An easy, quick and spicy Vegan “Chicken” Masala Curry that you can make in under 30 minutes to satisfy any craving. Serve with rice or naan and raita for the most delicious weeknight–or weekend–meal. A soy-free recipe.
This Quick, Spicy Vegan Chicken Masala is the kind of curry I throw together for my family when I feel like serving something with a bit of a restaurant flair but without all the fuss.
Most curries in my home are born of whatever is at hand, and that’s especially true right now. I came up with this recipe after digging through the freezer and finding a third of a vegan seitan “chicken” loaf that I’d bought on an impulse around Thanksgiving last year.
It was a huge loaf, too big for a family of three, and as tasty as it was drowned in a creamy vegan mushroom gravy, we barely managed to make a dent in it. I cut up the rest into two large pieces and froze them for another day.
This past weekend seemed as good a time as any to use some of it up. So into this Vegan Chicken Masala it went.
Although it sounds like something that would take a lot of time to make, this dish is really easy, and you can get it to the table in 30 minutes flat. If you have ginger garlic paste on hand, you also don’t need to blend or process anything. And practically everything here, with the exception of cilantro (you can leave it out if you don’t have any, or sub with mint), comes from the pantry or freezer.
How to make a tasty vegan “chicken” masala:
When I add meat substitutes to vegan recipes, I like to infuse flavor in them before adding them to the rest of the dish. So when I make Vegan Beef Stew, I dredge the soy chunks in flour and brown them, the way you would do if you were actually using beef. When I make Vegan Buttter Chicken, I marinate the tofu in the same spices you’d marinate the chicken in before adding it to the dish. When I make my Goan Sausage Curry, I steep the vegan sausage in the spices that locals in Goa use to give it the most authentic flavor. You get the idea?
It’s important to take this added step because as convenient as meat substitutes are, and as grateful as so many of us vegans are for them, they are not always flavorful by themselves.
In this recipe, I marinate the vegan chicken cubes in a quick and easy marinade of paprika, ginger and garlic and bake it until the vegan chicken has absorbed all of that amazing flavor. It’s a small time investment that pays big returns.
If you don’t have seitan or any kind of chunky vegan meat substitute, use tofu. Extra firm or super firm tofu is preferable over softer varieties. If using extra firm, swaddle it in paper towels and place a heavy weight on it. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to get as much water out of it as you can. Then cube it and add the marinade to it before baking.
What do I serve with this vegan chicken masala?
- Garlic Naan or Aloo Kulcha would be great with this curry.
- Alternatively you can serve it with a simple pilaf like Jeera Rice.
- Serve Cucumber Raita on the side. I made a simple variation called a Boondi raita, by adding boondi, tiny, yellow, deep-fried pearls of chickpea flour that you can find at Indian groceries or online.
Ingredients for the vegan masala:
- Vegan seitan or tofu or tempeh (or any chunky meat substitute)
- Ginger-garlic paste
- Garam masala
- Coriander powder
- Vegetable stock (or water)
Looking for more spicy vegan curries?
- South Indian Chickpea Curry
- Vegan Paneer Butter Masala
- Bhindi Masala
- Vegan Keema Masala
- Railway Mushroom Curry
Quick, Spicy Vegan Chicken Masala
Quick, Spicy Vegan Chicken Masala
- 14 oz seitan (or any chunky meat substitute, cubed. Super firm or extra firm tofu or even tempeh are fine.)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp paprika (divided. Use less for less heat)
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste (divided)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil (divided)
- 1 large onion (finely diced)
- 2 tomatoes (finely diced or pureed. Canned is fine–use 3/4ths cup of canned puree.)
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 2-3 cups vegetable stock (or water)
- Salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (you can do this in the toaster oven or the air fryer).
- Place the meat substitute in an oven-proof baking dish with the turmeric, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp oil and half the ginger-garlic paste. Add salt and, if you like, ground black pepper. Toss to mix well.
- Place the dish in the oven and bake 20 minutes. You might need only about 15 minutes in the air fryer, and if you're using one, check after 10 minutes and toss if needed to make sure they cook evenly. Set aside.
- Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions along with salt and saute until they start to brown. Add the remaining ginger garlic paste, stir to mix, and add in the tomatoes. Mix well and let the tomatoes cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until they turn a darker shade and most of the moisture is gone, about five minutes.
- Add the remaining paprika, coriander powder and garam masala. Saute for another minute so the spices coat the veggies and are lightly toasted, then 2 cups of the vegetable stock. Mix well, and add more stock if you want it thinner. Add in the reserved meat substitute cubes and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and turn off immediately.
- You can, if you wish, add a touch of cashew cream or coconut milk — no more than 1/4 cup — just before finishing for more creaminess, but this curry is delicious as is.
- Garnish with cilantro or mint and serve hot.