Easy Vegan Butter Chicken

March 8, 2023

Entree

By: Jasmine Briones 

This Easy Vegan Butter Chicken Recipe is our plant-based take on the popular Indian dish, Murgh Makhani. It’s equally as rich and flavorful as traditional butter chicken and is made with a delicious sauce the whole family will love. Serve over rice with our vegan flatbread for the ultimate meal.

vegan butter chicken with rice in a bowl

When developing this recipe, we wanted to keep it as simple and authentic as possible! We swapped the traditionally used chicken with tofu and mimicked the flavors in the sauce with plant-based ingredients such as cashews, coconut milk, and vegan yogurt. We’re so excited to share this vegan and gluten-free version with you, and hope you love it as much as we do!

Ingredients You’ll Need 

  • Tofu: For this recipe, we highly recommend super firm tofu. It doesn’t require a tofu press and has minimal excess water inside, making it the perfect vegan substitute for chicken. If needed, you can use an extra firm block of tofu, but be sure to press it before patting it dry.
  • Vegan yogurt: Authentic butter chicken is typically made with dahi or Indian yogurt. This is of course vegetarian, and dairy based, so we opted for plain vegan yogurt instead. It’s equally thick, tangy, and neutral in flavor. Feel free to use your favorite vegan brand.
  • Spices: You’ll need: ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, cardamom, dried fenugreek leaves (optional, but recommended!), and garam masala.
  • Cashews + coconut milk: Heavy cream is often combined with tomato sauce to make it rich and creamy. Instead, we’ve used raw cashews and coconut milk. Together they make a rich, non-dairy cream sauce.
  • Vegan butter: An essential in butter chicken! Opt for your favorite vegan brand. We love Country Crock and Earth Balance, but Miyoko’s would also work well!
  • Aromatics: A simple blend of onion, garlic, fresh ginger, and an optional spicy serrano pepper create an aromatic, flavor base. Don’t rush the sauté – this is where all the deep layered flavors come from!
  • Crushed tomatoes: Butter chicken is typically a tomato-based sauce. We found using tomato paste to be too tart and tangy, but crushed tomatoes were both the perfect consistency and tomato flavor.
  • Sugar: A small pinch of cane sugar helps balance the savoriness by cutting the acidity in the dish. To ensure your sugar is vegan, opt for an organic brand!
spoon of saucy tofu

Equipment Needed

How to Make Vegan Butter Chicken

  1. Make the tofu marinade. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the vegan yogurt, olive oil, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, salt, garlic, and ginger.
  2. Add the tofu. Using a clean tea towel or paper towel, pat the tofu dry, then tear it into bite-sized chunks. Add the tofu chunks to the yogurt mixture and mix gently until the tofu is well coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
  3. Soak the cashews in boiling water. 30 minutes before you are ready to make the butter tofu, place your raw cashews in a small bowl and cover it with boiling water. Set aside to soften.
  4. Bake the marinated tofu. Once the tofu has marinated for at least 30 minutes, transfer the marinated tofu pieces to a baking tray, spreading the pieces apart. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until crispy. Set aside while you prepare the butter sauce.
  5. Sauté the aromatics. In a large skillet or pot. add 2 tablespoons of vegan butter. Once melted, add the diced onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until the onions begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Next, add in the minced garlic, optional serrano pepper, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and cardamom. Cook for another minute or so, until fragrant.
  6. Bring to a simmer. Add the drained cashews to the pot or skillet along with the crushed tomatoes, water, and remaining salt. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Blend until smooth. After 12 minutes, transfer the contents to a high-speed blender. Add the coconut milk and blend until you have a creamy tomato sauce.
  8. Finish the sauce. Transfer the tomato-based sauce back to the pot and heat over low. Season with the remaining sugar, fenugreek leaves, garam masala, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegan butter. Stir constantly until the butter is melted.
  9. Add the tofu and serve. Lastly, gently toss the tofu in the warm sauce and season to taste. Serve immediately while hot as desired.

Serving Suggestions 

This delicious tofu butter chicken makes a hearty meal that can be enjoyed for dinner or lunch. Serve over basmati rice or brown rice, garnished with fresh cilantro and a side of our 5-ingredient gluten-free flatbread (naan)!

overhead of bowl with vegan butter chicken and rice

Storage Instructions

Leftover vegan butter chicken will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Before storing in an airtight container, allow the dish to cool completely to room temperature.

