Vegan Butter Chicken (With Tofu!)
This Vegan Butter Chicken is every bit as delicious as the original, but it’s made with tofu and a creamy coconut-based sauce. It’s guaranteed to satisfy your craving for plant-based Indian food!
Remaking butter chicken into this vegan butter chicken was like a dream come true. All the creaminess and butteriness of the original dish, once again a part of my life. Friends, I ate this vegan butter chicken for days on end, dreamed about it (no, really), and even wondered how I could incorporate it into breakfast.
Here’s a question people ask me more and more often lately: “If it’s vegan, why give it a meat name?” Honestly, because Jessica in the Kitchen caters to everyone, which means making recipes easy to find and relate to. If I called this “Vegan Butter Tofu” you might not even think of the Indian dish “butter chicken”, or someone looking to make a vegan version of the original may not find it.
The point is to make it easier for anyone interested in veganism, or a new vegan, or any human really, to be able to find vegan versions of their favourite dishes, and to be able to relate it to something they’ve already had. This is why you won’t see “veggie balls” or “nut balls” or “mylk” “cheez” but instead “vegan meatballs” and “burgers” and “mac and cheese”. I’m all about making life easier for everyone, instead of making people feel like they need to be a part of a special club to “get it.”
All that is to explain why I named this recipe Vegan Butter Chicken. But don’t worry, there’s no chicken here, and not even a plant-based chicken substitute. Instead, I used tofu, and the way I prepared it is a must in life. It’s crispy, chewy, and absolutely packed with flavour, making it perfect for pairing with the creamy spiced tomato sauce.
Grab a piece of naan and get ready to dig in! And if you love it, try my Slow Cooker Tofu Butter Chicken too.
Notes on Ingredients
Please note that this is important information on the ingredients and instructions and the FULL recipe with amounts and details can be found DOWN BELOW (scroll to it) in the recipe card.
For the tofu:
- Garam masala – This is key to the flavour in this recipe. Don’t skip it!
- Ground ginger
- Chili powder
- Curry powder – You can use mild or hot, depending on your taste preferences.
- Coconut oil
- Firm tofu
For the sauce:
- Coconut oil
- Garam masala
- Ground ginger
- Chili powder
- Ground black pepper
- Curry powder
- Onion – A yellow or white onion is perfect.
- Sea salt
- Coconut milk – Use canned coconut milk, not the refrigerated kind sold in cartons.
- Tomato paste
- Lime juice
How to Press Tofu
Here’s my favourite way to press tofu:
- Wrap the tofu in paper towels, then with a kitchen towel around that. (That way the kitchen towel is much easier to wash and doesn’t have pieces of tofu in it!) Wrap it like a blanket around a baby. The tofu is now your food baby.
- Put a heavy pan on top, like a cast iron skillet. Then put two books in or on top of that.
- Balance it so it doesn’t fall off, and leave it for about 30 minutes. The tofu should be compacted, and the kitchen towel should be wet with the liquid from the tofu.
Now you can proceed with the rest of the recipe. This step makes tofu absorb flavours so much better, and gives it an amazing texture too.
How to Make Vegan Butter Chicken
Get ready for a supremely satisfying butter tofu dinner! Here’s what you’ll need to do.
Prep the tofu. Cut the pressed tofu into cubes, or tear it into bite-sized pieces for extra texture.
Season the tofu. Whisk the cornstarch and seasonings in a large bowl. Add the tofu and toss to coat. Let this mixture sit for 15 minutes.
Cook the tofu. Heat the oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook it until all sides are browned and crispy. Remove the tofu from the skillet and transfer it to a plate or bowl.
Cook the onions and spices. Return the pan to medium-high heat and melt the rest of the coconut oil. Add the onions and cook for about 4 minutes, or until they’re translucent. Stir in the garam masala, ground ginger, chili powder, sea salt, ground black pepper, and curry powder and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
Make the sauce. Stir or whisk in the coconut milk and tomato paste, then bring the mixture to a slow boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
Finish the dish. Stir in the tofu and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, squeeze in the lime juice, and season to taste with salt.
Serve this with basmati rice or homemade naan for a complete meal. This would also be amazing with quinoa, cauliflower rice, or any other grain you like. If you have a small amount of leftovers, they can be spooned over baked sweet potatoes.
I like to garnish this dish with parsley, but if you don’t mind the taste of cilantro, that will work too.
