Tofu Makhani

Tofu Makhani Curry

Here’s a master recipe for a gravy you can use to make any kind of “makhani” dish.

If you’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant, you’ve likely come across Chicken Makhani, or Butter Chicken. The reason for Butter Chicken’s immense popularity is its smooth, signature-orange gravy that wraps itself silkily around your tastebuds, and the fabulously buttery flavor that rounds off sparkling notes of spicy, sour, salty, bitter and sweet.

But Butter Chicken is also not, as the name suggests, a healthy dish. It usually includes cream, butter, and — of course, chicken, with all of the accompanying fat and cholesterol. All of which makes it a no-no in my kitchen where the only creatures who wander in are there to eat, not be eaten.

Tofu Makhani

A reader recently asked me for a vegan version of Butter Chicken, which spurred me to cook this delicious dish once more and share it with all of you. This gravy is exactly similar to the one typically used for Butter Chicken, with the exception, of course, that there is no butter or cream here. At least not real butter, but we do need a tablespoon of a good quality vegan “butter” like Earth Balance. It’s really not much since this recipe would easily serve four people, so don’t try to skimp on it because you won’t end up with the desired smooth, rich result.

You can use this gravy with tofu, as I did, or even with meat substitutes and vegetables like mushrooms or eggplant. It is fabulous every which way. Adding tofu to this dish brings it closer to another popular Makhani dish, Paneer Makhani, where paneer, an Indian cheese, is added to the gravy. But tofu has healthy fats, unlike paneer, and it is bursting with good protein. Dal Makhani is a slightly different dish and you can find my recipe here, but you could easily adapt this recipe to make a dal makhani by simply adding boiled and tender lentils at the stage where the tofu gets added to the dish.

I marinate the tofu for extra flavor, and it really helps, so take the time to do it. If you are using veggies or meat substitutes, you can use the same marinade ingredients and brown the veggies or meat substitutes before adding them to the makhani gravy. Add the veggies or meat substitute at the same stage where you’d add the tofu.

Here’s the recipe, then, for an incredibly super and versatile Tofu Makhani. Enjoy, all!

Tofu Makhani

Tofu Makhani
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
  • For the marinated tofu:
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu. Swaddle the block of tofu in a paper napkin or cheesecloth, place it in a sieve, and place a heavy weight, like a pan, on top. Let the tofu stand for an hour at least so most of the water has drained out of it. Then cut it in half down the middle, and halve again crosswise so you have four slices.
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp red chilli powder
  • ⅛ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • For the Makhani curry:
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • ½ tbsp grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 heaping tbsp kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
  • 2 tsp grated jaggery or maple syrup (use sugar if you don't have these)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock, or more (use water if you don't have this, but stock will add more flavor)
  • ¼ cup cashew nuts
  • 1 tbsp vegan "butter"
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Fresh green coriander for garnish
  1. To prepare the tofu:
  2. Mix all the ingredients except the tofu. Now slather the marinade on the slices of tofu you've prepared and set aside for about half an hour.
  3. Smear the oil evenly in a nonstick or cast-iron griddle. When it's hot, place the slices of tofu in the pan without crowding them. Cook until golden-brown on each side, about four minutes per side. Remove to a plate and, when cool, cut into ¾-inch cubes. Set aside.
  4. To make the Makhani curry:
  5. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin seeds, and when they sputter add cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon. Saute for a minute over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the onions and a little salt and saute until the onions start to brown, about five minutes. Add ginger and garlic pastes, kasoori methi, and cashew nuts and saute for another minute.
  7. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, powdered coriander, turmeric, and chilli powder.
  8. Saute the mixture until the tomatoes turn really soft and melt into the saucepan. If the mixture starts to get too dry before the tomatoes are done, add some water or vegetable stock and continue cooking.
  9. Once the tomatoes are really soft, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Pour into a blender and add a cup of vegetable stock. Blend to a smooth paste. (Don't blend the mixture while it's still hot because it can be dangerous. If you have a hand blender, this is the time to use it.)
  10. Pour the blended paste back into the saucepan, turn on the heat, add the remaining vegetable stock if the mixture is thick, and bring to a simmer. Now add the tofu cubes and stir them in. Add salt to taste. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes.
  11. Add the vegan butter and turn off the heat. Stir to melt the butter into the sauce.
  12. Add the lemon juice and maple syrup, mix well, garnish with coriander leaves, and serve hot with some boiled rice or
  13. naan
Nutrition Information
Calories: 251 Carbohydrates: 16.1 g Sugar: 5.4 g Protein: 14.7 g

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

43 thoughts on “Tofu Makhani

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    December 13, 2011 at 3:15pm

    Super rich looking,very much inviting tofu makhani..

