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vegan paneer butter masala in a bowl with a chapati bread on the side

Vegan “Paneer” Butter Masala

Delicious, restaurant-style Vegan “Paneer” Butter Masala. Crispy pan fried tofu is dunked in a creamy luscious gravy made with butter, tomato, homemade cashew cream and bursting with spices. Served with fluffy basmati rice and pillowy naan or roti bread, it will take you to the extraordinary culinary scene of Northern India. This creamy and aromatic heaven of a recipe calls for an equally spicy and exuberant wine. Enters Gewürztraminer, with its aromas of fresh roses, litchi and saffron. Can you imagine a better flavor match?

  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 1x



2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vegetable oil

14 ounces (400 g) of extra-firm tofu, drained an patted dry with kitchen paper

3 tablespoons (30 g) of unsalted vegan butter (alternatively, you can use vegetable oil)

1 medium onion, sliced or about 3 cups (150 g)

3 cloves of garlic

a piece of 1 inch (2.5 cm) of fresh ginger (about 15 g)

2 tablespoons of ground coriander

½ teaspoon of red chili powder (I used Kashmiri chili powder, but any red chili powder works)

1 pod of black cardamom (optional)

14 ounces (400 g or one tin) of good quality tomato pulp 

½ cup (70 g) of raw cashew  or 1 cup (230 ml) of store-bought cashew cream

1 tablespoon (5 g) of garam masala

1 teaspoon of flaky sea salt

a generous handful of cilantro, to serve


Start by pan frying the tofu:

  1. Remove the excess water from the tofu by pressing it and patting it dry with some kitchen paper. Cut into ½ inch cubes. 
  2. In a sauté pan or pan-stick pan, heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cubed tofu and ½ teaspoon of salt.
  3. Sauté the tofu for 10 minutes, shaking/flipping occasionally to cook evenly, until tofu has a slight crust on each side and is beautifully golden. Set aside.

Prepare the butter masala gravy:

  1. In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon (10 g) of unsalted vegan butter over medium heat. 
  2. Add the sliced onion and sauté until slightly golden, stirring regularly.
  3. Transfer the sautéed onion to a chopper with the cloves of garlic, the piece of ginger and ¼ cup (50 ml) of water and mix until very smooth.
  4. To the very same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons (20 g) of vegan butter over medium heat.
  5. When the butter is melted, add the ground coriander, red chili powder, the optional pod of back cardamom and stir until the mixture becomes fragrant and foamy (about 30 seconds). 
  6. As soon as the spices start to smell, add the onion-garlic-ginger paste to the skillet. Stir and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Keep the empty chopper aside, you’ll need it again.
  7. Add the tomato pulp and sea salt and let simmer gently (over low heat) for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a quick cashew cream: (skip if using store-bought cashew cream)

  1. In a bowl, cover ½ cup (70 g) of raw cashew with boiling water. Let it sit for 5 minutes and drain. 
  2. Add the soaked cashew to the chopper with ¾ cup (180 ml) of water and blend until very smooth ( about 2 minutes).

Finish the butter masala gravy: 

  1. After 10 minutes of simmering, add the garam masala and cashew cream to the gravy and stir until well combined.
  2. Add the crispy tofu cubes and stir until all the cubes are well coated. Adjust the salt seasoning if need be (if you like your food with a lot of heat, to could also drop some extra red chili powder at this stage). Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the tofu cubes are heated.
  3. It’s ready! Topped with a generous handful of fresh cilantro and serve piping hot with some fluffy basmati rice on the side, and naan or roti and a chilled glass of Gewürztraminer!

Nim Keys

  1. In this recipe, you will need a chopper, food processor or some kind of mixer that will be used for different preparations. No need to wash it between each preparation, as the flavor are all mixed in the luscious sauce. A great time and washing-up saver!
  2. Be aware that ground spices can burn easily (which can give a bitter taste to the masala). When adding the ground spices to the hot melted butter, 30 seconds is enough frying time.
  3. Depending on the water content of the tomato pulp you choose, the consistency of the butter masala may vary. Feel free to adjust the final consistency with a bit of water if need be.
  4. Regarding heat🔥, this recipe is pretty mild. If you like your food with a lot of heat, feel free to adjust the red chili powder quantity.
  • Author: Ninon
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove-Top
  • Cuisine: Indian
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Indian vegetarian butter sauce, restaurant style paneer butter masala, vegan paneer butter masala, vegan butter chicken, paneer makhani