Vegetarian Tikka Masala

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This Vegetarian Tikka Masala is loaded with veggies, chickpeas, and an amazing seasoning blend. Serve it over rice with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, a quick snap pea topping, and lots of warmed naan!

Try some of our other favorite vegetarian meals like this chickpea curry, vegetarian sushi bowls, or vegetarian enchiladas.

Overhead image of Vegetarian Tikka Masala in a bowl.

Vegetarian Tikka Masala

This vegetarian dish is full of great veggies — we’ve got onions, carrots, a sweet bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, and sweet peas. And then to add some satiating plant-based protein, we also throw in some chickpeas! They ensure this meatless dish is just as filling as its meat-filled counterpart: this beloved Chicken Tikka Masala.

Since the chicken version is one of my family’s favorites, I decided to make a vegetarian version, and honestly, the kiddos like this one even more! In fact, my 7-year-old requested this very meal for his birthday dinner this year — ha! 

My kids love this recipe, even though it’s a bit on the spicy side (admittedly they can handle some spice!). I’ll share some ways to tone down (or amp up) the heat in this vegetarian tikka masala.

Process shots-- images of the veggies being added to a pot and being sautéed; the seasonings and tomato paste being added; everything being sautéed.

Ingredient Notes

Even though this dish sounds exotic, you can get the ingredients easily. No need to go to a specialty store or order anything online; you should be able to find everything at your local grocery store!

  • Coconut milk or heavy cream. Typically, tikka masala calls for heavy cream, but since I decided to keep this dish on the more nutritious side, I picked a lighter option — coconut milk. If you’d prefer to have a more authentic tikka masala flavor, use heavy cream instead. (Note that coconut’s natural sweetness helps to balance the spiciness. See the “quick tip” box below for more information on coconut milk.)
  • Fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. The tomatoes make a big difference flavor-wise, so I recommend good-quality fire-roasted tomatoes (such as Cento Marzano®, Carmelina Marzano Italian®, or Muir Glen®). This type of tomato is charred over a flame before being crushed and canned. Contact with the flame brings out the tomato’s sweetness and gives a distinct, smoky flavor. You get more flavor without any extra work.

QUICK TIP

There are a lot of coconut milk options in the grocery store–it can be intimidating. Look for shelf-stable, unrefrigerated cans of coconut milk. You’ll find canned coconut milk on the international aisle, with Latin or Asian products. Here’s an article outlining the best brands to use. I personally use Imperial Kitchen® since I can find it easily at my local grocery store.

Process shots-- images of the tomatoes, chickpeas, and coconut milk being added and mixed together.

Ingredient Notes, Continued

  • Fresh ginger and fresh garlic: I’ll be the first to admit, I reach for jarred garlic often, but in this Vegetarian Tikka Masala, fresh garlic makes a big difference. Use fresh garlic and ginger for the best possible flavor.
  • Spice blend. This recipe calls for quite a few spices, but if you cook many Indian dishes, you likely already have them in your cabinet. The one spice that you may be unfamiliar with is garam masala. Garam Masala is a blend of spices — the whole spices (such as cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander seeds, mace, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods) are toasted over heat until the flavors are released and then those spices are ground down to a powder. This spice blend makes such a huge flavor difference in this Vegetarian Tikka Masala!

Process shots-- images of the vegetarian tikka masala being simmered, then the lime juice, cilantro, and peas being added and mixed together and it all being served over a bed of rice with snap peas as a topping

Vegetarian Tikka Masala Tips

  • Make ahead: This is a dish that just keeps getting better as it sits, making it great for meal prep or making ahead of time, if you have company coming (stress-free!)! 
  • Finely dice the veggies: To avoid any chunks of uncooked carrot, yellow onion, or bell pepper, take your time to be certain the veggies are diced finely and evenly. Short-cut? Quickly pulse these veggies in a food processor!
  • Playing around with spice: If you want a spicier meal, add in some cayenne pepper (to your preference; start slowly and increase as desired) and/or additional red pepper flakes. To reduce the spice, leave out (or reduce) the red pepper flakes and serve Greek yogurt with this tikka masala to cool it down a bit.
  • Take the time to develop the flavors: While it may seem tedious to add just a few ingredients at a time (sauté, add a few more, sauté, etc.), we do this to add layers of flavor to this meal. The spices get so much more flavorful by sautéing with the veggies, the tomatoes’ sweetness is accentuated, and the chickpeas will become tender quicker. 