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Rajee Mani

    December 13, 2011 at 3:34pm

    Yummy and vibrant looking makhani. I love the creaminess that cashew gives to the gravy.

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    December 13, 2011 at 5:36pm

    love the texture of the gravy! both my and hubbs’s parents cant live without a good paneer makhani.. i taught ma my vegan version when she visited in october.. she already made some new vegan stuff she picked up here esp some laddoos! so i a hoping she wills tick to some non paneer non makhan makhani too:)

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    December 13, 2011 at 11:15pm

    Looks so tempting and delicious.. Yummy :)

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    December 14, 2011 at 9:32am

    Nice and delicious… This is really too good and I must try this…

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    December 14, 2011 at 5:53pm

    Looks just like the non-vegan version! Rich, luxurious and yet a delicate blend of spices, umm! Mouth watering!

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    December 15, 2011 at 12:14am

    Thank you so much for posting this! It looks and sounds delicious, I can’t wait to try it myself. I’ll let you know how it goes <3 Thank you!

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    anthony stemke

    December 15, 2011 at 1:28am

    This gravy is fantastic. I alresdy love dal makhani but your sauce has a spice profile that I find most palatable.
    Your stuff is good, I want to try this with tofu. I make Italian stuffed shells with tofu but have never thought of marinating them. Thanks for this.

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Chitra Vivek

    December 27, 2011 at 3:14pm

    OMG, I am not a Vegan but a great fan of Tofu, I tried this receipe and was big hit. Did modify a few ingredients and still tasted the best. Now this will be a regular in my house. Thanks.

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    December 27, 2011 at 3:55pm

    Chitra, thanks for the feedback. Glad you liked it. :)

  11. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    December 27, 2011 at 11:48pm

    I’ve made this twice now, I was unable to find the fenugreek leaves so left them out but it still tasted so amazing! I’m not a big tofu fan so I use chickpeas or potatoes in place, it’s sooo good! It’s a big hit here, both mum and I are big fans especially cause it’s hard to find good indian food where we live. Thank you so much for this recipe!! :D It’s nice to make from scratch, to know exactly what is in it unlike store bought ones etc. :D

  12. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    December 28, 2011 at 4:01am

    Anneka, glad you like it, and thanks for letting me know. I’m also glad you reminded me to post the recipe. :)

  13. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    February 29, 2012 at 3:22am

    Hi Vaishali! I found your website & it looks great! I made the tofu makhani this weekend and I REALLY love it (I left out the sweet element). I followed your directions but mine doesn’t look as vibrant as yours :o(
    Will definitely make this again — tofu is good for you & so is your site!
    All the best :D

  14. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    March 24, 2012 at 3:23pm

    I made this last night with some store bought marinated tofu and it was absolutely delicious! I didn’t have any fenugreek leaves so I just used a good pinch of fenugreek seeds in with the jeera. Look forward to cooking more from your blog, might try the Patia tonight :)
    Thanks for the delicious recipes!

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


      March 24, 2012 at 10:41pm

      Michael, thanks for the feedback– glad you liked the makhani.

  15. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    April 25, 2012 at 9:25pm

    I’m making this for dinner tonight! It looks amazing so far!!

  16. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 30, 2012 at 11:52pm

    I just made this (minus the tomato paste, so mine wasn’t as red) and it was SO good! Thank you for the recipe – I will definitely use it again! :)

  17. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    November 17, 2012 at 4:46am

    I just tried this recipe tonight. It was delicious! I have a question though – probably a stupid question, but I am relatively new to cooking curries. Do you grind your spices (i.e. the cardamom and cinnamon) or just put them in as is? And if so, is there any point in the cooking process when you remove them, or do you just blend them in when you blend the onions, etc.?

