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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you liked this recipe, you might enjoy these as well:
Vegan Butter Chicken
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
- 4 cups cooked white or brown rice
- chopped cilantro
- Easy Vegan Naan
- 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!
- This would also be really good with roasted cauliflower in place of the tofu.
- You could certainly substitute light coconut milk if desired, but the sauce won't be as rich and creamy.
- For oil free, omit the olive oil and vegan butter. Use water for sauteing instead.
- Calories are for 1/6th of the tofu and sauce, not added rice or naan.
This was the best thing I’ve ever cooked, ever. I trust this woman with my life. The next day I went to a vegan food truck event and someone was like, “have you ever heard of Noracooks?” then we fangirled together. Thanks so much for your work, I appreciate it (and so does my boyfriend, he reaaallyyy appreciates eating it).
Hi Sophia. I am honored! I appreciate your recognition for the work that goes into my recipes! I’m thrilled you are enjoying them! Thanks for sharing your incredible feedback and review! Happy cooking!
Can’t say how many times I’ve made this – couldn’t be easier and never fails to be delicious. Thank you!
You are welcome! That is so awesome! Thanks for your wonderful feedback and review!
This is one of my favorite Indian recipes! I’ve made it following the directions exactly, and I’ve also subbed rehydrated and sauteed soy curls for the tofu. While the texture of the tofu was just perfect, I find using soy curls makes the recipe a little easier. Love this recipe!
How fantastic you are loving the recipe! Thanks for sharing your ideas, wonderful feedback, and review! Wishing you happy cooking!
I’ve used this recipe for years as the base of my butter chicken. I have a friend who eats chicken, but not dairy, so it’s a great base even with chicken.
The only adaptation I’ve made is using coconut cream instead of full fat coconut. I get it at Sprouts. The first time I did it, it was an accident, but it was soooo good. Now, it’s the only way I’ll make it. It gives it a ticker and richer sauce.
I’ve also been known to add some additional gram masala and turmeric to the sauce. Gram masala is probably my most favorite spice, especially during the fall. I’ve used it pretty successfully in place of pumpkin spice in some recipes like a homemade pumpkin spice latte.
Thank you for a wonderful recipe that’s beloved by many friends and family members.
Hi Jessica. I agree that Garam Masala is a wonderful spice. It’s so fantastic you are loving the recipe, and have found your own favorite taste! Thanks very much for sharing your fantastic feedback and ideas! Wishing you lots of happy cooking!
I marinated and fried some soy curls instead of tofu but did the sauce as per this recipe. Super tasty, thanks!
Fantastic that you loved the recipe! Thanks for your great idea and feedback!
Is it possible to freeze the curry please?
Hi Julia. It freezes okay but it does change the texture of the tofu a bit and the sauce will be quite thick. You may need to thin it out a bit. Hope that helps!
Absolutely delicious! But I did find that it needed more tangyness and more sauce, so I used a whole can of tomato paste (5.5oz), and added a half cup of soy milk and the consistency was perfect!
I also added to the tofu: another half tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of tandoori masala and SO GOOD. I find that with crispy tofu, if you don’t really add some flavour to it, it can fall a bit flat. I actually tossed the tofu in the olive oil, then tandoori and then let it sit for about 15 minute to let the flavour sink in before adding the cornstarch.
Definitely going to be making this again!!!
HI Clarke. How great that you are loving the recipe! Thank you for sharing your fabulous ideas, feedback and review! Happy cooking!
wonderful recipe so easy and so tasty Thank you for inspiring us Nora xx
Hi Nora, I am not sure what i am doing wrong. I do the shaking of the broken pieces of tofu in the jiffy bag, to which i have included the cornstarch, salt and olive oil. I then put it in the oven, however when it is finished and I remove the tofu from the oven, the pieces of tofu look like there is a puffy pastry around the pieces instead of being crispy as it should be. This has happened to me both times that i have made this vegan butter chicken. Believe me it is still delicious at the end, but i am not sure why my cooked pieces don’t look like yours 🙂 I hope you can tell me what i am doing wrong, thanks so much.
Is the tofu golden when it comes out of the oven? Are you using too much cornstarch? Also, make sure you’re pressing out as much liquid from the tofu as possible! It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on without being there but my best guess is that too much cornstarch was used, the tofu is underbaked, or the liquid in the tofu is preventing the pieces from crisping.
Amazing. Delicious every single time (probably 10-15 by now!)This is my go-to comfort dish.
Hi Martina. I’m glad you are enjoying it! Thank you for your fantastic feedback and review!
Nora, my husband and I would give 10 stars if we could. This recipe is so simple and sooo delicious 🤤 Thank you for another satisfying vegan meal that we’ll enjoy time and time again.
You are so welcome! I am thrilled to hear that you are loving the butter chicken! Thank you for your terrific feedback!
This is SOOOOO good. Just made it for the second time last night. This time added fine green beans. Looking forward to adding other veggies in the future. And I was out of full-fat coconut milk, but my lite milk worked fine. We never even ate Indian food until this year and now we’re loving it! Thanks for another delicious recipe!
Thank you so much for your feedback and wonderful review, Emily!
I really enjoyed this dish, and most importantly so did my very picky toddler! As an Indian I thought the flavor was absolutely delicious. Will be making it again and again!
Hi Amie. Your wonderful feedback makes my heart happy! I’m so glad you and your toddler loved the recipe, and will go to it often! Thank you!
I made this on the weekend and it was an absolute hit. Baking the tofu was a revolution for me. I found that the sauce did not go far enough, so next time have to look at making it more saucy, but flavor was great.
Hi Mark. I’m glad the recipe was a hit, and I’m thrilled that you love it! Yes, next time, more sauce! Thank you for sharing your awesome feedback!