Vegan Butter Chicken is one of my absolute favorite vegan Indian dishes. It’s so creamy and has the perfect mix of sweet and spicy. The rich sauce layered over perfectly spiced tofu is seriously to die for. I just adore this dish and could easily make it once a week because it’s so easy, hearty, satisfying, and tasty!
Butter Chicken is a very popular Indian dish. It’s commonly found in Indian restaurants in North American and is definitely a top favorite for Indian food lovers.
Traditionally, butter chicken is prepared with a gravy sauce that contains butter. Here in this recipe, we’re using good old tofu as our chicken replacement and a delicious sauce made of incredible spices, tomato, onions, garlic, and also cashews to give it that creamy, rich “buttery” flavor that you would find in a traditional Butter Chicken dish.
Get ready because your kitchen is going to smell like heaven and your neighbors will be knocking at your door wondering what incredible dish you’re making. The recipe is quite simple and takes no more than 35 minutes to make! You begin making the dish by cutting up your tofu. You can cut it into any shape you like. I like either slicing it into strips or cutting it into little cubes. Any shape works well as long as the pieces aren’t too big. The pieces should be roughly around an inch long.
Next, you’ll prepare the marinade for the tofu. In a small bowl, simply combine all of the marinade ingredients and whisk well. Then coat the tofu with the marinade so it’s saturated on both sides. If you want to you can actually let the tofu sit and marinate for an hour or longer to really enhance the flavors. However, it’s not necessary and for the sake of convenience, I typically don’t marinate it. The spices are so flavorful and will definitely infuse into the tofu.
If you want to save time and meal prep a little bit, you can certainly prepare the tofu ahead of time and just let it sit in your fridge until you’re ready to make the dish! Then once you’re ready to cook the tofu, transfer it to a baking tray and bake it until it is crispy on the outside, but still soft and chewy on the inside.
I really love serving this dish with basmati rice, which is typically used in Indian dishes. I suggest making the rice after the tofu goes into the oven. Just set it in the stove to cook and then you can make your sauce. Alternatively, you can serve the butter chicken on a bed of brown rice, millet, quinoa, or another grain. Note that if you use brown rice, it typically takes longer (around an hour or less) to cook, so just keep that in mind for when you’re planning this dish.
Also, if you like to eat grain-free, quinoa is technically a seed, and it’s completely grain and gluten-free. So this is most definitely an alternative for grain-free eaters!
Once you’ve got your tofu in the oven and optional rice or other grain on the stove, now you can make the delicious butter chicken sauce. Start by sautéing onions, garlic, and fresh ginger in a large pan. I LOVE fresh ginger and it really makes a huge difference in this dish. If you don’t have fresh ginger, you can use dried ginger to taste instead. Then add the tomatoes and all of the spices and allow this to cook down.
You’ll need a high-speed blender (such as a Vitamix) to make the sauce. If you have a blender that’s not quite so powerful, you can still definitely make this recipe, I just suggest soaking the cashews overnight so that they are soft and easy to blend, and then just discard the soak water before blending. Add water and the cashews to the blender and blend until it’s as smooth as can be. Then transfer the sauce from the pot into the blender. You’ll want to blend it on low speed, just for about 30 seconds. This will gently combine the mixtures to create a sauce with a lovely texture. You don’t want to blend it until it’s perfectly smooth because the sauce will lack texture and be a little thin.
Next, transfer the sauce back to the pan and cook it gently for about 5 minutes. This will allow it to thicken nicely and infuse the flavors even more. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. If you’d like, you can use coconut sugar which is a lovely, low glycemic sweetener that compliments this dish extremely well. The sugar really balances out the spices and creates a delicious sweet and spicy finished product. I usually add 2 tablespoons, but you can add the sugar a little at a time until it suits your taste. Now at this time, you can add any additional spices if needed, to taste.
By this time, the tofu should definitely be finished. Remove the baking tray with tofu from the oven and transfer the tofu to the pot. Mix together, and you have your vegan butter chicken!
Now you can serve this any way you like it, but I love it served over rice with cilantro for garnish. If you want to make the flavors in this dish pop even more, you could prepare coconut rice which is simply rice cooked with a little bit of coconut milk. It is divine and compliments this dish so well. Another option is to serve this dish with naan bread, which is a traditional Indian bread that can be eaten on the side!
You’ll love this dish for the flavor, heartiness, and the fact that it’s extremely healthy! This dish is vegan, gluten-free, and packs some powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric and ginger. So dig into this incredible dish and try not to eat the whole batch in one night (if you can). One batch makes 3 servings and can very easily be doubled to serve multiple people or make leftovers. Enjoy!!
Vegan Butter Chicken photos by Kathy Chrzaszcz for World of Vegan. Recipe and photographs copyright of World of Vegan™, all rights reserved.