Skip the takeout, and make this Vegetarian Tikka Masala recipe at home instead! An easy, one-skillet meal, it has all the warm, flavorful spices you expect from delicious inspired Indian food with minimal prep time and a cook time of just 20 minutes. In a total time of just 40 minutes, you can have this one-skillet Tikka Masala ready to serve. Offering healthful, vegetarian ingredients and a boost of protein from thick Greek-style yogurt and chickpeas, it’s a simple, meal prep recipe that will have everyone asking for seconds. We even provide a vegan Tikka Masala option, if you’re looking for something 100% plant based.
This post was created in partnership with siggi’s.
A bit different from other variations, our Vegetarian Tikka Masala is a family friendly dish.
- There’s no meat. Instead, we use yogurt and chickpeas to create a protein-rich, well-rounded dish that’s loaded with veggies and flavor
- A nutritionally well-rounded recipe that provides 15 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber, plus many vitamins and minerals
- It cooks in one skillet for minimal prep work and a quick cleanup
- This recipe stores well so you can cook once and enjoy leftover meals throughout the week
- The saucy dish is perfect to serve over rice or cauliflower rice and with naan to soak up all the goodness
What Is Tikka Masala?
Tikka masala, often served as chicken tikka masala, is a popular Indian dish known for its rich and creamy tomato-based sauce. Most recipes consist of marinated and cooked chicken and vegetables that are simmered in a flavorful sauce made from tomatoes and aromatic spices. The word “tikka” means bits or pieces. Although there are many variations, this dish is praised for its balance of tastes and textures, combining the heat from warming spices like turmeric, ginger, chili powder, garam masala, and cayenne pepper with the slightly sweet taste and velvety consistency of yogurt, coconut, or cream.
Made and enjoyed throughout the world, tikka masala recipes are most commonly served over a bed of basmati or jasmine rice and a side of naan bread. This is a true “loved by all” dish that can be found in fancy establishments, fast food restaurants, and family kitchens alike.
Unlike traditional recipes, our Vegetarian Tikka Masala does not include chicken, but like many of our vegetarian recipes is made with the staple spice-infused tomato sauce and lots of veggies for a comforting dish that’s every bit as flavorful as classic versions.
Ingredients To Make Vegetarian Tikka Masala
Here’s what you need to make this homemade Vegetarian Tikka Masala today:
- Olive oil – may sub avocado oil
- Yellow onion – you’ll need 1/2 a medium diced yellow onion; may sub white onion
- Red bell pepper – a red bell pepper adds nice color, but you can use any color of bell pepper for a similar flavor and a good boost of vitamin A and vitamin C
- Zucchini – you’ll need one medium zucchini, which gets sliced into half-moons
- Cloves garlic – freshly minced cloves are best, but you can sub 2 teaspoons garlic powder if needed
- Tomato sauce – use smooth tomato sauce, not canned crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes; may use regular tomato sauce or, to cut down on sodium by 50%, use no-salt-added tomato sauce
- Seasonings – you’ll need a few teaspoons garam masala, ground turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, fine sea salt, ground ginger, ground coriander, chili powder, black pepper, and cayenne to create an authentic, savory taste
- Chickpeas – use canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for quick convenience and added protein in vegan recipes. Don’t forget to rinse and drain them first
- Whole milk yogurt – we recommend siggi’s plain whole milk skyr (which is a strained Greek-like yogurt) because it provides thick, creamy, and tangy results. We like siggi’s because it’s made from only a few ingredients and not a lot of sugar. You can use either 0% or 4% plain siggi’s skyr with great outcomes plus nutrients, such as protein, potassium, and calcium. Use this store locator to find siggi’s sold near you
- Frozen cauliflower florets
- Fresh baby spinach – use fresh spinach leaves, which will wilt into the tomato sauce at the very end of cooking
For the complete directions and ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card below. All of our recipes include the nutrition information, listing kcal, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, sodium, total fat, and more per serving.
Ingredient Spotlight: Turmeric
Turmeric is one of the key ingredients that contribute to the warm, slightly tangy flavor of this Tikka Masala recipe. Noted for its vibrant yellow color and unique peppery taste, turmeric has been used in recipes across the globe for thousands of years. While turmeric is a great way to add depth to any dish, it has also been used medicinally for more than 4,000 years. This is because turmeric is rich in health benefits. For instance, turmeric:
- Is a good source of curcumin, a natural anti-inflammatory compound
- May help reduce the risk of heart disease when used frequently
- Some research shows turmeric may be protective against depression
How to Make Vegetarian Tikka Masala
Here are the steps to prepare this recipe on the stovetop with a single skillet:
- Cook the vegetables: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the onion, red pepper, and zucchini. Sauté the vegetables until the onion and zucchini begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Next, add the garlic, and continue to cook just until it is fragrant.