    Thanks so much for your blog!

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      January 23, 2013 at 4:37am

      Alison, it’s not a stupid question– you add the spices whole but you blend them up with the onions. Hope that helps. :)

  18. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 22, 2013 at 6:29am

    This tasted really good except I blended the cinnamon sticks as well. Was I supposed to take them out? The recipe didn’t say to. Now my quadruple batch has the texture of wood :(
    Other than that, it tastes great!

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      January 22, 2013 at 6:15pm

      Raj, How much cinnamon did you use? You just need a 1-inch piece which, even if you blend it (it needs to be added whole in the recipe) should not create the “texture of wood” in the recipe.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


      January 23, 2013 at 1:04am

      Vaishali, thanks for replying!

      Sorry, I’ve never used cinnamon stick before – didn’t really know what I was doing.

      I quadrupled (x4) the batch, so I used 2 cinnamon sticks. Each stick was about 2 inches in length.

      I blended for about 10 minutes with a high speed immersion blender, but I can still feel the tiny woody bits between my teeth.

      I still loved the recipe, but next time I will either fry the cinnamon for longer to make it more brittle, or instead just remove it before blending.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      January 23, 2013 at 4:40am

      Raj, 2 cinnamon sticks is fine, but as you guessed the immersion blender did not puree them well enough. Also don’t use the big, thick cinnamon sticks you get here in the US, but preferably the thinner bark you find at Indian stores which is softer. If you use the big round ones, add only half as much.

  19. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    February 20, 2013 at 10:12am

    I liked d pic so much that i brought tofu for the 1st time & tried this recipe. I skipped some things n simply stir fried d tofu instead of marinating.I had less time n not all ingridients. But it turned out to b good. Thank you so much

  20. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    April 16, 2013 at 11:24am

    Hi Vaishali, I made this dish and it’s great :) Blogged about it with the addition of potato and beans. I found it tasted better the next day. Thank you!

  21. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Selah N O

    October 22, 2013 at 5:10pm

    This looks/sounds amazing! Have you ever used eggplant instead of the tofu?

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      October 22, 2013 at 5:14pm

      I haven’t. But I love eggplant enough to say that even if it is not delicate enough to be a natural makhani ingredient, it would still taste awesome with all of these spices. Mushroom would perhaps work even better.

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    February 1, 2014 at 12:03pm

    it was awsome

  23. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    February 26, 2014 at 7:21pm

    I will look, but will it change the flavor a lot if I can’t find green cardamom pods?

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


      February 26, 2014 at 10:36pm

      Laina, cardamom adds a great, distinct flavor. You can leave it out and it would be delicious still, although if you can find it I’d definitely recommend adding it.

  24. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    February 28, 2014 at 1:05am

    Okay, thanks so much. Do you know of an online source?

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


      February 28, 2014 at 3:46am

      Amazon should have it. Search for green cardamom. Good luck!

      • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


        April 18, 2014 at 4:22pm

        Thanks, I found some local. What about the fenugreek, can I use seeds and how much? Also, can I use powdered cinnamon?

        • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


          April 18, 2014 at 5:38pm

          Seeds have a very different flavor from the leaves– they are much more bitter, so don’t use them. Just leave it out. And if you’re using powdered cinnamon, use no more than 1/2 a teaspoon and don’t roast it– just add it to the other spices before blending. Cheers.

  25. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    March 14, 2014 at 5:02pm

    Hi Vaishali,
    How are you? Thanks for giving such wonderful recepies,I made tofu Makhani came out really nice. Tofu is good sub for Paneer.
    Thanks once again.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


      March 14, 2014 at 11:19pm

      Hi Rachana, lovely to hear that– so glad you tried the makhani! Tofu definitely makes a good Paneer substitute. Have a great weekend! :)

  26. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Martha Palomino

    April 9, 2014 at 8:31pm

    Holy Cow is right! this dish was amazing! I have been cooking Indian food for the last two months and this has been the best recipe. Thank you!

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