vegan butter chicken in a bowl with rice and naan

looking down on vegan butter chicken with rice, cilantro in background.

Vegan Butter Chicken

A simple version of the popular Indian dish, made completely vegan! Tofu is prepared in a unique way that couldn't be easier and somehow makes it taste a lot like chicken. Better than take-out and healthier, too!
4.94 from 83 votes

Ingredients

For the tofu:

  • 2 (16 oz) blocks extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter, (or olive oil)
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 (13.5 oz) canned full fat coconut milk

For serving:

  • 4 cups cooked white or brown rice
  • chopped cilantro
  • Easy Vegan Naan

Instructions

  • Press the tofu: Wrap the block of tofu in paper towels. Place a plate or pan on top of the wrapped tofu, and put a couple of heavy books on top of that. Let the tofu press for 20 minutes. (You can skip this step if you get the super firm variety)
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Slice the tofu into about 6 slices (see photos in post above for reference). Now, rip each slice into medium-large pieces. You can also simply cut them into cubes, if you prefer, but ripping gives the tofu a great texture for this dish.
  • Add the tofu pieces to a large ziplock bag, along with the olive oil, cornstarch and salt. Close the bag, and shake gently to coat. Arrange the tofu evenly on the prepared pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and crispy.
  • While the tofu bakes, prepare the sauce: Melt the 2 tablespoons of vegan butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion for 3-4 minutes in the butter, then add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the spices, salt, tomato paste and coconut milk. Stir until smooth and combined, then simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • When the tofu is done baking, add it to the sauce and stir to coat the pieces. Serve over rice with Easy Vegan Naan. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. This would also be really good with roasted cauliflower in place of the tofu. 
  2. You could certainly substitute light coconut milk if desired, but the sauce won't be as rich and creamy.
  3. For oil free, omit the olive oil and vegan butter. Use water for sauteing instead.
  4. Calories are for 1/6th of the tofu and sauce, not added rice or naan.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 382kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Sodium: 615mg, Potassium: 348mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 429IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 214mg, Iron: 3mg

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