First recipe of 2018!!! Woohoo!!! And friends, it’s a good one. Well, it is if you like Indian food. If not, um, I’m sorry. But maybe learning to like Indian food could be your new New Year’s resolution, because let’s face it, you already gave up on your other one. 😉 But seriously, folks, this sauce is so warm, comforting, and richly complex, yet it’s easy to make and doesn’t require 15 bazillion spices that you have to get in an ethnic market. Ok, maybe one you might have to hunt a little bit for, but IT’S WORTH IT. I present to you, for the inaugural recipe of the year, Vegan Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce.
Now, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat, ok? I’m not Indian. I do not profess this recipe to be “authentic” in any way, because that would be totally wrong of me to do so. But what I can tell you is that if I was served this at an Indian restaurant, I would be very, very happy, and would mop it up with all of the roti I could eat. And, bonus, it’s a sauce that can be made ahead and frozen for quick weeknight meals that are better than takeout and healthier, too. Let’s do this!
First up, gather your ingredients. It’s a fairly short list for such a complex-tasting sauce:
BASICS – Onion, ginger root, raw cashews (this makes the sauce creamy in lieu of cream, and it has magical thickening properties)
SPICES – Coriander, cumin, paprika, cardamom, cayenne (optional!), nutmeg, and salt. See? Nothing TOO crazy if you tend to have a fairly stocked spice cabinet. The cardamom might be a little bit tricky to find, but you should. It’s wonderful.
SOMETHING GREEN – Cilantro. If you’re in the “Cilantro, get behind thee!” camp, you can totally leave this out.
Spices are so beautiful. And damn, they taste good.
Ok, so this is so easy, people. Saute the onion, add the ginger and spices and saute a minute more, blend up the tomato sauce, cashews, and water until creamy, then simmer it all together with your favorite plant-based protein. I love chickpeas in this, but tofu is also great, and you could even just make it totally veg-friendly and simmer in some cauliflower. Or…serve it over cauliflower rice! That’s totally what I should have done for this picture, but I love me some basmati rice, so…
I wish I had leftovers, but Michael ate over half the pan when I made this, so I guess I’ll have to make a double batch next time. You should do that too, because then you can stash some in the freezer and pull it out whenever the Indian food craving strikes.
QUESTION: Do you like the idea of this simmer sauce concept? I plan to do more, but only if you want them. Let me know in the comments! I take requests. 🙂
Vegan Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, optional
- 1 tablespoon peeled ginger root, grated (about a 1-inch piece)
- 1 large white onion, finely chopped
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 3/4 cups water, plus more to thin sauce if needed
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional
- In a large skillet, saute the onion in for 3-5 minutes, until translucent. I don’t typically use oil for this, but will often add a splash of water if the onions are sticking to the pan.
- Add the ginger, coriander, cumin, cardamom, paprika, nutmeg, and cayenne, if using, and cook for a minute or two, just to wake up the spices. Remove from heat while you blend up the sauce.
- In a blender or food processor, puree the tomato sauce, water, cashews, and salt until smooth.
- Add the sauce mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat until thickened.
- At this point, add your choice of plant-based protein (chickpeas or tofu are great!), simmer until warmed through, adding water a bit at a time if the sauce is thickening too much.
- Serve over rice, cauliflower rice, quinoa, or whatever other starch you prefer, and top with chopped cilantro if you like.
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Can’t rate Recipe until tried.
Assume one can of chickpeas drained for one batch of sauce?
I certainly don’t expect rating unless you’ve made it. 🙂 Yes, I typically done one can of chickpeas for one batch, but you could do two if you don’t need it to be extra saucy (I love the sauce so I stick with one). Hope that helps!
My son’s favourite Indian meal. Can’t wait to try your version. Sounds super healthy too. Thanks for sharing.
My pleasure, Joan! Can’t wait to hear what he thinks. 🙂
I can’t wait to make this! And YES PLEASE more recipes like this. I’m teaching my daughters how to make variations of meals and prepping so when they are on their own they can eat healthier. Thank you!