- Add the sauce: Reduce the heat to medium, and stir in the tomato sauce and spices.
- Simmer: Add the drained chickpeas and frozen cauliflower to the mixture, and bring the ingredients to a low simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet with a lid, and keep the dish at a low simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients: Remove the lid, and allow the mixture to stop simmering. Fold in the yogurt followed by the spinach. Stir slowly, allowing the spinach to wilt.
Take Care When Adding The Yogurt
When adding a dairy product, like yogurt, to a hot dish it’s important that the liquid is not simmering so you prevent the dairy from curdling. When adding the yogurt to this Tikka Masala, make sure the tomato sauce mixture has stopped simmering for at least a few minutes before stirring in the yogurt.
What Can You Serve With Tikka Masala?
We love to serve our Vegetarian Tikka Masala over a bed of brown rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice, or cauliflower rice to soak up all the flavorful tikka masala sauce. Then, we add a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, and toasted sesame seeds or cashews for garnish. It’s also great with a side of naan bread for scooping up this dish (you could even use that instead of a fork).
How To Store Leftovers
Once cooled, leftovers can be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in individual containers for easy meal-prepped lunches. Due to the yogurt in this recipe, we do not recommend freezing it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many vegetables pair wonderfully with this dish either mixed in with the sauce or served on the side. Common veggies used in tikka masala are carrots, peppers, onion, and cauliflower. For extra nutrients and fiber, try including options like diced sweet potato, peas, and broccoli.
Although most commonly served with chicken, tikka masala does not always contain poultry, as demonstrated in this Vegetarian Tikka Masala recipe.
Every chef has their own variation on the spices used in tikka masala, similar to how many curry spices are different. Most commonly tikka masala includes garam masala, turmeric, chili powder or paprika, and ginger. In others, you’ll find whole black peppercorns, ground cumin, curry powder, cinnamon, and even ground cloves.
We love to use yogurt to achieve a creamy tomato sauce while adding extra protein, but full-fat coconut milk, coconut cream, or heavy cream can also be used.
Yes, the ingredients in this tikka masala recipe are naturally gluten-free. However, we always recommend double-checking the ingredient list and looking for foods that are certified gluten-free to avoid the risk of cross-contamination with other gluten-containing ingredients.
This recipe makes up to 6 servings, with a single serving size of roughly 1 2/3 cups.
Make It Dairy Free
For a dairy-free version, use coconut milk or siggi’s plant-based sweetened plain, which is based on coconut and adds a touch of nice sweetness.
Make It Vegan
For a vegan Tikka Masala, we recommend you swap the yogurt for siggi’s plant-based sweetened plain, which is 100% plant based and made from coconut.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons (2 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 (12-ounce) bags frozen cauliflower florets
- 1 cup siggi’s plain whole milk yogurt*
- 2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach (2-3 ounces)
- Optional for serving: cooked rice or cauliflower rice, cilantro, lime wedges, toasted sesame seeds, and/or cashews
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat. Add the onion, red pepper and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes or until the onion and zucchini start to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic; continue cooking for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomato sauce and all of the spices (garam masala through cayenne); stir to combine.
- Next, add the drained chickpeas and frozen cauliflower. Bring just to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and hold at a low simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Remove the lid from the skillet and allow the mixture to stop simmering (NOTE: It’s important that you don’t add the yogurt until the mixture has stopped simmering to prevent the yogurt from curdling). Once the mixture has stopped simmering, fold in the yogurt and then the spinach. Stir slowly and allow the spinach to wilt, 3-5 minutes. Serve over steamed rice or cauliflower rice with chopped cilantro, lime wedges, toasted sesame seeds, and/or chopped cashews.
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* We like siggi’s because it’s made with just a few ingredients and not a lot of sugar. To find siggi’s products sold near you, check out their store locator. For a vegan/dairy-free version, use siggi’s plant-based sweetened plain, which is based on coconut and adds a touch of nice sweetness.
Once cooled, leftovers can be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in individual containers for easy meal-prepped lunches. Due to the yogurt, we do not recommend freezing this recipe.
- Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe (about 1 1/3 cups)
- Calories: 241
- Fat: 6 g
- (Sat Fat: 2 g)
- Sodium: 567 mg
- Carbohydrate: 35 g
- (Fiber: 9 g
- Sugar: 13 g)
- Protein: 15 g
- Cholesterol: 8 mg
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The photos in this blog post were taken by Rachel Cook of Half Acre House.
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