Recipe: Tofu Tikka Masala

Recipe: Tofu Tikka Masala

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Kelli Foster
May 24, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I want to tell you so much about this tofu tikka masala, but let me start with the sauce. It's layered with a mess of warm spices plus the smoky flavors of charred onion and ginger all infused into the requisite tomato cream sauce.

That's what you want from tikka masala, but at the same time, this dinner wouldn't be the stand-out star it is without the firm cubes of tofu infused with a hint of tangy yogurt and lemon juice and a light spice that seeps all the way through.

Each component is outstanding on its own, and when they come together they make for a vegetarian tikka masala you'll rave about!

Reap the Benefits of Your Work

This is not a recipe you can throw together on a whim after work. Save it for the weekend or a night you have some extra time. I assure you, the payoff is totally worth it. This recipe asks you to marinate and then bake the tofu, char some vegetables, and make a sauce.

I'm a firm believer that when you put that kind of effort into dinner, it's important to reap the benefits of your work. That's why this recipe makes enough to serve eight. The first time around dinner will be great, then you can expect the leftovers to get continuously better day after day. On the chance that you don't want to make eight servings, you can very easily halve the recipe and achieve the same results.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Marinate the Tofu + Char the Vegetables

Hali turned me on to the idea of charring the onion and ginger under the broiler when starting the sauce — it's a tip she picked up from trying a bunch of the many chicken tikka masala recipes across the web. I'll admit that I was skeptical at first, as many recipes call for sautéing these ingredients on the stove until they're well-browned. Turns out she was onto something and absolutely had the right idea. Nothing you do on the stovetop will mimic the deep char you get from the broiler. It brings the most wonderful deep, rich flavor to the sauce.

When it comes to the tofu, I'm strongly in favor of treating it to a spiced yogurt marinade, just as if you were making this dish with chicken. The cubes of tofu are infused with a gentle, warm spice and soak up the tang of the yogurt just enough to come through when the final dish hits the table.

Tofu Tikka Masala

Serves 8

  • For the tofu:
  • 4 (14- to 16-ounce) blocks

    extra-firm tofu, drained

  • 1 cup

    whole-milk yogurt

  • Juice from 1 medium lemon

  • 1/4 cup

    water

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground coriander

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • For the sauce:
  • 2 large

    yellow onions, peeled and halved

  • 1 (3-inch) piece

    fresh ginger, peeled

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons

    ghee or olive oil

  • 6 cloves

    garlic, finely grated

  • 1 (6-ounce) can

    tomato paste

  • 2 tablespoons

    garam masala

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground coriander

  • 2 teaspoons

    ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons

    paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cardamom

  • Pinch

    cayenne pepper

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    diced tomatoes

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • Cooked basmati rice, for serving

  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Marinate the tofu:

Wrap each block of tofu separately in a few layers of paper towels, then set on a dinner plate or cutting board. Weigh it down with a heavy object like a skillet, pot, or large can. Let rest for at least 10 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place the yogurt, lemon juice, water, coriander, cumin, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well-combined.

Cut the tofu into 1 1/2-inch cubes and add to the marinade. Gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Make the sauce:

Arrange a rack about 6 inches below the broiling unit, and set the oven to broil. Place the onion and ginger on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil, and arrange in a single layer cut-side up. Broil until blackened, about 12 minutes. Flip the onion and ginger and broil for 5 minutes more. Cool completely.

Set the oven to 350°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil. Remove the tofu from the marinade, shake off any excess marinade, and place in a single layer on the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Use tongs to flip the tofu, then bake for 15 minutes. Flip the tofu once more, rotate the baking sheets, and bake for 15 minutes more. (The tofu should bake for 45 minutes total.) Meanwhile, coarsely chop the charred onion and ginger and make the sauce.

Heat the 2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the charred onion and ginger, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, soft, and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir to coat the aromatics, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the garam masala, coriander, cumin, paprika, cardamom, cayenne, and salt. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes and their juices and broth, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to prevent the sauce from sticking, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a stand blender and purée until smooth, or blend directly in the pot with an immersion blender. Return the sauce to the pot if needed. Stir in the cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the tofu and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes more. Serve over basmati rice and top with cilantro.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The tofu can be baked up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Let come to room temperature as you prepare the sauce.

Storage: Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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