My next meatless Monday dish! Cant wsit to try it!
Woohoo!!! Can’t wait to hear what you think!
My Family loves Indian food. I am vegetarian and my daughter can not eat dairy so this is perfect. Can’t wait to try it and yes, more recipes like this, please!
Oh this makes me so happy! I hope you’ll let me know what you think. More recipes like this coming soon! 🙂
This sounds so tasty, looking forward to trying it very soon. More of this type of recipe would be awesome!
I’m glad that you’re interested in these kinds of recipes – more to come very soon! 🙂
Surya-Patricia Lane Hood says
You din’t give an amount required for the “protein”. How much chickpeas or tofu?
Sorry about that! I just updated the notes in the recipe. For one batch of the sauce, I typically do 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas (drained), because I like a lot of sauce, but you could go up to 2 cans and it would still be great. For the tofu, I cube up one block and simmer it for 5-10 minutes. Hope that helps!
Made this for dinner and it was delicious and really easy!! Paired it with Naan bread and basmati rice. Thank you!
LOVE the recipe
Waiting for another
Thank you for sharing those ideas
I LOVED the Tikka Masala! It was so easy (because my wonderful daughter made it and I heated it up). The spices are so well balanced and the creamy texture works great with chickpeas and rice. I’m pretty sure I would be able to make this delicious sauce.
Forgot to rate the recipe. It was fabulous!
This was absolutely delicious, everyone in my family loved it and went back for seconds even my picky ones. I used a can of garbanzo beans and a half of a block of tofu (because I needed to use it) and it was still plenty saucy. And the leftovers didn’t even make it to lunch the next day! 🙂
My family really enjoyed this recipe. Thank you! Do you think it could be made in the instant pot? If so, how?
Hi Ellen! I’m so glad you and your family enjoyed this recipe! It’s one of my favorites. I’m mulling over how to make this an Instant Pot recipe. Are you thinking of cooking chickpeas from dried as part of the process or would you still use precooked chickpeas?
Thank you Beth! I was planning to use pre-cooked chickpeas.
Wondering if there’s something else I can use instead of the nuts. Allergies.
Yes! You can use raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), they’ll work well but will have a slightly different texture as they don’t get quite as creamy. For a different flavor (but still really tasty), you could also use canned coconut milk. I’d start with 1/2 cup and add more as needed to thin it out. Hope that helps!
I can’t believe how delicious this was—everyone was licking their plate! I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s better than any cream-based tikka masala sauce I’ve made. We used vegetable broth instead of water, and stirred in roasted cauliflower and peas (and optional grilled chicken for the meat eaters…). I’m totally making a batch to have on hand in the freezer, but it was also easy enough to make on a weeknight. Thank you!
t h says
yes, more simmer sauces
Brandi Denn says
Do you soak the cashews overnight?
This recipe was very simple, easy and, most importantly, turned out very tasty. I used chickpeas and Basmati rice and added some lightly sauteed mushroom quarters. Overall, probably the best Tikka Masala I’ve had homemade and pretty close to some good restaurant versions. The jarred alternatives in the stores are horrible and I doubt they are vegan. I do have a question as to when the paprika gets added. I mixed it in with all the other spices and it worked fine. Thank you very much! I now have have a great Tikka recipe to go with my homemade paneer and naan.
Christy K Hawkins says
I made this for my family last night. I added soycurls and peas. It was a hit! Everyone loved it. Thank you for sharing a good non-dairy Tikka Masala recipe.
What are soycurls??
Barbara Lindberg says
Thanks Beth! A wonderful and healthier version of the traditional.
Thank you, Barbara! <3 How funny, I just made this for dinner yesterday. Kismet! 🙂
Got my ingredients and am ready to go. Can’t wait. Just one basic question, perhaps kind of silly. You mention paprika in the ingredients but don’t mention to add it with the others. I’m assuming it goes in with the others, not later, correct?
