This Vegetarian Tikka Masala is hearty, flavorful, and vegan-friendly! Made with cauliflower, chickpeas, and a flavorful spiced tomato sauce, this Tikka Masala recipe can be made on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot for a fast dinner that is ready in less than 30 minutes.
What is Tikka Masala?
Tikka Masala is an Indian dish that is made with a rich tomato and cream-based sauce. The sauce is seasoned with spices, including garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, and cumin. It is earthy, slightly spicy, and absolutely delicious.
Tikka Masala also happens to be an easy recipe to adapt to fit any dietary restriction, and today I am sharing with you how to make Vegetarian Tikka Masala, which also happens to be vegan-friendly as well.
Vegetarian Tikka Masala
Tikka Masala is classically paired with chicken. For this recipe, I use cauliflower and chickpeas which work to add texture, protein, and heartiness to the dish.
The cauliflower is cooked until just tender, not mushy in a rich sauce that is made completely dairy-free.
It is just the kind of plant-based meal that makes eating Vegetarian anything but boring!
Notes On Ingredients
- Spices: Tumeric, garam masala, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper help to develop the classic flavors known in Tikka Masala.
- Aromatics: Onions, garlic, and fresh ginger root are the building blocks to starting this recipe with a punch of flavor.
- Chickpeas: You will need one 15-ounce can of chickpeas for this recipe. Be sure to rinse and drain the chickpeas well to control the sodium in the dish.
- Cauliflower: Use FRESH cauliflower, not frozen! And you want to cut your cauliflower into 2-inch chunks, as pictured below.
- Coconut Milk: Be sure to use canned coconut milk for best results. Both full-fat and reduced-fat work well in this recipe.
- Peas: The peas are an optional, untraditional addition. I find that that peas add just the right amount of sweetness to this dish, but you can certainly omit them.
How to Make Vegetarian Tikka Masala
I have made this recipe so many times this past month. I said it was for testing purposes, but I am going, to be honest--I just was craving it and had to have it over and over again.
With that said, I did prepare this recipe both in the Instant Pot and on the stovetop and each had delicious results. I will be honest to say that the Instant Pot Tikka Masala is my favorite method for preparation because it is much more hands-off. But don't worry, if you don't have an Instant Pot, I promise this recipe is still really simple to prepare on the stove.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Turn the Instant Pot to the saute function, add in a bit of oil, and let heat.
- Once the oil has heated, add in the onion and saute until just softened.
- Add in the tomato paste, garlic, ginger, and spices and saute for just another minute or two. Toasting the tomato paste and spices really helps the ingredients to deepen in flavor.
- Once the aromatics are toasted, turn off the Instant Pot from the saute function.
- Add the vegetable broth to the inner pot and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Those browned bits will add flavor to the dish AND will prevent a burn notice.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes and chickpeas and then layer the cauliflower on top of the mixture.
- Place the lid on the inner pot and set the cooking time for 2 minutes on high pressure.
- Once the cooking time has elapsed, do a quick release of pressure by knocking the vent knob from the sealed to the venting position. Be sure to stand back to prevent yourself from getting burned.
- Turn the Instant Pot back to saute and add in the peas and coconut milk.
- Cook until the peas have defrosted and the sauce has thickened slightly--about 3 minutes.
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed stock pan over medium-high heat.
- Add in the oil and minced onion.
- Saute the onion until just softened and then add in the spices, tomato paste, garlic, and ginger.
- Toast the spices for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add in the vegetable broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan--that is a lot of flavor right there!
- Add in the diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and cauliflower and stir to combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and the sauce has deepened in flavors.
- Stir in the peas and coconut milk.
- Adjust the heat to medium and simmer until the peas are cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened.
Vegetarian Tikka Masala can be served over rice or cauliflower rice, or served plain, with a sprinkle of cilantro if desired.
Leftover Vegetarian Tikka Masala can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to 3 months. Allow to defrost in the refrigerator and then reheat as desired.
More Plant-Based Recipes
- Vegan Butternut Squash Rice Bowl
- Vegetarian Curry
- Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
- Lentil Meatballs
- Vegan Sloppy Joes
- Sweet Potato Burritos
- Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
If you enjoyed this recipe for Tikka Masala, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Vegetarian Tikka Masala
- ½ tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup vegetable broth 1 cup if prepared on the stove
- 30 ounces diced tomatoes not drained
- 4 cups cauliflower florets about 2-inches in size
- 15 ounces chickpeas drained and rinsed
- ½ cup canned coconut milk
- 1 cups frozen peas optional
Instant Pot Directions
- Turn your Instant Pot to the saute setting and let heat until it reads hot. Add the oil and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add in the garlic, and ginger and saute for one minute longer. Add the spices and tomato paste and saute for 1-2 minutes, or until spices are fragrant. Be careful not to burn. Turn the Instant Pot OFF.
- Add in ½ cup of vegetable broth and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the inner pot.
- Add in the diced tomatoes and chickpeas. Place cauliflower and on top of the mixture.
- Close the lid and set to cook on high pressure for 2 minutes. (Hit Manual or Pressure Cook and adjust time to 2 minutes using +/- buttons.)
- Once cook time has elapsed, do a quick pressure release, by using a long handle to knock the vent knob from sealing position to venting position. Be sure to stand back to protect yourself from the steam.
- Turn the Instant Pot back to saute and add in frozen peas and coconut milk. Simmer for 3- 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken. Turn the Instant Pot Off. Serve warm over rice with minced cilantro if desired.
Stove Top Directions
- In a pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add in the ginger, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Cook for just 1-2 minutes until the spices begin to give off their fragrance. Add in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute longer.
- Add ½ cup of vegetable broth to the pan and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and cauliflower. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add in an additional ¼-1/2 cup of broth as the tikka masala simmers.
- Stir in the peas, and coconut milk and cook until heated through and beginning to thicken about 5 minutes. Serve with rice and a sprinkle of cilantro if desired.