Dairy-free Tikka Masala

Categories Food Creations

Several years ago, I found out that my stomach is sensitive to dairy, and that I should eat mostly dairy-free*. This is something that I has not come easily to me at all (I’m looking at you, pizza). 

(*Side note: a lot of people assume that me being sensitive to dairy means that I am lactose intolerant. That is not completely true! My stomach cannot tolerate all of dairy, including whey and casein. It’s not only limited to lactose. So, I still can’t drink lactose-free milk or use “dairy-free” powdered coffee creamer, unfortunately.)

I’m trying to un-quit being serious about my diet and listening to what my body needs, so I’m working on my self control when it comes to consuming dairy. One of the ways I’ve handled this is cooking at home a lot more often.

When you have a special diet, cooking gets a little more complicated. You have to learn what ingredients will substitute well and what doesn’t work, which can result in some cooking fails. I have to say that I’ve become pretty skilled at substituting dairy-laden recipes into something that I can actually eat. So, I am going to start sharing some of my adapted recipes here! First up, dairy-free tikka masala.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala

My boyfriend and I both enjoy really flavorful food, particularly anything fragrant and accompanied by ton of sauce. One night, he mentioned how delicious tikka masala sounded, and I agreed that it’d be fun to try out for dinner.

I searched all through Pinterest for a recipe, as one does, but all of the ones I found used heavy cream. Knowing I could probably adapt one of these recipes to fit my needs, I tried out what I found to be the most promising recipe: Best Chicken Tikka Masala from Savory Tooth. And boy, was it delicious.

A lot of times, when you substitute dairy ingredients for their dairy-free counterparts, other ingredients need to be slightly tweaked, too. After perfecting this recipe with those tweaks (and enjoying it for dinner several nights!), I think it’s ready to share.

This is by far one of my favorite recipes right now, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

Dairy-free Tikka Masala

First, prep the marinade. You’ll need chicken breasts (I used thinly sliced chicken breast tenderloins for this one), canned coconut cream (coconut milk is fine, but you’ll want to use as much of the thick “cream” part as you can), garam masala, black pepper, ground ginger, and a lemon.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - Marinade Ingredients

Measure out a cup of coconut cream*, getting as much of the thick, creamy part as possible (it looks kind of gross – see below). Dump this into a large bowl. Add the juice from an entire lemon. Stir well.

*You won’t use your whole can of coconut cream/milk during this step, so save the rest until it’s time to cook.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - Measuring Coconut Milk

Add in garam masala, black pepper, and ground ginger. Stir well. It’ll look like the bowl below and smell very strongly of the garam masala.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - Marinade

Chop your chicken into bite-sized chunks. As you chop, it’s easiest to just throw them into the marinade bowl and then stir it all together when all of the chicken is chopped. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - Marinade with Chicken

After your chicken is finished marinating, it’s time to start cooking! For the next part, you’ll need the rest of your coconut cream, a can of coconut milk, tomato sauce*, garlic (I use those little jars because heads of garlic always go bad on me – I don’t use them quickly enough!), paprika, salt, garam masala, dairy-free butter (Earth Balance is my favorite), and a jalapeño.

*If you forget to buy tomato sauce, you can blend a jar of diced tomatoes with a little garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. You can also add an equal amount of water to a can of tomato paste, plus the same seasonings.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - Sauce Ingredients

Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat*. When it’s hot, dump in your chicken and marinade. It will be kind of hard to scoop out of the bowl because the coconut milk hardened a bit. The heat from the pan will loosen the mixture up. It will also look kind of gross (but smell amazing).

*Know your pan! If it’s nonstick, you probably don’t need oil. This pan causes me some problems every now and then, so I added just a drop of olive oil and used a paper towel to rub it around the bottom of the pan.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - On the Stove

While the chicken is cooking, chop up your jalapeño (and garlic if you aren’t using pre-minced).

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - Jalapeno

I find it easiest to add the jalapeño, garlic, and dairy-free butter into a small bowl so it’s ready to throw into the pan when the time comes.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - Jalapeno, Garlic, Eath Balance Butter

After your chicken has cooked mostly through (about 5 minutes), throw in your jalapeño, garlic, and dairy-free butter.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - On the Stove

Sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Then, add in your coconut milk, tomato sauce, and all of the spices. It might take a minute for everything to combine, but it will!

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - On the Stove

Let tikka masala simmer for about 20 minutes (note my ladybug timer below 🙂 ), until the sauce has thickened. In the meantime, prepare the basmati rice according to the package instructions. Your house will smell amazing at this point.

Dairy Free Tikka Masala - Simmering

When it’s all ready, spoon out your rice into a bowl and top with chicken and a ton of sauce! This is easiest eaten with a spoon. This recipe serves four normal-sized servings, or three when you have a hungry boyfriend!

Dairy Free Tikka Masala in a Bowl

It was at this point that my boyfriend walked into the kitchen to find me having a small freak out. Taking pictures of food is already kind of hard, but trying to do so while you’re incredibly hungry is much worse! 🙂

Dairy Free Tikka Masala in a Bowl

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do! If you aren’t on a dairy-free diet, definitely check out the original recipe: Best Chicken Tikka Masala.

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Dairy-free Tikka Masala

One of my favorite recipes! Flavorful, filling, and a slight heat.

Adapted from Savory Tooth.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

For marinating the chicken:

  • 1 cup of coconut cream
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 12 ounces boneless and skinless chicken breasts chopped to bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

For the sauce:

  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce*
  • 1.5 cups canned coconut milk
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and diced
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon dairy-free butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 4 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For serving:

  • basmati rice

Instructions

Prepare Marinade

  1. Combine coconut milk* and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir. Add spices and stir again.

  2. Chop up the chicken and add to the marinade. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Cook Tikka Masala

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat***. Add chicken and marinade. Saute until chicken is cooked mostly through, about 5 minutes.

  2. While chicken is cooking, chop your jalapeño and garlic. Add to the saucepan, along with butter. Let cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add tomato sauce, coconut milk, garam masala, paprika, and salt. Stir well.
  4. Bring to a boil, then decrease to a simmer. Let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Prepare Rice

  1. While tikka masala cooks, prepare basmati rice per package instructions.
  2. Serve chicken and a good amount of sauce over rice. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

*If you forget to buy tomato sauce, you can blend a jar of diced tomatoes with a little garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. You can also add an equal amount of water to a can of tomato paste, plus the same seasonings.

**You won't use your whole can of coconut cream/milk during this step, so save the rest until it's time to cook.

***Know your pan! If it's nonstick, you probably don't need oil. This pan causes me some problems every now and then, so I added just a drop of olive oil and used a paper towel to rub it around the bottom of the pan.

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