This vegan butter chickpeas recipe is exactly the kind of recipe everyone always asks me for. Because my husband is Indian, people (reasonably) assume that I cook Indian food all the time. I can assure that I do not. I love Indian food, but it can be pretty involved. Most authentic recipes take all day to make and call for at least 5 different spices that you have to “toast” on the frying pan and then grind ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, on my more adventurous days, I’ll try some new dish or recipe, but after all that work, they still just don’t seem taste right. They always taste white-girl Indian not Indian Indian. Bummer.
Thankfully a few months ago, I stumbled on this Vegan Butter Chicken recipe from Caera’s Kitchen. After making a few minor adjustments, I’m happy to say that it is about as close to Indian Indian that I have ever achieved in the kitchen. Here are some procedural notes that, I believe, helps to give this dish its more authentic flavour:
Make sure to cook the spices with the onions and garlic.
While I do not toast whole cumin seeds and then grind them, I do toast the pre-ground spices with the onions and garlic. As someone who did not grow up making Indian food, this makes me nervous. There doesn’t seem to be enough oil (that’s okay). The pan smokes a little (also okay). The key is to not let the spices toast dry in the pan for longer than 30 seconds.This leads me to my next major note:
Prepare everything (and I mean everything!) before you even think about turning the stove on.
Most importantly this means opening the tomato sauce, preparing the vegetable stock, and combining the spices. The most important of these preparations is to combine the spices ahead of time. Measuring out all the different spices and adding them into the pot one-by-one simply takes too long and will result in your first spices burning.
Purée the cashews until very smooth.
The smoothness of the curry of this dish is directly related to the smoothness of your cashews. If there are still large/medium chunks of cashews after you finish blending, your curry will be lumpy.
Tricks of the Trade
Get rid of the can. Cook your own beans from dried in a crockpot!
Vegan Butter Chickpeas
A vegan version of the classic North Indian dish, Butter Chicken. This recipe is creamy, delicious and, unlike traditional Indian recipes, can be made in under 30 minutes.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic diced
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- 3/4 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 can plain tomato sauce (680 mL)
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 2 cans chickpeas (or 4 c. cooked)
Pour 1 cup of cashews into a single-serve blender (or regular blender) and cover with warm water.
Dice onions and garlic.
Combine the all the spices (garam masala, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper) in a small dish and put to the side.
Open tomato sauce and chickpeas. Prepare vegetable broth
In a medium non-stick pot or large frying pan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Sautée onions until translucent, then add garlic and sautée until fragrant.
Add spices and sautée until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in tomato sauce and vegetable stock. Turn down to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Drain cashews. Take out enough of the tomato sauce mixture to cover cashews and blend until smooth and creamy.
Add blended cashews to tomato sauce and stir. Don't waste any of those cashews! After the majority of the cashews are out of the blender, add some more tomato sauce to your blender and mix it around. This will help the remaining cashews to become more liquid and, thus, come out of the blender more readily.
Stir in chickpeas and bring to a boil then turn down to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve with rice and plain (vegan) yogurt.
Note: Yogurt helps to mitigate spice-related heat.
The flavours of this recipe intensify over time. While this dish is still delicious after only 10 minutes of cooking, the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.
If you don't need/want to eat vegan, feel free to serve with regular plain yogurt.
Recipe adapted from Vegan Butter Chicken of Caera's Kitchen