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Vegan Tempeh Tikka Masala With Cashew Cream

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Melanie is an avid vegan homemaker who has been enjoying cooking and experimenting in the kitchen for over 15 years.

Tempeh tikka masala served with quinoa.

Tempeh tikka masala served with quinoa.

Origins of Chicken Tikka Masala

Indian food is the best cuisine on earth—hands down. But I know what you're thinking: It isn't even technically "real" Indian cuisine, right? While it is believed that tikka masala was actually invented in Glasgow, Scotland, there are many who think that it originated in the UK, or that it is indeed a true Indian curry. While the actual origins of tikka masala are a matter of debate, the incredible flavor is not—and in my book, that's really all that matters.

My Journey and Revelation

I first learned to make chicken tikka masala about seven years ago when I had a brief hiatus from vegetarianism. I chose to eat meat for a few years while I was dating an Indian fellow, and I am truly grateful for that experience because I learned so many recipes from his mother. Of course, prior to meeting her I had to learn to cook something for him, and this was the first thing I made. Though it's not something he would have typically eaten, he sure cleaned his plate pretty well. Ever since then this has been one of my favorites, but when I went vegan three years ago I didn't think to take it along with me. I let the recipe fall by the wayside, but recently, I have re-discovered the beauty of this dish.

I went vegan keto about four months ago, and it was pretty short lived, let me tell you! Food got so boring during that first month, so I decided to switch it up and go low carb instead. Since just before I started keto, I wasn't really experimenting with food too much, so recently I've been enjoying getting more creative in the kitchen. Just the other day I picked up my personal recipe book and gave it a flip through. The third recipe in there was tikka masala, and as soon as I saw it my mouth was watering just remembering how delicious it is.

Then it hit me—why have I not veganized this recipe yet?! So I went for it. I had some tempeh in the fridge so I threw it in the marinade: amazing! I made the cashew cream to substitute for the heavy cream: exquisite! I finally now have a new version that I can enjoy regularly and there just aren't any words to describe how happy that makes me. I really hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and I hope you have fun creating it!


For the marinade:

  • 1 cup cashew milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 8 ounce block tempeh, cut in half

For the masala:

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil, for frying the tempeh
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter or coconut oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium jalapeño, small dice
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup cashew cream
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • lime wedges, for serving


  1. Saving the tempeh for last, combine all of the marinade ingredients together and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours. The tempeh is especially delicious if allowed to sit for 48 hours.
  2. Remove the tempeh from the marinade and scrape off as much of the excess as possible just using your hands.
  3. Heat the avocado oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, place the tempeh in the pan and allow it to sear. This should take about 4-5 minutes. Flip the tempeh over and sear the other side for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside.
  4. While the tempeh is cooking, mince the garlic, finely dice the jalapeño, and gather the remaining ingredients for the masala.
  5. Using the same skillet, melt the vegan butter over medium heat, add in the garlic and jalapeño, and allow to cook for 1 minute stirring occasionally.
  6. Add in the cumin, paprika, and salt, and cook for 1 minute stirring almost constantly to toast the spices.
  7. Stir in the tomato sauce and the cashew cream and combine well. Add in the tempeh and coat with the sauce. Turn the heat down to medium-low, place the lid on, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. At this point I like to add in just a bit more water to thin out the sauce. This is an optional step though, it's just my preference to have it a bit thinner.
  9. Remove from the heat and serve, garnishing with the cilantro and a lime wedge if desired.

© 2020 Melanie