Tips for Success
Here are a few pointers for perfect vegan butter chicken:
- Don’t skip cooking the tofu first. If you add it to the sauce without the initial sautéing, it will be mushy and crumbly.
- Making it lighter. If you don’t mind a thinner sauce, you can swap out the full-fat coconut milk with lite coconut milk, which will cut the calories and fat in the recipe.
- Adding more heat. For a fiery dish, add minced hot peppers, cayenne, or red pepper flakes.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stove over low heat until warmed through, or warm it up in the microwave. You may need to add a splash of water or coconut milk if the sauce has thickened too much.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Yes! This recipe can be frozen in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge, then reheat it as instructed above.
Enjoy friends! If you make this vegan butter chicken recipe, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!
Vegan Butter Chicken (with Amazing Tofu)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon curry powder
- 3 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1 block firm tofu, pressed*
Vegan Butter Chicken Sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 14 oz coconut milk
- 1 can, 6 oz tomato paste
- juice of one lime
- Cut the pressed tofu into cubes, or tear into cube size pieces for extra texture.
- Mix the cornstarch and the seasonings together. Add the tofu cubes into the bowl and toss to combine, until all pieces are coated. Set aside or cover and marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- In a pan over medium high heat, heat the oil. Once hot, Add in the tofu cubes and brown and crisp until all sides are completely browned and crisped up. Remove the tofu and set aside.
Vegan Butter Chicken Sauce and Tying it Together
- In the same pan over medium high heat, heat the rest of the coconut oil. Add the onions and sauté for about 4 minutes until translucent.
- Add in the the garam masala, ground ginger, chill powder, sea salt, ground black pepper and the curry powder. Stir together and let the seasonings cook for about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the coconut milk and tomato paste, stirring for about 15 seconds to incorporate everything. You can use whisk or just stir throughly to combine the tomato paste completely.
- Bring the mixture to a slightly boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook together for about 5 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken.
- Add in the tofu, combined gently to cover it with the sauce.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for another 5-10 minutes to allow the tofu to soak up some flavours and to marinate. Squeeze the lime over the mixture and stir to combine it into it. Taste and season with more salt if you’d like.
- Remove the vegan butter chicken from the heat. Garnish with parsley and serve with basmati rice and homemade whole wheat naan.
Disclaimer: Although jessicainthekitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Jessicainthekitchen.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.
Just made a tofu test batch using the air fryer to crisp!! (Thanks to your other post about crispy air fryer tofu) I used these spices instead and oh my goodness, perfect texture! I know the sauce is going to be awesome too! Supper tonight? ✅
I am drooling already!! Thank you!!
Awesome! We love your review Sheri. Thank you so much.
I wish I could give this more than 5 stars!!! This was incredible…Tasted better than in restaurants! Please add more Indian cuisine recipes! This will be a regular in my recipe rotation!
Another amazingly good recipe, Jessica!! I shared this with my vegan and non-vegan friends. The lime juice takes this to another level. I paired this with asparagus and made naan bread as well.
Awesome! Thank you so much for reading and trying it.
This is a wonderful way to eat tofu! Both the sauce and the marinade for the tofu are delicious and have been helping me keep things interesting as a rookie vegan. Thank you very much for this recipe, Jessica – I can’t recommend it enough…
I made this meal and it turned out great. The one mistake I made was not press my tofu long enough which would have made it crispier I think. Overall delicious. This site has so many great recipes. Love it.
This turned out nicely! I air fried the tofu part but otherwise stayed on recipe. Yummmm!
Jessica!!!!! Wow!!! I’ve heard, “if you don’t like tofu, you’re doing it wrong”. THIS is a must have for people to try tofu!!! So delicious!! And it smells so amazing! Thank you!!!
What is the white ingredient laced over the finished dish in the photo? Plant-based yogurt? Coconut milk? Just curious re what you used.
And a tip to try…I freeze the torn tofu instead of pressing. Creates a chewy ‘stringy’ porous texture that works great with sauces such as this. fwiw
It’s coconut milk! Love that tip!!
Hi, I made this recipe and it was delicious! I may have added more tomato paste as I’m from the UK and did a Google conversion of 1 can, 6 oz tomato paste which appears to be equivalent to 170grams – could you confirm if this is the correct measurement? Thank you
This is accurate! So happy you enjoyed!
So incredibly easy and SO GOOD! Why would I ever do takeout ever again? I baked the tofu while preparing the sauce and preferred that method. But seriously Jessica. Wow!