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Vegetarian Tikka Masala

5 from 1 vote
This Vegetarian Tikka Masala is loaded with lots of veggies, chickpeas, and an amazing spice blend. Serve over rice with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, a quick snap pea topping, and lots of warm naan!
Print Recipe

Vegetarian Tikka Masala

5 from 1 vote
This Vegetarian Tikka Masala is loaded with lots of veggies, chickpeas, and an amazing spice blend. Serve over rice with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, a quick snap pea topping, and lots of warm naan!
Course Dinner, Main Course, Vegetarian
Cuisine Healthy, Indian, Vegan
Keyword Vegetarian Tikka Masala
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 372kcal
Cost $7.42

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 cups (200g) finely diced yellow onion (~1 large onion)
  • 1-1/2 cups (215g) diced carrot (~4 large carrots)
  • 1 cup (130g) diced red pepper (1 pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons (14g) finely minced garlic (~4-5 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons (14g) peeled & finely minced ginger (~1-1/2 inch piece)
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons EACH: ground turmeric, white sugar, fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons EACH: ground cumin, ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon EACH: ground cardamom, crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons (34g) tomato paste
  • 1 can (14.5; 411g) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz; 439g EACH) chickpeas (also called Garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (13.66 oz.; 403mL) coconut milk
  • 1 cup (145g) frozen sweet peas
  • 1/4 cup (14g) finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Basmati rice, warmed naan, plain Greek yogurt, and additional cilantro, for serving

Optional Snap Pea Topping

  • 1 cup (75g) snap peas, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil, 1 teaspoon lime juice, salt & pepper

Instructions

  • VEGGIES: Add coconut oil to a large cast iron pot, heated to medium-high heat. (A nonstick pot doesn't hold heat the same as cast iron, so you may need to cook a bit longer!) Once the oil is melted, add in the diced onion, diced carrot, and diced red pepper. Sauté for 8-10 minutes over medium-high heat or until crisp-tender. Add ginger and garlic, and sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant. Meanwhile, measure out the seasonings. Add seasonings and tomato paste into pot, and cook, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes. Everything should be very fragrant and tomato paste should darken (reduce heat if needed; nothing should be smoking/burning).
  • TOMATOES AND CHICKPEAS: Add in the crushed tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add drained and rinsed chickpeas; sauté for 1 more minute. Pour in the coconut milk and stir to combine.
  • FINISHING: Simmer over lowest heat, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 10 to 20 minutes. Stir in peas, cilantro, and lime juice. Taste the sauce for any additional seasoning/salt. Depending on the tomatoes you use, you may need another 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to balance the acidity.
  • OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: While the dish is simmering, prep the sides. If making the snap pea topping, add thinly slice snap peas, lime juice, oil, and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a bowl. Gently toss and set aside. Warm the naan (See Note 1), cook the rice (See Note 2), and set out the Greek yogurt.
  • ASSEMBLY: Set out rice, top with the Vegetarian Tikka Masala and add any additional toppings like a generous spoonful of the snap pea topping, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, and any additional cilantro sprigs. Enjoy with warmed naan.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: I recommend warming the naan before serving. Here are some options:
  • To char naan on the stovetop, spray both sides of the bread with olive oil cooking spray. "Grill” the bread on the stovetop over the open flame until slightly charred. Cover with a tea towel after removing from the flame.
  • To warm naan in the microwave, cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 10-15 seconds. Cover with a tea towel after removing it from the microwave.
  • Alternatively, you can purchase smaller naan that is made for the toaster. (Stonefire® makes this; it's usually labeled as mini naan.)
Note 2: How we like cooking basmati rice: 
  • Measure the rice and rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear.
  • Place the rice in a bowl and cover it with water to soak for about 5-10 minutes.
  • While the rice is soaking, fill a large pot with water and set it to boil.
  • Once the water is at a rolling boil, drain the rice and add it to the pot.
  • Cook without reducing the heat, for 5 minutes and then drain and fluff with a fork.
  • Note that these cooking directions do not work for other rice varieties (long grain, short grain, jasmine, etc.).
Nutritional information is for the Vegetarian Tikka Masala, but not the basmati rice or snap pea topping.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 372kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Sodium: 101mg | Potassium: 763mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 7360IU | Vitamin C: 108mg | Calcium: 71mg | Iron: 5mg

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