Vegan Butter Chicken

I’m so excited to share this delicious plant-based recipe with you. It’s a butter chicken recipe made with tempeh instead of chicken. You could also substitute extra firm tofu. It’s a super healthy meal that’s really easy to make. This may be my all-time favorite recipe on my blog.

I know that healthy might not be the first word that comes to mind when we’re talking about butter chicken, but I would argue that this recipe is pretty healthy. For those of you who are watching your calories right now, I have included an even lower-fat variation. Keep in mind that fat is essential to our overall health. We just need to be mindful about choosing the healthier types of dietary fat and limiting harmful saturated and trans fats; these are the fats that are solid at room temperature.

I’m not vegan, but my husband and I eat a considerable amount of plant-based meals. I actually find that tempeh works just as well as other protein options. The texture and flavor of soy tempeh works really well in this dish. Many of our friends and family members don’t eat meat. My niece, Alaina, is pescatarian. My nephew, Sean, is vegan. They absolutely love it when I make this meal for them. I brought this dish to a potluck recently and it was really well received. (I doubled the recipe). Just about everyone was able to enjoy it because not only is it vegetarian and dairy-free, it’s also gluten-free. This recipe is definitely a crowd pleaser.

If you haven’t had tempeh before, it is a fermented soy product. Tempeh should not be confused with tofu. Tempeh is less processed than tofu. It’s also more filling than tofu because it’s high in protein and fibre. Tempeh is fermented and fermented foods tend to be good for gut health and digestion. I also prefer the taste and texture of tempeh to tofu. It’s nutty and has a firmer texture. If you live in Vancouver, I would highly recommend trying the Tempea brand. It’s made locally with organic, non-GMO soybeans. Some tempeh brands contain sugar, grains and other additives, so be sure to read the ingredient list if you are gluten-intolerant. The Tempea brand is also sugar-free and gluten-free. By the way, this isn’t a sponsored post; I just really like their product. If you can’t find tempeh at your local supermarket and you really want to try this recipe sooner rather than later, you could substitute extra firm tofu, cauliflower and/or chickpeas.

Seasoned sautéed tempeh

The other ingredients that you’ll you need to make this recipe are readily available. You may not currently have all of the Indian spices in your pantry, but it’s worthwhile to go out to get them because you will want to make this recipe over and over. It’s ridiculously delicious. My favorite Indian spice company is Teja Foods and they are also a local company.

This dish could be served with rice, cauliflower rice or naan. If you want to make your own fresh naan to go with the butter chicken, but you don’t have a tandoor oven like me, you can just make some pizza dough. Divide the dough into 3 inch balls. Roll them out and then fry them on the stove top in a non-stick frying pan with a very small amount of oil on medium heat. The dough will puff up just like naan. If you want an easy pizza dough recipe, you can find it here.


5 from 1 vote
Vegan Butter Chicken
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr

Vegan curry dish.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: plant-based protein, tempeh, tempeh meals, vegan, vegan butter chicken, vegan protein
Servings: 3
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked
Dry Spices
  • 2 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Other Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 200 grams tempeh or extra firm tofu or 2 cups cauliflower florets and/or chickpeas
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 3 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes (28 oz. can)
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter or olive oil
  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the cashews. Allow the cashews to soak for 15 minutes.

  2. While the cashews are soaking, combine all of the dry spices and salt. Stir until well combined. Set aside.

  3. Slice the onion. Set aside

  4. Cut the tempeh into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.

  5. Remove the cashews with a slotted spoon. Rinse with fresh water. Set aside.

  6. Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to a large pan (that comes with a lid). Warm the oil on medium heat. Add the tempeh to the pan. Sauté the tempeh for a couple of minutes on each side, or until it’s golden brown on all sides. Then sprinkle approximately 1/3 of the dry spice mixture onto the tempeh and stir until it’s well coated. Remove the tempeh from the pan.

  7. Add one more tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Lightly sauté the onion slices on low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the onions with 1/3 of the dry spice mixture. Add the minced garlic and ginger. Stir everything together and cook for one more minute.

  8. Add the vegetable stock, bay leafs and soaked cashews to the pan and stir. 

  9. Add the crushed tomatoes and the remainder of the dry spice mixture to the pan and stir. Cover the pan with the lid. Allow the sauce to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

  10. Turn the burner off. Remove the bay leafs. Allow the sauce to cool down a little. Carefully ladle the sauce into the blender and blend until really smooth, around 3 to 4 minutes. 

  11. Put the blended sauce back into the pan. Add the cooked tempeh back to the pan as well and stir. Turn the burner to low heat.

  12. Add the vegan butter or olive oil to the pan and stir. 

  13. Cover the pan with the lid and allow the sauce to simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or longer. That should be enough time for all of the flavours to meld together and for the sauce to reduce a little. Stir occasionally. 

  14. Taste for salt. Add more if necessary.

  15. Garnish with cilantro and red onion slices.

Recipe Notes
  • If you’re watching your calories, reduce the quantity of cashews and vegan butter by half. I promise it will still taste great. 
  • For a thicker sauce, allow the sauce to simmer uncovered a little longer to reduce the sauce. For a thinner sauce, add a little water.


4 thoughts on “Vegan Butter Chicken”

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Jackie. The cashews make it so creamy and yummy. Thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  1. This is the easiest and tastiest vegan butter chicken I’ve come across! I will definitely be making it monthly… thanks!

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