Cauliflower Tikka Masala: Your New Favorite Vegetarian Dish

This cauliflower tikka masala is a meal that comes together so quickly and effortlessly, people will think you ordered it ahead. The flavors are rich and complex, yet are from ingredients you likely already have in your fridge and panty. The sauce is thick and creamy, yet it has no heavy cream at all. Yes, no heavy cream. It’s healthy (win) and vegetarian. The cauliflower is cooked with the perfect char on the outside, you’ll have to stop yourself from devouring all of it before adding it to the sauce. To sum it up, this dish is goood. Skip takeout tonight and make this at home. Trust.

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Cauliflower tikka masala

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What is tikka masala sauce?

You probably know one of the most popular Indian dishes, Chicken Tikka Masala. Tikka Masala sauce is a very traditional Indian sauce made with tomato puree, cream, and loads of spices like cumin, garam masala, and paprika. This is a slight spin on the beloved dish since I was looking for something vegetarian and not too heavy – which is why I substituted the heavy cream for the coconut milk. Plus, the coconut milk helps give it an extra velvety texture that makes this dish so appealing.

Cauliflower tikka masala

How to make the cauliflower

This technique of cooking cauliflower doesn’t just apply to this dish. I highly recommend making it this way from now on – even when eating it on its own as a side dish. The char that cooks around each floret is almost like eating a crunchy potato or chip.

We start by cutting a head of cauliflower into small florets and mixing them together with the olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and corn starch. Now, the corn starch might seem a but out of place, but trust me when I tell you, it helps get that nice char outside the floret. Once the mixture is incorporated, place it in the oven on a greased sheet pan for 30 minutes (heres my favorite one). While the cauliflower is cooking, we’ll start making the tikka masala sauce.

Making the tikka masala sauce

The base of this dish is the tomato puree. You can find tomato puree in most grocery stores. It’s thicker than tomato sauce but not quite as thick as tomato paste that you find in most pasta sauce recipes.

I recommend making the sauce in a large skillet like this (the all-clads are my absolute favorite). Besides the fact that it’s an easy cleanup, it’s the perfect depth for when it’s time to mix the cauliflower in the sauce.

Cauliflower tikka masala

How to serve the cauliflower tikka masala

First things first, serve this dish immediately. It’s not the best when sitting around. The cauliflower tends to get soft and loses it’s texture.

But when you do serve it, it’s great with basmati rice, naan, or pita. You’ll likely have extra sauce in the pan, so make sure you save it to drizzle all over the rice. You wont be disappointed.

Related dishes: Butternut Squash Soup, Easy Shakshuka Recipe

Cauliflower Tikka Masala

Cauliflower Tikka Masala

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp wholewheat bread crumbs 
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch 
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced 
  • 1/2 tsp paprika 
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric 
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger 
  • 2 cups of tomato puree 
  • 1 cup of full-fat coconut milk
  • cilantro to garnish 
  • juice from 1 lime


  1. Make the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place your cauliflower florets in a large mixing bowl and add olive oil, salt, bread crumbs, garlic powder, and cornstarch. Mix together well and place on a greased baking sheet. Distribute cauliflower evenly on sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  2. Make the tikka masala sauce: While cauliflower is cooking, heat olive oil on low-medium heat in a large skillet. Add shallot and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute longer. Do not let garlic brown. Add tomato puree and cook until it starts to thicken - about 10 minutes. Then, add coconut milk and paprika, cumin, turmeric, garam masala and ground ginger. Turn heat to low and let simmer.
  3. Put it all together: Once cauliflower is done, use spatula to scoop florets into sauce. Mix together to coat all cauliflower. Garnish with cilantro or parsley and squeeze in lime juice.
  4. Serve immediately over favorite rice or as a side dish


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