Reheat leftovers in the microwave or in a large skillet or pot until heated through again. If frozen, allow the butter chicken to defrost completely in the refrigerator overnight before reheating or microwaving from frozen until thawed. Note that tofu does change its texture and consistency once frozen and thawed and may release a bit of excess moisture (especially if you opted for extra firm tofu instead of super firm).

up close bowl of saucy tofu with rice

Recipe FAQs

I don’t have any full-fat coconut milk. Can I substitute another plant-based milk?

You could, but your end dish won’t be nearly as rich and creamy. Plant-based milk such as almond milk or even soy milk are much thinner and will dilute your creamy sauce. For best results, we highly recommend full-fat canned coconut milk or even coconut cream would be a better option!

I am out of tofu. What other vegan protein could I use?

We have only tested this recipe using baked, crispy tofu, but you may be able to experiment and substitute with plant proteins like re-hydrated soy curls, store-bought vegan chicken, or even seitan.

Can I use coconut oil instead of vegan butter?

You can use coconut oil instead of vegan butter, but we would recommend using refined coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oils taste and smell like coconut and will completely change the flavor of the dish. Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, is completely flavorless and odorless. Vegan butter is the preferred ingredient, but refined coconut oil will work in a pinch.

Can I air-fry the tofu instead of baking it?

We have not tested this, but it should work! Air fryers typically cook food faster than the oven, so we’d start with 12-15 minutes at 425ºF and adjust from there. Depending on the size of your air fryer basket you may need to work in batches.

pan of saucy tofu

More Vegan Tofu Recipes You May Enjoy:

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon

Vegan Butter Chicken


  • Author: Sweet Simple Vegan

Description

This Easy Vegan Butter Chicken Recipe is our plant-based take on the popular Indian dish, Murgh Makhani. It’s equally as rich and flavorful as traditional butter chicken and is made with a delicious sauce the whole family will love. Serve over rice with our vegan flatbread for the ultimate meal.


Ingredients

Tofu

  • 1 block (16 ounces) super firm tofu
  • ½ cup plain vegan yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, grated

Gravy

  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, divided
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
  • 1 serrano pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves (optional but highly recommended)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • Chopped cilantro

Equipment


Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, add the vegan yogurt, olive oil, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, salt, garlic, and ginger. Mix together until well-combined. 
  2. Pat your tofu dry with a towel and tear into bite-sized chunks. Add the tofu chunks to the yogurt mixture and carefully mix until the tofu pieces are well-coated. 
  3. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
  4. Thirty minutes before you’re ready to make the butter tofu, soak the cashews in boiling water and set aside. 
  5. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. 
  6. Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet and space the pieces apart. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside.
  7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add 2 tbsp of the vegan butter to a large skillet or pot. 
  8. Heat over medium heat and once melted, add the diced onion and ½ tsp salt. Sauté until the onion starts to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, serrano pepper (if using), cumin, coriander, chili powder, and cardamom. Sauté for another minute until fragrant. 
  9. Drain the soaked cashews and add to the pot along with the crushed tomatoes, ½ cup water, and the remaining ½ tsp salt. Stir until everything is well-combined and bring to a simmer.
  10. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 12 minutes, transfer the contents to a high-speed blender. Add the coconut milk and blend until smooth and creamy.
  11. Transfer the sauce back to the pot and heat over low. Add the sugar, fenugreek leaves, garam masala, and the remaining 2 tbsp of vegan butter. Stir constantly until the butter is melted. Taste and add more salt or sugar to taste. Serve with rice and fresh cilantro, and enjoy! 

Notes

  • If you’re sensitive to spice, remove the seeds of the serrano pepper before chopping or omit them altogether.
  • You can also blend the gravy in the pot using an immersion blender but it won’t be as smooth.
  • If you can’t find super firm tofu, you can opt for extra-firm and just press it before using it. Learn how to press tofu here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating

Hey there!

We share fresh and fun recipes to show you that vegan cooking is easy, approachable and delicious...

We're Jasmine & Chris.

Hey there!

meet the bloggers

260k

31k

148k

160k

Thank you for subscribing!

Want our recipes delivered straight to your inbox?

the latest scoop:

 

Want our recipes delivered straight to your inbox?

Sign up to get the latest recipes, video announcements, and more!

Thank you for subscribing!