Hey Charlie! Yes, it goes in with the other spices. Thanks for catching that for me! I just updated the instructions. So excited to hear how it goes for you! I just made this a few days ago, funny enough. 🙂
Hi Beth – I gave this a try last night. As you totally acknowledged, this isn’t exactly authentic but it sure is easy and quite tasty. I found the spices were a little “raw” when I first made it…maybe I should have cooked them with the onions a bit longer. But just had some leftovers for lunch today and the flavor has really improved. I added a can of chickpeas and a bag of spinach and froze leftovers in several containers for easy lunches/dinners. Thanks for all your hard work and great recipe ideas.
This turned out amazing, and it’s so simple! Love it!!
Jessica Healy says
I am in LOVE with this recipe. So happy to find a simple and delicious vegan Tikka Masala. Thank you!
This recipe was way too hot for me. I will try it again without the cayenne pepper and paprika.
I am from the subcontinent, but don’t worry about authenticity. Tikka masala was born in the UK. It was in an Indian restaurant, but its wonderful tradition is that it’s an international dish from its very origin! Tikka, on the other hand, is a traditional South Asian dish.
We love this! This was a game changer for my daughters in their quest to go vegan. They couldn’t abide the thought of giving up Tikka Masala. This is the ticket. My daughters like this over pasta, but my husband and I enjoy it over cauliflower or roasted sweet potatoes. Thank you thank you!
Oh! I should have noted that we didn’t have tomato sauce the first time we made it so we substituted diced tomatoes and cut back the water to just a splash in the pan. It was great! We have just done that same thing each time we’ve made it since.
As to the comment above about being too hot – we have varying tolerance to heat in our household. We left it out and let people add the cayenne on their own plates. Perf!
Daniel Fenner says
Made this today and love it 😀 the cashews definitely add that richness that you’d miss without the butter
Great, thank you!
This is amazing! I used coconut milk instead of water, and added red lentils, chickpeas, and zucchini. Thank you for this! So easily made with ingredients already in the cupboard.
Ooooh, love the coconut milk add! I do that sometimes too, it’s so rich and flavorful! I’m so glad you enjoyed this.
Amazing, so delicious and easy. My fiance and I loved it, now it’s become a staple in our home. Thank you for sharing!
Sean "rioki" Farrell says
The recipe is nice, but why is this website unusable on a phone? Ads everywhere… To use it I need to switch it to desktop mode where the content to ad ratio is reasonable. This behavior makes me just want to add sites like this to my ad block. I don’t mind sites that bring be value to show me ads but it needs to remain usable…. A shame… I really want to support sites like this but, if it crosses the line, it’s on the ad blocker ck black list.
So easy, sooooo yummy!! I used chickpeas and brown basmati rice ????
Jon S says
Great recipe! Have made it several times now. It’s delicious, simple, and cheap. I’ve done it with chickpeas, tofu, various extra veggies. This last time I dumped a pound of Spinach/Spring Mix into it and ate with basmati rice. Also added sunflower seeds along with the cashews. I double the ingredients and have enough to last me the better part of a week. It’s so tasty I don’t get bored. Thank you!!
If we only had fresh tomatoes, how many should we use?
I really want to make this for dinner but I have no coriander, would that make a difference and if so do you have a substitute instead.
I’m unable to go out due to self isolating.
I made this for dinner tonight and it was phenomenal!!! I only had some whole peeled canned tomatoes, so I used those instead of the tomato sauce and they worked just as well after being blended up. I also added in some sliced zucchini and sauteed mushrooms during the last few minutes (in the hopes of cleaning out my produce drawer), then served everything over a bed of rice and raw spinach. Thank you for this recipe, I will definitely be making it again!
This dish is amazing, wife recently went plant based and this is one of her favorites
That was a fantastic recipe! I had purchased a store bought sauce not realizing it wasn’t vegan. Scrambled online and found the recipe on your site! Scanned ingredients and I had everything except coriander. So, I went fir. I added a soft cashew based vegan cheese instead of blending my own and it was fabulous. My partner was so surprised that I could not only whip this up in no time flat but that it was SO good! Looking forward to more recipes. Five star!