Pan fried tofu and tender black lentils are simmered in spicy tomato sauce with creamy dairy-free yogurt to make this flavorful Indian-inspired vegan curry.
It's crazy to me how much the supermarket has changed in the 4+ years I've been blogging. There's so much more available now!
Like, I used to be super reluctant to post anything with jackfruit because I knew most of the people reading wouldn't be able to get their hands on jackfruit. Now I'm nervous about posting a recipe for anything without jackfruit because you're all apt to ask if you can add jackfruit to the dish. I'm kidding. But not really. It happens with about 16% of the recipes I post. Could this one be modified to be Indian butter jackfruit? Maybe!
This recipe is a mish-mosh of a couple of dishes sitting on my to-make list for a while. I wanted to do a vegan version of Indian butter lentils (dal makhani) and Indian butter chicken (chicken makhani) or paneer, which is easier to replicate than chicken (unless maybe you're using jackfruit...hmmmm).
In any event, Indian butter something vegan, because it sounds so good! Or rather, it is good, at least dal makhani is — that's the only of the three above-mentioned dishes I've had, but same sauce, same difference, right? I think?
So I decided to put it all together, lentils and tofu for a big old bowl of Indian butter tofu and lentils. Not authentic, but we're not even technically using butter so we'll have to let it slide.
I've done a few creamy, tomatoey Indian curries at this point using cashews or coconut milk for the creamy part. This time around I decided to try something different, and this brings me back to that whole rant on "oh there's so much more vegan food available these days...you kids don't know how good you have it." My ingredient of choice: vegan yogurt.
Most supermarkets, including the one down the street from me, have had some vegan yogurt in stock for a few years, and my some I mean like one brand and one flavor that's usually sugary and fruity. I'm happy to say that at some point in the last year or so there seems to have been a vegan yogurt explosion. I can find all kinds of flavors now, at all kinds of stores, including plain, which is really the flavor I wanted most. Did you guys get plain vegan yogurt in your stores too? I hope so, because I put it in here.
I love that this recipe uses yogurt because there's no blending involved. Any day I can skip busting out the blender is a good day indeed. Also, it makes the sauce really rich and creamy.
If you can't find the yogurt needed for this I'll bet some coconut cream would work instead.
I also used urad dal, which is the type of Indian black lentils you'd normally find in dal makhani. And that can be tough to find, but guess what? The dish totally works with other types of lentils. If all you can find is green or brown or even red, then swap them out and it'll be every bit as delicious.
Indian Butter Tofu & Lentils
- ½ cup whole black urad dal you can sub another variety of lentil — see note
- ¼ cup vegan butter divided
- 1 14 ounce package extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 serrano pepper seeded and minced (optional, omit for a milder version)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2-3 teaspoons garam masala to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons vegan granulated sugar you can skip this if you're opposed to adding sugar, but it helps balance out the tartness of the tomatoes and yogurt
- ⅔ cup 5.3 ounce container plain non-dairy yogurt
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro
- Cooked basmati rice for serving
Place the lentils into a small saucepan and cover with about 3 inches of water. Place over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Allow to cook until the lentils are tender. This will take about an hour if you're using urad dal, less for other varieties. Drain any excess water when the lentils are done cooking.
When the lentils have about 30 minutes cook time left, coat the bottom of a medium pot with 2 tablespoons of vegan butter. Place over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the tofu and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping once or twice, until the cubes are browned on multiple sides. Remove the tofu from the pot and transfer it to a plate.
Add the remaining vegan butter to the pot and allow it to melt. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the serrano pepper, garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and cardamom. Sauté for about 1 minute more, until very fragrant. Return the tofu to the pot and stir in the crushed tomatoes, broth, and sugar. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow to cook until the sauce thickens up a bit, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lentils and yogurt. Allow to cook another minute or two, just until heated throughout. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
Divide the tofu and lentils onto plates and top with a sprinkle of cilantro. Serve with basmati rice.
You can substitute regular black, brown, green, or red lentils if you'd like. Cooking times will vary, so you'll need to refer to the package directions or test them for doneness every ten minutes or so during cooking.