Tender cauliflower and hearty chickpeas are simmered in a spicy cashew tomato sauce and topped with fresh cilantro in this spicy vegan tikka masala.
It took me a long time to familiarize myself with the variety of dishes that make up Indian cuisine. I started out eating Indian food at a buffet, which is really the best way to get started on Indian food if you ask me. Head on over to the vegetarian section and grab a scoop of everything. Who needs labels? If it was meatless, I was happy to have it on my plate.
After that I experimented with some sit-down Indian dining, on the first occasion of which, a friend instructed me to “Just pick anything at random off of the vegetarian menu. It’s all good.” I did. It was. From then on I became a bit more familiar with the dishes themselves, though the names were still lost on me.
It took a while before I ever learned about tikka masala, I suppose because usually shows up on restaurant menus as chicken tikka masala, which isn’t really that interesting to me. So even when I did learn of the dish’s existence, I never got to try it, with the whole chicken and dairy issues to contend with.
Really though, it would be such a shame to miss out on something like tikka masala. If you’re where I was not too long ago and know little of this dish, here’s the lowdown: rich, spicy, curry, tomato gravy. That’s it. It’s so good.
I finally got down to it and created my own version. My very own vegan tikka masala. No need for chicken. Cauliflower is the meatiest of veggies and chickpeas the meatiest legume. I threw ’em both in there.
Nor is there any need for dairy. Traditional tikka masala is made with yogurt or heavy cream. Sounds tough to replicaet, but it’s really not. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: cashews are magic. They’re amazing, and so was this dish. My husband declared that he forgot he was eating vegan as he polished this off. You might just do the same.
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours and drained
- 1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1½ tsp. fresh grated ginger
- 1 to 3 tsp. Asian chili paste (to taste)
- 1 tbsp. garam masala
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp. ground cardamom
- ½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large cauliflower crown, broken into florets
- 1¾ cups cooked or 1-14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ to 1 cup water
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- cooked basmati rice, to serve
- Place cashews, tomatoes, broth, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, chili paste, garam masala, cumin, paprika, coriander, cardamom, salt, cloves, nutmeg and pepper into blender or food processor bowl. Blend until very smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of pitcher or bowl as needed. This may take a few minutes.
- Coat the bottom of a large pot or skillet with oil and place over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cashew mixture, cauliflower, chickpeas, brown sugar and about ½ cup of water. Stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer. Lower heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, until cauliflower is tender, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally and thinning with a bit of extra water if needed.
- Divide onto plates with basmati rice. Top with cilantro. Serve.