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Tempeh Tikka Masala

2010 December 5
by rob

Hey it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here. Let’s make up for that, shall we? By “let’s”, I mean, of course, that I write something and that you read something. I promise that there will be some pretty pictures, too.

There’s not too many recipes in my repertoire. It’s my preference to make a few things well rather than to simply make many many dishes. I’ll make my dishes several times and try to practice them. I want to learn to be good at them! If I can make them without looking at the original recipe, all the better. I make a great omelette. My tomato sauce for pasta is wonderful. My pad thai is legendary. Have you tried my granola? It’s delightful! But yes, it can’t hurt to add more recipes under my belt, right? The more I do, the better I’ll be able to get in general, right?

Janet has recently lent me one of her cook books: 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. She tells me that she’s not into curries as much as I am and that I, because of my greater enthusiasm for Indian cuisine, I’d be better suited to explore the book. I think she just wants me to broaden my cooking range :)

I’ve already made several dishes from this book (including my own paneer). Everything has turned out well (perhaps if I receive positive feedback from this post, I may be motivated to blog about the others, too). My favourite so far, is a slight twist on the Chicken Tikka Masala.

Legend states that Chicken Tikka Masala actually originated in England, not anywhere in India. Regardless of its origin, this curry is a very popular one — probably the first curry that many people might try (or perhaps butter chicken). I know that when I met my cousin Andrzej in Berlin, I took him for his first curry ever. We had chicken tikka masala!

Enough talk of chicken, though. Who wants to cook with meat? Yuck. You have to touch the raw meat to to chop it up. Double yuck. Instead, I substituted tempeh, which was also featured on this blog in August. Similar to tofu, but more dense and chunky, it makes a fine substitute for meat in many recipes. It absorbs flavours like a sponge. Janet once told me that I should microwave my tempeh prior to marinading it, but I never remember to until it’s too late!

This tempeh was sooooooo good. The taste was sublime. With each bite, I could taste the mélange of flavours. There were hints of raisins, almonds, peppers, and tomatoes. The spices all merged together in a whirl of wonderfulness. For me, it was not spicy hot at all. My spice tolerance is fairly high, though. Janet tells me that she was able to feel some of the chili in her portion, but it was well within tolerances. If you need more burn, then you can use more potent chilis than the mild Aleppo chilies that I used.

The dish was delicious the day I made it. The next day was much better, though! I don’t know why, but curries always taste better the next day. It’s like the flavours need a night to infuse with each other more. While eating my leftover curry today, I remarked that it was possibly once of the best curries I’ve had the fortune to eat.


This dish has two major components, the tikkas, and the sauce.


1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp ginger (finely cut and mashed)
2 tbsp garlic (finely cut and mashed)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro (finely chopped — leaves and stems, of course!)
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
1 tsp chili flakes (I used the sublime Aleppo chilies)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
250 g unflavoured tempeh


2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 medium red onion
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 sliced vine tomatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp chili flakes (I used Aleppo chilies, of course)
1/4 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)


You’ll need to prepare the marinade many hours before the rest of the dish. I made mine the night before and cooked the rest first thing the next morning. You could also conceivable prepare the marinade in the morning and prepare the rest in the evening. You want lots of time for the tempeh to soak up all the wonderful flavours.

1. Make the marinade by combining the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cilantro, coriander, cumin, chili, salt, garam masala, and turmeric. Whisk it well. It willl smell AMAZING. Even at this early point in the recipe, you know you’re making something that’s top notch!

2. Cut the tempeh into small cubes and throw them into your marinade. Stir well and cover all the cubes. Cover and refrigerate for many hours — typically overnight. If you’re a keener, then you can try microwaving the tempeh prior to putting it into the marinade. I’ve never done this before (though I should learn) so I can’t give you any direction here.

3. When you’re ready to proceed, you can start making the sauce. Heat the ghee in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, almonds, and raisins and cook, stirring frequently until the vegetable soften and start to get honey-brown coloured patches. It should be about 10 or 12 minutes. It should look like this:

Fried Peppers, Onions, Almonds, and Raisins

Fried Peppers, Onions, Almonds, and Raisins

4. Stir the tomatoes into the pan and scrape the bottom to deglaze it. Make sure you stir in any of the chunky bits that may have formed in the pan. That’s where the flavour is! Pour the contents of the pan into a blender. Add the cream, salt, chili flakes, and garam masala. Purée it all! It’s your sauce! Make it saucy!

5. Pour the sauce into a medium-sized sauce pan and simmer it over low hear, occasionally stirring it while you prepare to cook the tikkas.

6. Set your over to broil and start heating it up.

7. Get a baking pan, oil the inside slightly, and arrange your marinaded tempeh cubes in the pan. I modified the recipe here. The recipe instructs you to put chicken strips onto skewers. I’m not sure if that’s possible with the tempeh pieces since they are somewhat crumbly and break apart. Instead, I simply arranged them in a single layer across the whole bottom of the pan. It looked like this before I put it into the oven:

Tempeh Cubes - Ready to Cook!

Tempeh Cubes - Ready to Cook!

8. Once your oven is heated, put your pan on the top rack, about two or three inches from the heating elements. Cook for about five minutes, until the marinade starts to look browned and crispy. Take the pan out and turn all the cubes over. I used tongs. It was tedious. It would probably be a lot faster if I had put them on skewers. Oh well. Once you’ve turned over all the cubes, put them back into the over for another five minutes, or until the other side of the marinade looks browned and crispy again.

As an alternate, you can also grill the cubes on your barbecue. I don’t have a barbecue, so broiling was good enough for me!

9. Once your tempeh cubes are done, chuck them into your simmering sauce and mix it all together thoroughly so the sauce covers it all. Sprinkle it all with with some freshly cut cilantro leaves. Don’t forget the stems!

You’re done! Serve with rice, naan bread, or parathas. Serves 4.

Tempeh Tikka Masala

Tempeh Tikka Masala

8 Responses leave one →
  1. December 6, 2010

    You are right, this was super yummy.. not complaining that you left the leftovers here. :)

  2. Alex permalink
    October 12, 2012

    I am going to make this and not mess up the kitchen and not take four hours making it. I think I will make this for my birthday.
    P.S Please keep posting!

  3. October 12, 2012

    Good luck!!

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