Tofu Tikka Masala

Warning: this recipe will make your kitchen smell amazing. So many aromatic spices paired with tomatoes and creamy yogurt, you really can’t go wrong.

I’d assumed the origin of Tikka Masala to be India, but this might not be true! The true roots are unknown, but are rumored to be either of Bangladesh, Pakistan or India. It seems to me that you might get to the bottom of your bowl before the bottom of this mystery, and that is perfectly fine with me. This maybe South-Asian/maybe Middle Eastern dish is so warm, creamy and vibrant that I am thankful to whichever culture first created it and especially those that continue to.

TOFU TIKKA MASALA

1 package (14 oz) extra firm tofu
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1½ tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
1 tsp ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 ½ cups vegan yogurt (I used So Delicious Unsweetened)
Juice of one lemon or lime
6 large cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece of ginger, minced
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
¾ cup canned full-fat coconut milk
Handful chopped cilantro
2 cups cooked white rice, for serving
Lime, for serving

  1. Remove the tofu from its package and drain the water out. Wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen towel and place it on a plate. Grab a very heavy object (I always use my cast iron skillet for this) and set it on top of the wrapped tofu. This will press out any excess water, allowing the tofu to get nice and crispy when cooked.
  2. Combine garam masala, turmeric, cumin, paprika, 1½ tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper in a small bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup vegan yogurt, lemon juice, half the garlic and ginger and half the spice mixture together. Add tofu and toss to coat. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
  4. Preheat your oven to 425 F.
  5. Place the marinated tofu pieces on wooden skewers, then place them over a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Make sure there is space underneath the tofu to help distribute the heat evenly.
  6. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until slightly dark brown on the edges
  7. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until onion just begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste, remaining garlic, ginger and spice mixture and cook, stirring frequently until spices are fragrant and mixture starts to get dry, about 2 minutes.
  8. Crush tomatoes with your hands and add them and any liquid left in the can to the pot along with the coconut milk and 1 cup water. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally until flavors meld and the sauce is thickened slightly, 20 to 25 minutes.
    Serve with white rice, lime wedges and chopped cilantro.
  9. Remove the tofu from skewers and add to spiced tomato sauce along with remaining ½ cup yogurt. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Recipe adapted from The New York Times.